feedback

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

This is a very busy time of year for many of us.  In the U.S. we just celebrated Thanksgiving, which means the ever-looming Christmas craziness is just around the corner.

For many of you, that can only mean one thing...

It is performance review time.

That time when you will sit down with your supervisor and go over the goals you set for the year and measure your performance against those standards. Or, at least that is how it is supposed to work in theory.

For all of you over-achievers out there, this can be an anxious time. Most of us who work in organizations get up every morning and our self-created goal is to do the very best we can every day. Sometimes what we are supposed to do isn’t very clear. Sometimes what we are supposed to do changes, it seems, on an hourly basis. Most times what we know is important to do gets hijacked by the tyranny of someone else's agenda. And sometimes what we were hired to do is not what we end up doing at all.  

No matter what your individual circumstance, I am confident that most of you show up wanting to do the very best that you can with the time you have available. You feel like you have exceeded your goals and far surpassed expectations. Yet you will sit down with your supervisor at some point and the reality is that only so many of you can get that top performance ranking in any given year.  The rules of statistics say that most of you will get an average performance rating every year even though you feel like you deserve much more.

The dilemma you face is that you had what you considered to be an excellent year. Your boss agrees but ranks you as having an average year and then challenges you to “step up your game” to get that top ranking.

I think when most of us get this kind of feedback, it makes us a little defensive, so for now, I want you to proactively be thinking about what it is that you need to change to get that top performance ranking next year. 

Maybe you need to add a skill to your toolbox. Maybe you need to be more assertive with your peers or show a little more empathy with your direct reports. Whatever the case, for most of you the problem isn’t finding what it is you need to change, the question is how to sustain the change you want to make.

iStock-512039900 (1).jpg

The issue of sustaining change is not a new concept. Kurt Lewen observed in the 1940s that making a change was often very short lived. It's like drinking a Monster energy drink. Sure, you are moving faster or have more focus, but so often, once the caffeine is out of your system, the energy level decreases back to its original level. Lewen noted that something more was needed than a shot-in-the-arm type of boost. Sure, changes can be made in the short-run, but how do you translate that change to long-term outcomes?

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

  1. Create a long-term value proposition. The coaching client has to see relevant longterm value in making any change that has been identified. Focusing on a value proposition will often cause the client to wrestle with their own belief system. Without changing what the person believes to be true, old behavioral habits return insidiously. In my health example, I have to associate overeating or eating the wrong foods as being bad for me ten years from now. It is too easy to succumb to temptation if you are focused on getting your short-term needs met. For my client from last week, who was always interrupting, he had to believe that his behavior was rude and that his intention was not to be seen this way. His need to be respected had to triumph over his need to be heard.

  2. Experiment with new behaviors to find a fit. So often I hear coaches talk about practicing new behaviors before they even know if the new behavior will work or not. I like for my clients to experiment with several options to see what will work for them. The fear I have is if this step is skipped then we could end up practicing the wrong behavior and have to go through the process of unlearning and relearning. For me, I had to experiment with reducing the size of my protein choice at dinner, giving up a snack before bed, working out an extra day a week and completely eliminating fried foods. I played with all of these and finally found that what I wanted to practice was reducing my protein size at dinner. I went from eating an entire chicken breast to only eating a portion size equal to the size of my fist.

  3. Practice the new behavior in a number of contexts. Then, I practiced this new behavior. When my wife and I grill, we split a chicken breast. When I go out to eat I ask for smaller sizes. When I travel I am conscious not to just go ahead and order the largest meal on the menu because I forgot to have an afternoon snack. To gain sustainability it is important to practice the new behavior across contexts. My client had to practice not interrupting his boss, his peers, his direct reports. He had to practice not interrupting during presentations, and one-on-ones, and on conference calls.

  4. Identify relational feedback loops. No change can happen in isolation. We all need constant feedback. We need safe places to see if people notice the changes we are making. This is where it can help to share your development goals across a broad number of relationships. This constant feedback loop is critical to making that new behavior a sticky habit. My client would actually say to his direct reports during one-on-one meetings, "My goal is not to interrupt you and finish your sentences during our meeting today. If I do this would you please just get up and put a tick mark on my whiteboard.” Feedback is a gift, all the way through the development process.

  5. Celebrate the noted change. Let the dopamine in your brain flow. You have worked long and hard to gain this change. Likely somewhere between 2 and 3 months at a minimum. Why not have a party? Why not let the good feeling of accomplishment and a job well-done flow through to those who have been with you on your development journey.

I would be really interested in knowing if you have other coaching sustainability tips. Why not leave a comment or share an experience below? I would love to hear from you!

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

This is a very busy time of year for many of us.  In the U.S. we just celebrated Thanksgiving and that means, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both in our sights or at least still visible in our rear-view mirror. The passing of these events means the ever-looming Christmas craziness is just around the corner.

And for many of you that can only mean one thing...

It is performance review time. That time when you will sit down with your supervisor and go over the goals you set for the year and measure your performance against those standards. Or, at least that is how it is supposed to work in theory.

For all of you over-achievers out there,  this can be an anxious time.  Most of us who work in organizations get up every morning and our self-created goal is to do the very best we can every day. Sometimes what we are supposed to do isn’t very clear. Sometimes what we are supposed to do changes, it seems, on an hourly basis. Most times what we know is important to do gets hijacked by the tyranny of someone else's agenda. And sometimes what we were hired to do is not what we end up doing at all.  

No matter what your individual circumstance, I am confident that most of you show up wanting to do the very best that you can with the time you have available. You feel like you have exceeded your goals and far surpassed expectations. Yet you will sit down with your supervisor at some point and the reality is that only so many of you can get that top performance ranking in any given year.  The rules of statistics say that most of you will get an average performance rating every year even though you feel like you deserve much more.

The dilemma you face is that you had what you considered to be an excellent year. Your boss agrees but ranks you as having an average year and then challenges you to “step up your game” to get that top ranking.

I think when most of us get this kind of feedback, it makes us a little defensive, so in the next couple of weeks I am going to share some tips on dealing with critical feedback. 

But for now, I want you to proactively be thinking about what it is that you need to change to get that top performance ranking next year.  Maybe you need to add a skill to your toolbox. Maybe you need to be more assertive with your peers or show a little more empathy with your direct reports. Whatever the case, for most of you the problem isn’t finding what it is you need to change, the question is how to sustain the change you want to make.

iStock-512039900 (1).jpg

The issue of sustaining change is not a new concept. Kurt Lewen observed in the 1940s that making a change was often very short lived. It's like drinking a Monster energy drink. Sure, you are moving faster or have more focus, but so often, once the caffeine is out of your system, the energy level decreases back to its original level. Lewen noted that something more was needed than a shot-in-the-arm type of boost. Sure, changes can be made in the short-run, but how do you translate that change to long-term outcomes?

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

  1. Create a long-term value proposition. The coaching client has to see relevant longterm value in making any change that has been identified. Focusing on a value proposition will often cause the client to wrestle with their own belief system. Without changing what the person believes to be true, old behavioral habits return insidiously. In my health example, I have to associate overeating or eating the wrong foods as being bad for me ten years from now. It is too easy to succumb to temptation if you are focused on getting your short-term needs met. For my client from last week, who was always interrupting, he had to believe that his behavior was rude and that his intention was not to be seen this way. His need to be respected had to triumph over his need to be heard.

  2. Experiment with new behaviors to find a fit. So often I hear coaches talk about practicing new behaviors before they even know if the new behavior will work or not. I like for my clients to experiment with several options to see what will work for them. The fear I have is if this step is skipped then we could end up practicing the wrong behavior and have to go through the process of unlearning and relearning. For me, I had to experiment with reducing the size of my protein choice at dinner, giving up a snack before bed, working out an extra day a week and completely eliminating fried foods. I played with all of these and finally found that what I wanted to practice was reducing my protein size at dinner. I went from eating an entire chicken breast to only eating a portion size equal to the size of my fist.

  3. Practice the new behavior in a number of contexts. Then, I practiced this new behavior. When my wife and I grill, we split a chicken breast. When I go out to eat I ask for smaller sizes. When I travel I am conscious not to just go ahead and order the largest meal on the menu because I forgot to have an afternoon snack. To gain sustainability it is important to practice the new behavior across contexts. My client had to practice not interrupting his boss, his peers, his direct reports. He had to practice not interrupting during presentations, and one-on-ones, and on conference calls.

  4. Identify relational feedback loops. No change can happen in isolation. We all need constant feedback. We need safe places to see if people notice the changes we are making. This is where it can help to share your development goals across a broad number of relationships. This constant feedback loop is critical to making that new behavior a sticky habit. My client would actually say to his direct reports during one-on-one meetings, "My goal is not to interrupt you and finish your sentences during our meeting today. If I do this would you please just get up and put a tick mark on my whiteboard.” Feedback is a gift, all the way through the development process.

  5. Celebrate the noted change. Let the dopamine in your brain flow. You have worked long and hard to gain this change. Likely somewhere between 2 and 3 months at a minimum. Why not have a party? Why not let the good feeling of accomplishment and a job well-done flow through to those who have been with you on your development journey.

I would be really interested in knowing if you have other coaching sustainability tips. Why not leave a comment or share an experience below. I would love to hear from you!

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

This article is the first in a four-part series for those who develop leaders to have more confidence and credibility.

Over the past 9 months at Livingston Consulting Group, we have been working on something pretty cool that I think many of you might find interesting, and possibly applicable to the leadership work that you do.

Here is Our Story

It all started with some conversations I was having with both my coaching clients and a few of the university students I teach in leadership development and executive coaching. At the end of my classes, I would get at least 3 emails from students saying something like, “I am getting a great education and will have a firm foundation for the direction I want my life to go. However, I feel like I am lacking the tools and resources to be successful.”

After having many phone conversations with these students about coaching, which often involved questions of process and procedure, coaching skill, sales and marketing, and practical development tools, I quickly saw needs and desires for leaders of all types:

  • those who coach others
  • those who shepherd others
  • those who counsel others
  • those who train others
  • those who consult with others
  • those who facilitate groups of others

The main message I heard as I talked with students and clients alike is that they desire to increase their credibility with those they serve. However, budgets are tightening, travel is becoming more restricted, virtual meetings are becoming a reality, and yet the leaders I talk with still lack quality tools to develop their followers.

Fast-forward to October of 2016: I am meeting with my virtual team (Brandi lives in Tampa, Angela lives in NYC, Michelle lives in Grand Rapids, Gretchen lives in Madrid, and Madison lives in Indianapolis,) and we are discussing Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. In the book, Christensen outlines his "theory of jobs" that details how organizations should decipher what job it is that they actually do for their customers.

As we are discussing this book, someone on the team asked, "So, what job are our customers really asking us to do?"

This was an easier question to answer in regards to the training and executive coaching that I do. But when it came to providing tools and resources to those who develop others we felt like…we were missing the boat.

So we worked on it.

And we decided that our mission and the job we perform is: to provide confidence and credibility to those who develop others.

The Next Step

I will not bore you will the details of launching this new endeavor, but the real highlight is that we will be offering certification in 4 new leadership assessments starting in April of 2017! Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you a peak into what these tools can do for you as a leader, as someone who develops leaders, or someone who is interested in becoming a leader.

Emerging Leader Profile 360

This week I will be highlighting an assessment called Emerging Leader Profile 360 Feedback (ELP 360.)

This assessment is an electronic 360-degree assessment for those in an organization who are showing leadership promise and want a development plan that takes them toward this vision. This tool allows their superiors, peers, and subordinates to give the emerging leader competency-based quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Click here to download a free sample of the Emerging Leader 360 Report!

 

Brandi’s Experience

Brandi has been on my team for about 18 months now. She is responsible for all of our internal operations. While she has been in leadership roles in the past, the experience she had was not as positive as one would hope. So we decided to provide her with the ELP 360 as she is quickly emerging as a real leader on our team.

I asked Brandi a few questions that I thought you might enjoy her response to:

What was your overall impression of the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive evaluation of my leadership that the Emerging Leader Profile 360 provided. Not only was the feedback I received from my manager, peers, and direct reports insightful and helpful, but I also found the self-evaluation to be incredibly valuable as it forced me to slow down and really think about how I interact with my work responsibilities, my colleagues, our clients, etc.

How did you initially feel when I approached you about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

When I was approached about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360 I was both excited and a bit nervous. Self-evaluation of my leadership is one thing, but to open myself up to the evaluation of others on my team was a bit intimidating. Feedback is often the catalyst for growth, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about my leadership from the perspective of those who work closely with me on a day to day basis.

What is the most significant thing you learned about yourself from this feedback?

The most significant thing I learned about myself from this feedback has to do with my confidence as a leader. Both my self-evaluation and the feedback I received showed that I tend to “panic” when confronted or challenged by others. In the workplace, there will inevitably be times of unavoidable confrontation. As a leader, it is important that I develop the confidence necessary to express my thoughts in a healthy way, even in challenging times, rather than shutting down or avoiding the conflict entirely.

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

The insight from the 360 feedback has given me clarity around a few key areas where I can focus on maximizing my strengths as well as developing areas where improvement is needed. The feedback I received has given me a fresh and energized perspective and I look forward to the ways I will grow and develop my leadership as a result of this experience.

Brandi, thank you for your transparency in sharing what you learned about yourself and this process.

How about you, leader?

Do you need to have confidence and credibility with those you develop? If so stay tuned, we have more stories coming over the next few weeks, and in April you will be able to register to get certified in these exciting leader development tools!

Would those you lead say this about you?

My good friend Kris Bowers is the president of the Indiana chapter of the Kiwanis Club. A few weeks ago she asked me to be the keynote speaker at their annual convention. I was honored to be asked by Kris, who is a classmate of mine from graduate school and a person who exudes servant leadership. Kris and I had the opportunity to talk over the phone about her organization and the goals for my talk prior to the event. As I was taking notes on what Kris was saying about Kiwanis and the direction the service organization was headed, one theme rang through loud and clear. According to Kris, this organization will thrive based upon the leadership that is exhibited.

Perhaps this is not a shocking revelation to you. I know so many of you who follow these musings truly believe that organizations rise and fall based upon their leadership.

And yet, how many of us fall into the leadership fallacies of:

  • Leader has the best view.
  • Leader is the smartest person in the room.
  • Leader means power position.
  • I got this far, I won’t fail.
  • My experience is valid, so I am better grounded than anyone else.

I have to admit that I have to check myself often to guard against these traps. Just the other day I was talking with my staff about a product we are excited about rolling out in 2017. In the middle of the discussion, I had a moment of self-awareness. It was not an out of body experience or anything like that, however, I found myself both talking with the staff and observing their behavior at the same time. I realized I had been droning on for about 5 minutes with all my knowledge, wisdom, and experience about what we should do and how we should do it.

It was kind of surreal.

In the moment, my mind took me back to the keynote I had done for Kris and the Kiwanis Leaders of Indiana. You see, I had asked these leaders to think of a leader they admired the most, then to write down the leadership quality that was most admirable about that leader.

In a very brave technology moment for me, I had the 300 or so participants text the leadership quality that they admired most about the leader they were thinking of to my PollEverywhere account. The results of their work were shown instantly on the screen.

Here is the actual result of that poll:

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Nowhere on this list of most admirable qualities is: Smartest in the room, Most Experienced, Can’t fail, All-powerfull.

As I studied the graphic, I found almost the exact opposite:

  • Listener
  • Compassionate
  • Selfless
  • Humble
  • Positive

If we asked those who follow you to name the one attribute they admire most about your leadership, what word would they pick? What would your word cloud look like that would describe your leadership?

Homework

Spend some time in reflection on the last time you were with your team. Ask yourself, did you listen to them more than you tried to position your agenda? Did you really care what they had to say or did you just hold the time until you could exert your power? Were you able to remain positive even in the face of adversity? What does it mean for you to be humble and how does this attribute affect your leadership?

Leadership Tip of the Week

Click play below to watch a short video with some additional thoughts from this week’s blog, "A Vaccination for Leadership Failure."

I would love to know what you think about this idea! Please leave a comment below.

If you know someone who might benefit from these tips, please send them the link to the blog and encourage them to subscribe!

Maximize the Gift of Feedback

*Don't forget to take my Blog Reader's Survey for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! This week we have been talking on the Monday blog and the Leadership Tip of the Week about RECEIVING FEEDBACK.

Most of us are pretty good about giving feedback. No worries, just ask me what I think about something you are doing and I will give my opinion. Piece of cake.

But when someone gives me feedback, a completely different set of emotions comes out of me.

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Disequilibrium

Sorry if that heading created some bad memories about high school chemistry! This idea of someone giving us feedback can rock our world. Receiving feedback creates a state of disequilibrium. You become unbalanced, at least temporarily. The process brings about at worst abject fear for some, and at best a mild feeling of discomfort for others.

It is totally natural to be somewhat defensive when you are given feedback. Even those who say they love it have had to work very hard to get past the initial shock of absorbing someone else thoughts on your work product, or even the things that make up who you are as a person.

Inside of this discomfort is where your true growth as a leader resides.

At the gym where my wife and I work out, someone has written the following quote on the wall: “Pain is the recognition that fear is leaving your body.” When we realize we have nothing to fear, feedback can be seen as a positive leadership growth tool.

Growing via Feedback

When you receive feedback, the first step to growth is to notice the discomfort. Once you are aware of the pain you have two choices:

1. Listen to it and accept it. 2. Listen to it and reject it.

In both of the above scenario’s two things occur:

  1. You must listen to the feedback. Not just hear it, but really listen to it. One of my favorite reads of 2015 has been Edgar Schein’s “Humble Inquiry." Schein asks his readers to do a better job of listening and really try to connect with what the other person is saying. Drop your defensiveness and listen to them. Suspend your need to be right so that you can hear what the other person is saying to you.
  2. After listening to the feedback, realize that whether you accept or reject it you can not go back to the previous state of reality before the feedback was given. Now you know. This is what change theorists call dialectic theory.

Dialectic theory says that two people exchanging thoughts, each with their idea of the best way forward, results in "colliding events, forces, or contradictory values that compete with each other for domination and control.” (Van De Ven & Poole, Academy ol Management Review 1935, Vol. 20, No. 3, 510-540.) This means that when feedback is given, two ideas collide with each other creating a new reality for each person involved. If those involved continue communicating they can move toward a common understanding of each other. If the communication stops after the feedback is given, then each party moves forward making their own claim on what is now reality.

Your Homework 

My desire is that as a leader you get better at receiving feedback. It is how you will grow.

Feedback is a gift. Gifts need not bring fear.

Here is your assignment: Ask someone to give you some feedback around a big project you are working on. Resist the temptation to judge the intention of the person who is giving the feedback. Resist the temptation to defend your actions. Just listen to the message they have for you. The idea here is for you to learn and grow...not be right in your own eye.

If you do this homework, why not leave a comment below? I would love to hear your story. If you don't want to leave the comment below send me an email at Scott@DrScottLivingston.com. I would love to hear what receiving feedback was like for you.

See you on Monday.

Best Hopes,

Scott

P.S. On Monday's blog I have a great tip for you on how you can prevent leadership failure. You won't want to miss it.

Why I Am Scared to Death Right Now

I had a conversation recently with a leader who has faithfully read this blog since its launch. It went something like this:

Hey Scott, I really enjoy reading what you write. Your perspectives are insightful and practical, things I can use every day as I lead my team. But…

There it was.

What I call "the big eraser."

Whenever I hear the word BUT, I get a picture of my first-grade teacher Mrs. Eskew saying, “Scott, would you please erase the blackboard before we go to lunch?” (Ok, now some of you are laughing because I am old enough to have had blackboards and chalk in my formative years.)

I never liked that job. It always felt to me like all the good work we did that morning was being wiped away with a single stroke.

When we hear the word BUT at the end of a string of compliments, our minds suddenly forget all the good things the person said and we prepare ourselves for the attack.

That is what it feels like too. An attack! All the compliments we received when the person started are going to be wiped away with one fell stroke of the feedback we are about to get.

The But

The person giving me feedback continued, “...BUT I tried to download one of the tools you offered and it did not work for me."

I don’t know about you, but when I get feedback like this I experience a full range of emotion:

  • Frustrated that the person had a bad experience on my site.
  • Embarrassed that I had showed a weakness in my system.
  • Curious as to what I could have done better.
  • Appreciative that the person cares enough to tell me what is not working for them.

The person who gave the feedback was not trying to hurt me. In fact, they were trying to be helpful. I really appreciated it. In fact, I tell all my clients to give me feedback because that is the only way we improve.

However, even when we ask for feedback we brace ourselves a little because the unknown can at times be a place that causes fear.

The Ask

So here is why I am scared to death right now:

As I reflected on the story above, I realized that I really wanted to get feedback from all my readers about what they are thinking. The only way I am going to be able to deliver what you all want is to ask you. It would be silly for me to continue to guess at what you want and risk not adding value to your day. So, I am asking for your feedback.

I have been doing this blog for about 6-months now, and I really need to hear from you on what your leadership needs are.

Click here to take a short 10 question survey, that will take less than 2 minutes for you to complete.

For those of you who would like a little extrinsic motivation (see last week's blog for more details on this topic), we will randomly select the name of one survey participant to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. If you want your answers to be anonymous you are free to submit the survey without including your name, but you will be ineligible to win the $50 Amazon gift card.

The Solution

On Wednesday's Leadership Tip of the Week, I will be sharing with you a practical 4-step process for overcoming emotional moments, like when someone gives you feedback and uses the word “but." This process will help you prevent your emotions from getting the best of you, enabling you to get your thinking mind back in order to receive the feedback. This model is useful and practical any time you feel your emotions starting to take over your thinking.

You won’t want to miss it, so be sure you watch the video.

The Appreciation

I just want to take a moment and say thank you. You all are the reason I do this blog. My desire is to help you and those in your organization to become better leaders. So, what are you waiting for? Why not forward the site to a friend who you think might get some value out of the work we are all doing together?

I truly believe that organizations rise and fall on leadership. My team and I would like to say how much we appreciate you spending your time with us each week. We really do value your feedback, so thank you in advance for helping us develop leaders.

Please click here to take 2 minutes and help us understand what you want in leader development by completing the short 10 question survey.

See you on Wednesday with the Leadership Tip of the Week,

Scott