Issue 146 - May 2015
The Leader Letter
Plato once observed, "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when people are afraid of the light." Ignoring or failing to understand how others see our behaviors keeps us in the dark and diminishes everyone's perceptions of our leadership effectiveness. Those perceptions then shape the reality of our leadership impact and outcomes.
A strong leader or coach doesn't protect people from themselves. Extraordinary leaders and coaches shine the light of feedback to constructively redirect negative behaviors and reinforce positive behavior.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines feedback as:
This issue publishes my April blogs spotlighting research, best practices, and core skills of seeking and giving feedback. Effective feedback provides the "helpful information" that dramatically improves our own and other's performance. In this issue we'll look at the biggest problems with most 360 feedback tools now widely in use and research showing the components of best-of-class 360 assessments so the feedback maximizes performance improvement.
You'll also find new research on the type, frequency, and barriers to informative feedback that can help systems, processes, and people get better. Feedback is data or information we often label as positive or negative. The key is objectively accepting, prioritizing, and turning this data or information into change.
We've all winced and covered our ears when experiencing the horrendous squeal of "an annoying or unwanted sound" in a loudspeaker system. If we don't effectively navigate the conundrums, ironies, and contradictions of feedback we can be deafened by the squeals of focusing on the wrong things, such as weaknesses. Or we might produce a squeal that overwhelms the person we've giving feedback to and they can't -- or won't -- hear our message.
We hope you reduce your fear of the dark side and find this issue enlightening!
Last year Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman conducted a survey among readers of their Harvard Business Review blog readers. 2,700 responded to the online survey with questions about positive and negative feedback and attitudes about feedback experiences. This was an international survey with over half of the respondents coming from outside the United States.
Here are some of the findings:
Feedback: More or Less?
What type of feedback is most effective?
The research paper also covers:
Click on Feedback: The Powerful Paradox to download a complimentary copy of the research paper.
I am running our first public workshops (we've been running these inside organizations) of our recently updated 2-day Extraordinary Coach workshops in Mississauga on May 25 and 26 and Calgary on June 4 and 5. This session includes a powerful new session on Elevating Feedback and a 360 strengths-based feedback assessment on 14 coaching competencies. Click on The Extraordinary Coach Workshop for more details and to register.
We are often asked, "What is the one thing a person ought to do to be a better leader and have a more successful career?"
While it is difficult to narrow down the list to just one thing, there is one that seems to surface over and over again in our research. That one thing is having the ability to ask for and respond to feedback from others. When we look at our 360 survey data we can see an absolute correlation between the ability to ask for feedback and the overall effectiveness of leaders.
And giving effective feedback is a cornerstone coaching skill with major impact on employee engagement, performance management, teamwork, productivity, quality, and safety.
"The feedback report you're about to receive is a gift," is often greeted with nervous chuckles. And in some organizations when a manager says to an employee, "I'd like to give you a little feedback," it often quickens his or her heart rate and sends shivers up their spine.
In a new study we have been conducting, we've discovered that employees want feedback. Positive feedback is welcome, but they also want the negative or corrective feedback that most leaders are hesitant to give. Employees want it, leaders hate to give it.
Last month Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman explored this vital coaching and leadership development topic in a webinar. They shared new research about both asking for, and giving feedback, and how to get better at doing both.
Get a Complimentary Feedback Assessment
Webinar viewers have the opportunity to participate in our Feedback Practices & Perceptions Assessment at no cost. This self-assessment will measure:
You can access the assessment here: Feedback Practices and Perceptions Assessment
Our research shows that leadership self-assessment correlates to performance outcomes like employee engagement, turnover, safety, customer service, or profitability only half as reliably as ratings from everyone else (manager, direct reports, peers, and others). Some leaders rate themselves much higher than all the other raters. Other leaders don't see their own strengths and assess their effectiveness much worse than everyone else does.
Leaders who get the most benefit from their 360 feedback assessments pass through three stages of Acceptance to Prioritization to Making Change Happen. Here's a summary of the key steps in each of these stages from Joe Folkman's white paper Turning Feedback Into Change:
The intersection of our strengths/competencies, passion, and organizational needs produces a powerful combination that sustains long term efforts to improve. It's one of the key reasons leaders building their strengths are rated 2 to 3 times higher in 360 reassessments 18 – 24 months after than those gritting their teeth and trying to improve weaknesses.
Making Change Happen:
Click here for a complimentary download of Turning Feedback Into Change to get more information on each stage and it's steps.
The research behind development of The Extraordinary Coach included looking at best practices in helping professions such as counseling, clinical psychology, and social work. Two practical lessons that apply to coaching effectiveness were focusing on topics of importance and interest to the coachee and asking for feedback at the end of a coaching conversation.
When counselors asked for feedback on the effectiveness of their helping sessions, attrition rates were cut in half and effectiveness increased by 65%.
There are four key reasons to focus on the coachee's agenda and ask for feedback:
Click on Asking for Feedback on Coaching Effectiveness to view a short video clip of me explaining some of this research and key points. I also show an example of a simple tool that can help coach's get immediate coachee feedback on the effectiveness of the coaching conversation.
Since feedback is so critical to leadership effectiveness and development, 360 Multi-Rater Assessments are used by over 90% of Fortune 500 companies. But many organizations are now experiencing these problems:
Most 360 feedback assessments search for skill gaps, weaknesses, and training/development needs. We're running into executives who've refused to participate in 360 feedback assessments because they've found them negative and often feel beat up by the process -- even when they have the counsel of a well-trained coach or psychologist. Some CEOs have banned the use of 360 assessments in their organization.
Like a sharp blade, 360 feedback is a tool that can be constructive and helpful or cause lots of pain and destruction. It depends on the design of the tool and how it's used.
Most 360 assessments and development processes are focused on finding and fixing weaknesses. In a recent executive briefing I presented these key differences in a strengths-based 360 assessment:
You can view my five minute overview of these points recorded in this presentation at Major Differences in our Strengths Based 360.
You can also join me in experiencing and leveraging the power of a strengths-based 360 feedback process in our public workshops of The Extraordinary Leader or The Extraordinary Coach in Toronto or Calgary in May or June. Click on Leadership Development and Coaching Skills Workshops for more information and registration.
360 feedback is critical to building strengths or addressing fatal flaws (as long as it avoids the "Nine Problems with 360 Multi-Rater Assessments" outlined above).
Over the past two years -- and especially in the past six months -- our revised, updated, and increased use of The Extraordinary Coach is proving to be equally powerful. It's also been personally rewarding to watch the resulting growth of participants I've been training or coaching. This coaching development system includes evidence-based approaches for giving and receiving feedback to build strengths or address critical issues.
And recently I've stepped up the number and depth of one-on-one executive coaching. These sessions are showing me a wide variety of effective and ineffective responses to leaders getting feedback and coaching on their leadership behaviors.
In their article, Feedback: The Leadership Conundrum for Talent Quarterly, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman summarize their insightful research on how feedback can supercharge a leader's career and is at the heart of the coaching he or she provides to others. Here are the headlines of their key findings:
These findings sure resonate with my experiences over the past few years. Which ones apply most to your personal leadership development and your skills at coaching others? Which points are most critical to your organization's leadership development and coaching efforts?
The article offers ten simple strategies to deal with the "ironies and contradictions that swirl around feedback." Click Feedback: The Leadership Conundrum to read more about the findings and strategies.
As part of succession planning many organizations are concerned about developing their next generation of senior leaders. Many large companies in well-established industries like financial services, resources, manufacturing, and the like or public sector, education, and healthcare organizations struggle with getting middle and senior managers to embrace leadership development opportunities.
We've recently published a case study from the banking industry with a number of high-level leaders nearing retirement. This large North American bank wanted to ensure future success by increasing the level of leadership effectiveness across the organization. The development process began with a 360 strengths-based assessment of all eighty leaders.
After the feedback was collected, each leader received their individual results, attended a day-long development workshop and then created an individual development plan. Each leader was asked to discuss their development plan with their manager so that they would be supported in the process. Three months after the workshops, all managers were given a follow-up survey assessing their subordinate's efforts to improve. Managers were also asked to meet regularly with their direct reports to discuss progress. After eighteen months, all leaders participated in a reassessment of their leadership skills to assess progress.
Here are a few key conclusions and outcomes:
Read the full case study here.
A recent Harvard Business School newsletter summarized research from David Garvin, the C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and Joshua Margolis, professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School. They point out that effective leaders need good advice and need to give useful advice to others. "Yet business executives aren't always making the most of advice -- on both the giving and the receiving end -- because they may not realize that it involves skills that can be learned and refined."
Some leaders can appear indecisive and uncertain in looking for too much advice and get rated poorly in their leadership effectiveness. Others march forward overly confidently and rarely ask for advice. They're also rated lower in leadership effectiveness. More balanced leaders in the middle are rated highest in their effectiveness.
Garvin and Margolis identify three key mistakes leaders make in seeking advice:
This aligns with our experience on leader's seeking feedback and advice on their leadership effectiveness. It's also why 360 multi-rater assessments can be so useful.
Giving advice is a key function of training, mentoring, or managing performance. Extraordinary coaches refrain from advice giving and guide conversations so the answers are drawn from the coachee through a skillful coaching conversation that expands everyone's understanding of the issue and possible solutions.
Three advice-giving mistakes identified by Garvin and Margolis are traps many aspiring coaches too easily fall into -- especially misdiagnosis:
If you want to know more, my advice to you is to read "Advice on Advice".
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure.
My original tweet commenting on the article follows each title and descriptor from the original source:
"When you love what you're doing you never have to work again" was useful advice I was given early in my career.
Discussion of how the latest research from Positive Psychology aligns with strengths-based leadership development.
Use the PACE self-assessment and see how to be an extraordinary leader who does things fast AND does things right.
Joe gave a complimentary webinar on this critical leadership topic here.
The eight dissatisfaction factors provide a good checklist for self- assessment and assessing disengagement risks.
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my twice weekly blog during the previous month.
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months you'll have read the equivalent of a leadership book. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@ ClemmerGroup.com or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, or my blog!
May the Force (of strengths) be with you!
In this Issue:
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©2015 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group