July, 2016

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Master Delivering Tough Feedback

Delivering Constructive CriticismOne of the leadership workshops that I facilitate is Delivering Constructive Criticism. This skill of providing tough feedback is one of the skills we need to master if our desire is to get along with others, succeed in our personal and professional life, and also to become an authentic and credible manager and leader. We all know that providing tough feedback, especially to people with whom we live and work closely is hard, to say the least. These could be our lovers, relatives, those who report to us, friends, bosses, what have you. We don’t want to offend them, and in turn affect our relationship.

Though it is tough, mastering this skill differentiates you from the crowd; it could become your competitive advantage. It empowers you manage and lead others effectively. When you master this skill you know how to be nice and at the same time honest to give critical feedback to the people you love and care about. Remember, they need your feedback desperately even if they may not be aware. Know that they may not know yet that the feedback you have for them has been getting in the way and sabotaging their success in their personal life and career. It’s their blind spot.

But, be careful not to give feedback for the sake of it. To get along with others and also become a successful leader, you need to know how to provide a custom made feedback that leads to performance improvement. The key word here is performance improvement. If somebody says, behaves, and/or does something and if it gets in the way or contributes towards the betterment of the team, and for the achievement of the bottom-line of the organization, that is when you need to provide a tailored made feedback. You want them to continue to do what they do well, and improve those things they are not doing so well.

What do I mean by tailor made? For starters, state the issue clearly. Let’s start with a positive feedback. You might have noticed that someone has been listening intently and you know that this skill has been one of the reasons you like this person, and also you know that it contributes for that person’s personal and professional life if he/she continues to do it. Tell him/her, “You listen intently.” Then, describe what you mean by listening intently: “I know you listen very well because you ask questions, nod your head, maintain eye contact when you listen.” If necessary, you may point out some instances where this person listened you attentively. You may point out, “Do you remember our one-on-one on last Friday? You were listening carefully…” “During our coaching session last week, I could be able to tell that you were listening keenly…” You may encourage the person to continue using active listening more often including where and how to use it so that the person may capitalize on this skill.

Let’s see another example. This time, a tough feedback that requires telling someone that he/she needs to make improvements. Be specific and tell the person what is not working well (what should change). “I didn’t understand you when you explained the chart or walked me through the steps of…” This reminds the person the instance. The person might already know the reason why he or she was fast or unaware. In the latter case, give some options to help that person slow a little bit so that you and other people could be able to understand him/her in the future.

By all means, be direct! Don’t use proxies when you give tough feedbacks. People respect you, even if they may not agree with your feedback when you straighten up with them. Some people act like jerks by going behind and stabbing people or use proxies when they give tough feedback. When you offer people feedback about what they aren’t doing well directly, they admire and honor you. You build your authenticity and credibility. And these are two of the most important leadership attributes you need to influence and command following. When you provide tough feedbacks nicely and directly, people come to you in the future to solicit more feedback. For instance, rather than saying ‘some people don’t even know how to pick the right tie’, and hope your friend or colleague gets it, pull aside the person who needs this feedback desperately (it’s his/her blind spot), and tell him/her in their face: ‘You look great with this suit and tie. You may not be aware. I want you to know that your tie doesn’t match with the occasion’, and offer some options for next time use.

In conclusion, don’t give feedback for the sake of it. Don’t flatter or belittle people with your feedback. Learn how to give and receive feedback, give more frequently, and also ‘beg’ feedback from the people who work with you closely. When you give tough feedback that requires improvements, be positive, direct, and offer some options for that person to make improvements. It’s not a big deal if someone is not skillful like yours in picking the right tie. Don’t make it a big deal. Don’t walk around the bush. When people see that you care enough to take risk and give them tough feedback, they know that you have their best interest in your heart. People also reciprocate it by giving you back tough feedback that have been your blind spots. They trust you that you won’t be offended or get hurt if they give you tough feedback because they saw you doing the same.

By the way, at Success Pathways, we provide a one-day workshop entitled “Delivering Constructive Criticism”. To learn more about this workshop including the Learning Objectives, checkout this link: http://successpws.com/?page_id=1486

Don’t leave your professional growth to chance

The9CardinalBuildingBlocks_Book_3DAs leaders, managers, professionals, business owners, it’s paramount to invest on our growth to better serve our team and stakeholders. What do we do to grow physically? We eat balanced and healthy foods, exercise, and so on. Likewise, as leaders, it’s important that we eat and exercise to grow our career muscles.

Some colleagues sometimes come up to me and ask me questions like, “AZ (my nick name) how did you do this and that?” Most of the positive feedback that I get are something to do with my passion- empowering leaders to develop their soft skills. Let me just give you a sample: “Last year/month, AZ, I attended your seminar/training/coaching session, and I see lots of improvements within a short period of time in your stage performance/pronunciation/accent.” And my answer is always the same, “Thank you for giving me this feedback. It means a lot!”

Some insist to know the ‘secret’ behind and ask, “How did you do it?” My response is something like this, “I grow intentionally. I don’t leave my professional development to chance. I strategize and plan every year, and also invest some of my earnings back on my growth.”  Some push further and ask about what I mean by ‘invest some of my earnings on myself’. To these dedicated learner, I reply, “I learn from the best.” Some still ask follow up questions like, “How do you learn from the best? They are very few. They’re inaccessible to get their attention individually!” My answer is simple, “Yes, I may not personally know these few BEST; even if I know them, they may not be available to help me grow by giving me individual attention. I also know that even if they are available, they may be expensive. The most affordable and accessible way that I found to learn from the best is to invest on their products and services.”

No short cut should be entertained to grow ourselves. Don’t leave your growth to chance! Learn from the best by reading their books, watching their DVDs, attending their programs, what have you.

Remember, your passion may be different than mine. My best gurus may not necessarily be the right fit for your growth. Find your own BEST, learn from them, and keep growing. If you don’t grow, you become irrelevant to the people you serve and lead, without you even knowing it. Don’t let that happen to you…

For that matter, Growth is one of the 9 Cardinal Building Blocks to continue succeed in our leadership. I shared some insights about the areas that need constant growth, the steps, and processes we need to take to grow consistently in my book- ‘The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks for continued success in leadership‘, which is available on Amazon. Success Pathways, LLC provides one-on-one coaching, and a one day workshop on the same theme. If you’re interested, let me know. And also, let me know your thoughts. If you find this blog helpful, inspirational, or informative, like it and also share it with others. Happy Growth!

Increasing your self-awareness to excel in your leadership

NelsonmandelaWhen a leader lacks self-awareness, not only he doesn’t know his true self, strengths, and potential but also unaware of his blind spots and vulnerabilities that are obvious to others. These blind spots and vulnerabilities of self-unaware leaders prevent teams, organizations, and societies from reaching their heights, experience growth, harmony, synergy, and productivity.

The question is why individual leaders and organizations aren’t giving self-awareness the attention it deserves? The reasons differ from person to person, organization to organization, and community to community. Let me offer a couple of my guesses. It could be because they think that self-awareness isn’t that important compared to other tones of urgent things they must do on a daily basis. It could be because they think that self-awareness is a personal thing, not something to address in the workplace. It could be because they don’t know its significance at all.

Whatever the case may be, I’m here to build a case for self-awareness with the hope that some leaders and organizations may put it under the radar. And if they find self-awareness worthy of their attention and investment, they may do something to increase their individual and collective self-awareness. As I wrote in my book The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks for continued success in leadership: “No community, organization, or nation can arise above the collective self-awareness of its members. When you have many self-awakened individual members, your collective awareness increases. The more enlightened members you have, the more corporate success and productivity you may enjoy, and the more competitive you may become.”

You may say, “I’ve enough self-awareness”. Well, it is not enough to have one-time self-awareness. It’s a continuous process if your desire is to continue succeed in your leadership. Failure to expand one’s self-awareness denies those who have already succeeded from thriving and staying there for a very long period of time.The author of ‘Derailed’ Tim Irwin attributed lack of self-awareness for the derailment of former Home Depot CEO Nardelli. He wrote, “He [Nardelli] may have lacked self-awareness- a common denominator of those who derailed”. If you have experienced or watched train derailments, it’s messy and ugly. Unless you increase your self-awareness, you too will experience derailments, if not now, in the future.

In this post, I’d like to share with you notes from my book where I narrated the leadership stories of three great leaders and how they fared against the 9 Cardinal Building Blocks. The story below show you how Nelson Mandela (one of the three leaders) was a great self-awakened leader. No wonder why he transformed his country, impacted his generation, and beyond. You too can do the same in the area of your passion but that journey should begin with self-awareness, and the commitment to continually increasing it:

…Since he understood himself well, Mandela unleashed the unlimited potential that resided within him. Early in life, he believed in himself and the potential he carried. Because of that, he didn’t play small. Mandela was quoted as saying,“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”… As much as it was unfortunate, Mandela’s true self-awakening occurred while he was in prison. Before that, in his own words, he didn’t have a clear picture of who he was. This led him to arrogance: “In my younger days, I was arrogant—jail helped me to get rid of it. I did nothing but make enemies because of my arrogance.” Spending time in jail gave him plenty of time to think, reflect, and introspect… Mandela demonstrated a holistic self-awareness. He:

  • Was well aware of his roots and constantly reminded himself of this fact.
  • Understood the importance of living in harmony with other people who weren’t from his race and clan.
  • Knew what to do with his life while he was still young. He discovered his mission in life as soon as he was graduated from Fort Hare in 1943.
  • Had the awareness about where he was going. He didn’t have the illusion about his future.
  • Self-critiqued himself. In one of his letters to Winnie Mandela dated on June 20 1970, Mandela wrote, “I must be frank and tell you that when I look back at some of my writings and speeches I am appalled by their pedantry, artificiality and lack of originality. The urge to impress and advertise is clearly noticeable.”

The above excerpt is taken from the last part of my Book entitled “The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For continued success in leadership”, which is available on Amazon.

Note: If you’re interested individual coaching or one day workshop for your team on the theme “Increasing Self-awareness”, let me know at 703-895-4551.