Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why listen

Here is Kevin Sharer, CEO of biotech giant Amgen, recounting the events that spurred him to become a better listener:
The best advice he ever got to listen better is to have only one objective when listening: understand what the other person is trying to convey to me.  His "bandwidth" for listening increased when he realized there will be time later to persuade or critique.

What about you? Can you let go of your own plans to argue convince, or object and use your listening time to focus on comprehension?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do we have to "normalize discomfort" to create a feedback culture?

In her interview with the Washington Post, University of Houston Professor and author of Daring Greatly Dr. Brené Brown states, "the most common criticism (HR People) hear [from people leaving their jobs] is, 'I never got any feedback.'"

Most managers and leaders with whom I meet and who I coach or train have no idea how to give feedback, or they assume that feedback is only something one does when one must take corrective action.  As Dr. Brown says, when most managers gave feedback it "was corrective. It was fast and not meaningful, and it was blaming."

We must give feedback frequently -- and look for opportunities to appreciate what people do -- to be heard when we have to correct a performance shortfall. Dr. Brown describes a "feedback culture where discomfort is normalized." But most of us don't want to normalize discomfort; we want to avoid discomfort at all costs! What we fail to realize is that avoidance leads to future much more uncomfortable conversations when things are so bad we have to say something -- and we're emotional about it and therefore less likely to speak calmly (which leads the other person to respond with their own negative emotions, which block them from fully hearing us).

So how can we "normalize discomfort"? First, give feedback when things are going well -- let people know what's working and why you appreciate them.

Second, when giving corrective feedback test yourself with two questions:
  1. am I just venting, or, if I truly want to see a change, am I feeling strong emotions when I think about it?
  2. can I define the changed behavior I seek clearly and concretely?

If you're venting, feeling emotional, or unable to define the future state you seek, now is not the time to give feedback.

Third, ensure your corrective feedback is given "respectfully and wholeheartedly" and tied into the organization's mission and goals. Feedback is critical for your best employees, your good employees, and your adequate employees (those not adequate should be moved out) because it keeps everyone focused on the purpose of their work, provides inspiration, and facilitates self-motivation.