Archive for the ‘Feedback’ Category
I have had a sore throat lately…metaphorically at least…and temporarily lost my blogging voice over the last few months. I’m happy to report that it seems to be well and truly back, due in no small measure to some of the brilliant people I have around me.
Whilst I was on holiday, my good friend Flora started her own blog (if you haven’t read it yet, you really should, it’s excellent) and what struck me most when reading it, is how her voice jumped off the page to me. Her voice, her style – undeniably, emphatically her. It reminded me of why I had started blogging and gave me some insight into how honest, personal blogs can be so rewarding and refreshing to read. It also inspired a little spark of recognition that I still have plenty to say and a voice and style of my own to articulate it in.
The other thing that struck me in reading Flora’s first post was the great way that she described her network – vibrant, full of varied, precious friends and family, people she loves and respects, people who she helps and who help her. That reminded me of the general fabulousness of the people that I am privileged to have become friends with through ConnectingHR and Twitter, as well as those who I have met through more conventional means.
And then, a chance conversation in Twitter with one such lovely friend of mine, Anthony Allinson, led to him emailing me some really thoughtful feedback on what he likes about my blog, things that have helped and inspired him and some ideas for future topics, should I feel like returning more regularly to the blogging fray. Reading his email not only lightened my heart, but somehow also had the effect releasing lots of ideas about future posts and musings and generally cheering me up and inspiring me no end. I was, and am, touched beyond measure that he had taken the time to think about me and about my blog and what would be helpful to move both of us forward. He will be blushing furiously by now, I know, so I will simply say that I am hugely appreciative of his consistent, understated kindness.
The lesson for me is that asking for and accepting help from friends, family and colleagues is not only OK, it is more often than not absolutely essential in order to continue to grow and develop. There is undoubtedly a fortuitous element of right words, right place, right time to all of this…but the simple fact is, you have to be open to being helped, as much as you are willing to offer and give it yourself. And it feels great…I shall be practising doing it more often!
So to Tony and Flora, thank you! Beers…or rather red wine, whiskey and cocktails…are on me :).
Communication…however much we think we are doing of it, we almost always need to do more. I had a powerful reminder this week that its very easy for leaders to become out of touch with what their teams are thinking and feeling. And that if left unaddressed, some of the small issues can quickly become magnified.
Talking about the issues doesn’t always solve them..but it’s often the first step for jointly agreeing how to make things better. Building trust takes time and communication takes perseverance, to get past the point where people are able to be open and honest with you, rather than telling you what they believe that you want to hear.
So let’s remember not to stop talking, even when it feels difficult. And even more importantly to carry on listening, even and especially when we are only hearing part of the story.
What have you been reminded to do more (or less!) of this week?
In advance of the management training for HR that will be delivered over the next couple of months, the team have completed 360 feedback questionnaires and the effect is already transformational. The conversations that it has opened, the reflection and self-awareness that it has brought, the willingness to accept feedback, adapt behaviours and to allow others the space to change and move forward have all been fantastic. It’s very early days, but the seeds have been sown for this to be a very powerful intervention indeed.
It’s easy to overlook the effectiveness of 360 feedback – in many ways, we ought to be able to provide feedback in a more regular way without requiring the formal framework. The fact is that sometimes we all need a bit of a nudge to articulate what we think is fantastic and less endearing about our colleagues…and that experiencing it together as a group seems to have created a huge amount of positive energy and goodwill. The timing of any 360 feedback exercise is undoubtedly critical to its success and it seems we have embarked on this at the right moment, where things are starting to come together and behaviours have not yet become ingrained. Fingers crossed!
I’d love to know what your experience of team 360s is and how you have energised your team…let me know 😉
Ouch. Is it just me that recognises some element of truth in the above question? I have had the pleasure of working with some great HR line managers over the years, but I have also at times experienced a considerable gap between what we say to line managers as HR advisors and what we do ourselves as people managers. And I am also sufficiently self-aware to recognise that whilst I excel at some aspects of people management, such as providing individuals with development, mentoring, encouragement and regular feedback; there are plenty of other areas where I definitely “could do better”.
Rather than HR being the function that attracts and retains the worst people managers…lets face it, there are plenty of other functions in most businesses that have their share of these too…it is perhaps the gap between the people management values that we advise and espouse to others and those that we at times struggle to attain within our own chains of command that contributes to the view that HR are the shoddiest line managers of all.
In my view, some of the reasons that HR doesn’t always reach the high standards we articulate to others are as follows –
- “Too Nice”?
I doubt I’m alone amongst my peers in preferring the motivational and developmental part of being a manager, than the relentless driving up of standards, systematic performance management and delivering of unpleasant messages. The truth is that to be better people managers HR has to excel at both sides of the coin
- Suspicious minds
HR people can be quite suspicious by nature – we are often looking for the catch when things seem to good to be true. This trait can at times be useful….but who wants to work for someone who is anything less than trustful of them? I have seen it many times that trust between HR colleagues can be a fragile concept and it takes time to grow and develop…perhaps we need to get over this a little and give people the benefit of the doubt rather more than we do.
- Control freakery
HR managers with control freak tendencies? Yes, I bet you know a few too…. 😉 Combine this with line management and it can become the ugly step-sister to the mistrust mentioned above. An unwillingness to delegate, the belief that things will only be done correctly if you do it yourself, a tendency to micro-manage…incredibly corrosive to the confidence and development of the individual that works for you and definitely not a good example of great people management skills.
- Fight fire with fire
Oh, the fire-fighting in HR. We’re just always so busy dashing here and there and fixing everyone elses issues, we are often overwhelmed by the sheer number and scale of the tasks ahead. And when it comes to prioritising, there can be a temptation to allow the tenets and discipline of good people management to slip for our own teams. Needless to say a slippery slope and one that can turn us all into poor people managers if we don’t guard against it.
- Do as I say, not as I do
Excellent at giving other managers advice on dealing with issues, HR is often rather less good at following its advice for its own staff. Perhaps also a factor in this is that the internal function of “HR for HR” rarely, if ever, works as effectively as it should. It’s all a bit too uncomfortable, a bit too close to home, a lower priority than working with managers elsewhere in the business.
So if HR aren’t perceived as great people managers, what do we need to do to get better? In four words: take our own advice. Let’s face it, we know how to do this stuff, we advise managers on it all the time and we do it well…let’s take some time to honestly appraise where we’re doing well and where we could do better. And how about being really revolutionary and asking the people who work for us for their feedback? Now that could be a great starting point.
What do you think?
This post is the first of my blogging experiment, where all of the post topics have been generated by others and there has been voting taking place on which topic I should blog on each day. If you haven’t voted for a topic yet, please do – I will be tackling the topic with the most votes every day for the next five days. In the event of tie-break votes (and there is one for tomorrow’s post as it currently stands!), I will make the final choice between the two most popular myself 😉
Blogging energises me. For me, there is a definite correlation between my general sense of personal and professional well-being and how inclined I feel to write on my blog.
Lately I have a minor case of blogger’s block, so in true Twitter style I asked for inspiration from the good people of #connectinghr. And as usual they rose to the occasion and unleashed a wave of ideas. Thanks to @MattWarrener, @SpeccyWoo, @BettyBBlonde and @ChangeContinuum, they provided the following eclectic inspirations –
– Why is HR the brake and not the accelerator and how does it need to change?
– Training has absolutely no ROI other than as a placebo
– HR is a band-aid to imperfect organisations and they are minded to keep them that way
– Why are HR the worst people managers of all?
– If you had to axe one function in your business which one would it be?
– Why don’t more execs blog?
– The morals of being forced to interview someone because of the colour of their skin
– Which members of Take That were better looking in 2004 and in 2011?
All of these got me thinking: about the topics themselves, the creativity of those individuals providing them and more than anything else about the power of collaboration to inspire and lift you out of a temporary rut.
So, as of next week I am going to undertake a blogging experiment and tackle one of these each day to write about. Please also feel free to contribute any other suggested topics in the comments below, however frivolous or intellectually challenging (!!) and they will also go into the mix. Once I work out the wordpress voting widget, I will also ask for your collaboration in helping to choose the top 5 blogging topics for next week ;).
A lazy way of generating topic ideas? Possibly. A fun way of getting me back into the blogging habit? Absolutely!
I await your suggestions with anticipation…thank you!
Towards the end of our camping holiday, once of my daughters told me how much she had enjoyed being more independent and doing more things for herself whilst we had been away. Just little activities like going to the playground within the campsite on her own, doing small jobs and walking from the bathroom back to the tent on her own. She asked me about how she could be more independent within our home environment and between us we came up with some suggestions which we have been putting into practice since. My point is simply this; that we all love and need some degree of autonomy to feel valued and to create a sense of achievement, whatever age we are.
Very easy to talk about, harder sometimes to do and maintain. I have found that getting my children to do things that I have usually done for them generally takes many times longer (at least at first) and requires no small degree of patience on my part. I am determined to stick with it though and have been encouraging them to do a task for themself, checking it over once they confirm that they think it is done and then giving them feedback about what is right and what still needs to be improved. And then the hard bit (when you’re as impatient as I can sometimes be!) – giving them the opportunity to complete the rest of the activity and starting the whole feedback loop again. It’s actually working quite well and they are definitely improving and learning new skills already…and I know I am putting into practice something that I undoubtedly need to do more of at work.
- Doing things that scare you moves you forwards
Swimming lessons have always been a challenge, given that my children hate getting their faces wet or splashed at all. Last week during their regular weekly lesson, the instructor encouraged all of the children individually to dip their heads completely under the water. I was amazed when she gained agreement from each of my daughters in turn that she would fully immerse them in the water and that both of them allowed her to do this. Not only this, but that they didn’t cry or wail afterwards…even though they did look a bit shocked at themselves and the whole experience! They trusted her, as I did; she understood their progress well enough to perceive that they were perhaps ready for a step forward in their development. And in doing something that they had been truly scared of, my daughters gained a new confidence and took a huge step forwards in their development.
Two lessons here really. The first is that when we stop learning, we can forget things very quickly – when one of my daughters told me after a couple of weeks of the school holiday that she couldn’t remember how to spell our surname, I realised quite why the teacher had asked the parents to continue with some reading, writing and number work over the holidays!
We all learn better when we are doing something in an enjoyable way and when there are rewards and recognition associated with it. I have been doing some mathletics work with both my children over the summer, essentially fun maths-based games and activities that you complete on the computer. For every set of ten questions a child completes, they earn credits which they can either save up or spend on ‘buying’ a wide range accessories for their online avatar. This, plus a number of other ingenious ways of providing reward and recognition within the work, is amazingly effective in increasing motivation and interest. Now I just need to work out how we can implement some of this in the workplace!
- Feedback and praise
Feedback is fairly meaningless unless it is linked to a specific achievement. But having two children of the same age can make this quite tricky when they achieve things at different rates and particularly when one twin seems to be ahead of the other in many situations, albeit temporarily. When one of my daughters managed to swim backstroke on her own (with the aid of a float) for the first time, I really praised her….and then had to deal with the tears of my other daughter, who felt I was being unfair in praising her sister more than her. Cue much explanation and reassurance, more tears and finally a smile, when I promised I would be just as proud of her when she managed to do it (which she did the very next day!).
As far as I can see, although it can be tough at times, we have to be honest about achievements, praise appropriately and specifically for them, but also make sure we give positive feedback for progress and effort across a wide range of different scenarios, so that everyone has the chance to be included in praise and recognition…we all need some positive feedback on the things that we are good at, at home or at work.
- The constant of leadership
Regardless of how relaxed we are over the holidays, how much fun we have and whether we are at home or away, I’m always (rightly!) in a position of responsibility for my children. In the same way, regardless of the strength of relationships with my colleagues and any ongoing internal or external factors, I remain accountable for the HR activity in my division. Leadership is a constant and consistent part of the role…both when we do and when we don’t feel like it ;).
So that’s my learning over the summer, or my homework. I’d love to know what yours has been!
I like feedback and if it is well delivered, it can be a very effective tool for making us more aware of our own behaviour and the impact we have on others. Usually in my role, I coach others about the best way to approach delivering feedback; however, recently I have been reflecting on some of the most useful pieces of feedback that I have received in my career to date. The commonality with all of these is the impact that they have had on how I act or the way I perceive things…more often than not on how I perceive my professional self.
Coincidentally these are also in chronological order – some of the early ones may seem blindingly obvious, but had to be learned, nonetheless 😉
1 – Just because you don’t articulate how you feel, does not mean that other people don’t know about it!
I learnt this lesson early on from one of my first bosses who gave me some good feedback on the fact that, like an open book, I am eminently ‘read-able’ in my body language and reaction to events. Sometimes this can be positive, but more often than not it is valuable to adopt a level of circumspection and I have (mostly!) learned to be more careful and considered. The accompanying lesson to that one, is that just because colleagues don’t always choose react to non-verbal signals, it doesn’t mean that they have gone unnoticed.
2 – The areas that you think you need to develop, are not always the ones your boss would choose
Same boss, a couple of years later was talking to me about development and what I felt I needed to gain in order to progress. I opted for developing more ‘gravitas’ – partly because I thought it sounded sensible and suitable for a more senior role, but also because I believed it to be somehing I could do with developing more of. She gently pointed out that, in her opinion, I already had that in spades and had I thought about something totally different. She was right about it too – sometimes you’re not always the person who can see what you most need to improve, so asking and listening is vital.
3 – The colleague that you find difficult to work with, probably has some issues with you too
Peer-to-peer feedback is often tricky and my first real experience of it was when I worked with a business partner, who I felt always expected me to drop everything for him straight away and would hover over my desk expectantly when he wanted something from me, which made me feel like my personal space was being invaded. I found him to be a most unpleasant colleague and I took the time (when I wasn’t feeling too irritated!) to sit down with him and offer him some feedback along the lines of “I know you’re probably not aware of this, but when you do abc, it makes me feel xyz.” I had planned what I wanted to say very carefully and made sure I was neutral, clear and professional. The big learning for me in here though, was that when I had finished talking, he offered me some feedback in return and explained that he perceived me as being far too quick to dismiss an idea and say ‘no’ to it, without really exploring it or listening to his point of view. And actually, in fairness, he was probably right! At times, our conversation felt like a nightmare of diplomatic marriage guidance, as we tried to understand the other’s viewpoint, but the experience of giving feedback to eachother was highly valuable in improving our working relationship.
4 – HR people often neglect to practise what we preach
OK, so this may just be me ;). During a recent appraisal, my (non-HR) boss challenged me as to why all of my stated development goals were essentially ‘on-the-job’ training and learning by doing, rather than proper planned training courses or development. I recognised that since I have worked part-time I have often skimped on formal training, because I felt that I just didn’t have the time for it. He also challenged me about my external HR network (which was pretty sparse at the time)..and this prompted me to be a bit more proactive about it and led me to Twitter, ConnectingHR and the Unconference. And, believe me, that has represented a transformation of my HR network! Sometimes we can be so busy coaching managers about their development and that of their team, that we can end up losing sight of the need to challenge our boundaries and further our own development.
5 – Perceptive comments from people who barely know you
Occasionally, someone can hit the nail on the head without realising it and say something that really resonates with you. For me, this happened at the Unconference in one of the breakout sessions, ‘The Politics of HR’, when the discussion moved onto blogging. I made the comment that I would have no idea as to how to go about starting a blog, and the leader of the discussion laughed (kindly!) and said “that’s just really feeble – you work in a publishing company for goodness sake!” For me, that was a real light-bulb moment of taking ownership of my own development and capabilities and just giving things a go. I started my blog the very next day and haven’t looked back. I often think of that comment when I am facing challenges and it never fails to make me smile and toughen my resolve :).
And of course the feedback goes on, less often in a formal context now that I am more senior, but to be found nonetheless, if you are on the look-out for it. Occasionally (as happened very recently) I am mortified by the realisation that I still fall into some of the same traps I thought I had conquered years ago, but the lovely thing about feedback is that it always an opportunity to learn and to put things right again. And of course, we are all human – thank goodness :)!
I’d love to know what feedback you have received over the years that has really resonated with you and influenced how you operate at work and home.