The Terminator ~ Leadership Styles – Part 1

Leadership style is something I’ve been pondering for a while now. I’ve been lucky to have met and worked with many great leaders over my career and I’ve also met and worked for some that, shall we say, could have done with some development and coaching. I don’t like putting people into boxes, as everyone is different, but for the purpose of this series of blogs I’m going to paint a picture of the main leadership styles that I’ve come across and their merits and weaknesses.

Effective leaders match their style of leadership with the right situation. Ineffective leaders are inflexible and do not understand the relationship between leadership style and teamwork.

So, onto the first Leadership style:-

Leader Terminator

The Terminator

If you’ve seen the original Terminator film (1984), you may remember the quote by one of the main characters – Kyle Reese:-

‘It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever…’

Meet the Terminator!

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the movie, I’m not a huge fan of this type of leadership style. There are times when it may be useful, but I would only consider using this style of leadership as a last resort or in an emergency situation.

This type of Leader retains as much power and decision-making authority as possible. They do not consult their team, nor is anyone allowed to give any input and the Terminator’s team is expected to obey orders without receiving any explanation.

However, there are some benefits to this kind of leadership:

A more productive team ‘while the leader is watching’. The power that the Terminator exerts over a team improves their working speed and makes them less likely to slack. This is ideal for poorly motivated employees who have little concern or interest in the quality or speed of work performed.

Improved logistics of operations. Having one leader with heavy involvement in many areas makes it more likely that problems are spotted in advance and deadlines met. This makes ‘The Terminator’ ideal for one-off projects with tight deadlines, or complicated work environments where efficient cooperation is key to success.

Faster decision-making. When only one person makes decisions with minimal consultation, decisions are made quicker, which will allow the management team to respond to changes in the business environment more quickly.

The downsides: –

Short-term approach to management. Whilst the Terminator will enable faster decisions to be made in the short-term, by not giving their people the opportunity to gain experience and start on their own leadership development,  and learn from their mistakes, the Terminator is actually de-skilling their workforce which will lead to poorer decisions and productivity in the long run.

Manager perceived as having poor leadership skills. While the Terminator style has merits when used in certain environments, this autocratic leadership style is easy, yet unpopular with employees.

Increased workload for the manager. By taking on as much responsibility and involvement as possible, the Terminator naturally works at their full capacity, which can lead to long-term stress and health problems and could damage working relationships with colleagues. This hyper-focus on results comes at the expense of good leadership development.

People dislike being ordered around. They also dislike being shown very little trust and faith. As a result, the Terminator style can result in demotivated teams. This results in the paradox that Terminator leadership styles are a good solution for demotivated workers, but in many cases, it is the leadership style alone that demotivates them in the first place. Younger people especially don’t respond well to the Terminator.

Teams become dependent upon their leader. After becoming conditioned to receive orders and act upon them perfectly, workers lose initiative and the confidence to make decisions on their own. This results in teams who become useless at running operations if they lose contact with their leader.

Would love to hear from you if you’ve met the Terminator!

Be sure to read part 2 of Leadership Styles – The Coach

An Elephant in the Room Part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs

Word Cloud - Elephant in the Room

I see two distinct types of ‘Elephant’ in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog focusses on the latter.

If you missed Part 1 – An Elephant in the Room: Management breakthroughs, and are wondering what on earth I’m talking about, please click here

The Leadership Elephant

The Leadership Elephant is an entirely different animal to the Management Elephant. These Elephants often appear in Senior Management or Leadership Teams and are more difficult to fix.
I’m a firm believer that if you have a strong team that is truly focussed on the same goals and vision, plus believing in and displaying the same values you can be successful in any market, anywhere.
Easier said than done! And the larger the business or team you lead, the harder it can become.
By virtue of their position (but not always), Senior Managers are competent in their own field – Marketing, Finance, IT, Engineering, Sales, Manufacturing, Product Development, Human Resources etc. However, many of these managers have had limited or no development  / experience in Leadership and certainly not in creating or being part of successful Leadership Teams. They also tend to operate day-to-day in isolation to the other senior managers as they have their own teams, challenges, and budgets to worry about and so many Leadership Teams are not teams at all, they are a collective of Senior Leaders with the same boss.
The ‘unsaid’ or Elephant in the Room, within a Leadership Team can have a profound impact on the rest of the organisation, if left uncecked.Leadership Elephants centre around a few key areas:
  1. Clarity of Vision
  2. Positive conflict
  3. Accountability
  4. Honesty
  5. Commitment to each other’s success
  6. Delivery of results

1. Clarity of Vision

As a team, what are you leading for? Not as Marketing Director or Sales Director or Head of Product Development….As a TEAM, what are you COLLECTIVELY leading for?
When Leaders are pulling in different directions, the results are a tug of war and wasted energy. When everybody is pulling in the same direction, that creates forward momentum.
Lack of an agreed, cohesive vision can result in poor orientation, competing agendas and misunderstandings. Teams function much more effectively when working with one vision and one set of goals within a strategic plan.
If you haven’t got a clear vision and goals as a team – this has to be your first job. Full Steam Ahead by Ken Blanchard and Jess Stoner is a great book to help you get started!

2. Positive Conflict

Conflict can be useful. When used correctly and depending on the attitudes and perspectives of those involved, conflict can:

  • Diffuse a more serious conflict.
  • Spark action to search for more facts or solutions.
  • Increase team performance and cohesion.
  • Find out where you and the rest of the team stand on a particular topic.

So how do you get to a point where conflict can influence and help facilitate positive outcomes?

  • Accept conflict as helpful
  • Stay focused on defeating the problem, not each other
  • Be prepared with facts to solve dilemmas
  • Consider the main issue, circumstances and relationships involved
  • Remain open about the other people’s position (remembering anger is often natural reaction of conflict)
  • Be respectful, professional and focus on outcomes

Don’t over simplify things and falsely resolve a situation by avoiding the source of conflict. Avoidance is often seen by withdrawing from a situation to save the fight for another day, or smoothing the situation saying “let’s not argue,” or “It’s not really that important.”

You’re more likely to succeed if you identify the real issue, the circumstances and relationships that factor in to the situation, and consequences of the resolution.

3. Accountability

When we fail to hold others accountable, we reap the consequences. While everyone is busy pointing fingers at each other, deadlines don’t get met, work remains below standard, or customers continue to be dissatisfied. Worse yet, things won’t get better until people stop trying to affix blame and start addressing the issue that caused the problem in the first place. This cycle will continue until people take accountability for their contribution to the problem and focus on seeking solutions.

In my view, the greatest impact of not holding others accountable is that it creates a negative perception of the leadership team. When other members of your teams see you letting someone get away with not producing the agreed output or keeping commitments, they begin to wonder why they are working so hard. They wonder why you don’t take action to address a poor performer who is creating problems for the rest of the team.

Failing to hold others accountable reflects on you as a leader. It raises questions about your willingness to hold everyone to the same standards and creates the perception that you don’t treat people fairly and equitably. Pretty soon others on the team get the message about “what it takes to succeed around here” and the extent to which they can count on you as a leader.

Lack of accountability creates and reinforces a culture of blame-which, in turn, generates other problems. You may notice increased evasion and avoidance as well as a pervasive “don’t get caught” attitude. Innovation plunges as people become less willing to be creative and think out of the box. Employees take fewer risks (or stop altogether) because no one wants to be blamed if something goes wrong. Finger-pointing sessions proliferate, creating a cycle of blame that ultimately shuts down communications.

4. Honesty

If you want to receive honest feedback, start by giving it. As the people on your team observe your honesty, this will make them feel more comfortable being honest themselves. On the other hand, if you don’t practice what you preach, it’s much tougher to influence others to practice that same thing.

Where I find that most leaders have the biggest problem related to honesty, is in saying those things no one wants to hear: the bad news, the opposing opinion, the refusal, the negative feedback. This is why I think the trick to becoming more honest is becoming more courageous and talking about these kinds of things. When you can honestly talk about the sensitive stuff, being honest about anything else is easy.

People often get defensive when they hear something they don’t like. They start to deny, blame, explain and criticise others. This may lead to other team members restraining themselves from saying all they intended to say simply because they don’t like the reaction they’re getting. If you want your leadership team to speak freely and honestly, it’s essential that every time one of them starts saying something difficult, instead of getting defensive, you do something much more constructive: you get curious and ask questions. This way, you prove that you are not afraid of the truth and that your main interest is to understand facts and opinions, not save your own skin.

5. Commitment to each other’s success

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t you want to commit to your other Leadership Team members’ success? Well you would be surprised…or maybe you wouldn’t.

Great business people are naturally competitive. They want to win in business. Some are quite happy to win at the expense of others in their team and even the success of the business.

To build a truly great business, I’m a firm believer that if each of you is truly committed to one another’s success you can achieve so much more, especially through the tough times.

I’m sometimes amazed at the tricks, lies, back-stabbing and U-turns that people perform to try to get themselves ahead in business. Maybe I’m naive, but I think this can only lead to longer term issues – lack of respect from your peers, your teams and no doubt your customers will suffer too.

If you want to take your business into significant growth, you need to support your team and they need to support you. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but you do need to watch everyone’s back, be there for each other when they need support and focus on your collective goals and vision.

6. Delivery of results

A team that is not focussed on COLLECTIVE results fails to grow, loses it’s best people, is easily distracted and focuses people on their own careers or internal quarrelling.

Every Leader has an obligation to deliver – for their stakeholders, their people and their customers and not just in financial terms.

To avoid distractions, leadership teams need to prioritise the results of the leadership team over their individual or department results.

All sounds straight forward and easy doesn’t it? Well there are a few things that tend to get in the way – Self-promotion, Career Progression and Money to name three. The ironic thing is that all three of things are likely to happen anyway if you are in a high performing leadership team, all working towards one vision, one set of values and collective results.

Most senior managers naturally focus on the results of the teams they manage, not the teams they’re members of. They spend more time with their own people, they probably get bonused on the performance of the teams they manage and they probably don’t invest as much time in building relationships with their peers. Imagine the possibilities of having really powerful relationships with your peers, where the team is accountable for the whole and not the part and when you collectively focus on your customers and positive outcomes in your marketplace….

None of the above can be fixed overnight, and needs a huge amount of collective energy to get results. But when the results come, your competitors better watch out!

Thanks for reading!

Mark Conway

An Elephant in the Room Part 1 – Management Breakthroughs

Listening for the unsaid!To paraphrase Wikipedia – An “Elephant in the room” has become a management saying meaning an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss and based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to concern themselves with tangential or small and irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one.

I don’t know whether it’s because elephants are now protected by law or not, but I’m coming across many more of them than I used to!

Tackling the difficult topics in business life is hard, really hard, especially if you’re not used to having these sorts of conversations. You can choose to ignore difficult conversations and still survive in business and many do! If you’re thinking, yep that’s me, then I’d advise you to think again. If you want to be the best you can be, then you absolutely need to read on. If not, this post is not for you.

The breadth of difficult conversations is huge, so I’m not going to be prescriptive. There are so many examples, but I’ll name a few, so that we’re on the same page:

  • Poor performance or capability
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Indirect aggression
  • Actual aggression
  • Sabotage
  • Poor relationship
I see two distinct types of Elephant in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog will focus on the former.
The Management Elephant
The Management Elephant tends to be when you have a member of your team that is exhibiting behaviours that are not what they need to be. I was going to write ‘behaviours that are not acceptable’, but therein lies the fundamental problem. Because these behaviours are often ignored, because the conversations that need to happen to change the behaviours are hard, and therefore don’t happen, makes the behaviours acceptable….that bit is your fault!
You owe it to your company, yourself and, if you want to be a good manager, your employee to have these conversations.
Below are some steps that I have found will help you to get the most from these often tough conversations:
1. Prepare
Whatever the conversation, don’t just turn up to the meeting without preparing, especially if you are angry about the situation. NEVER lose your temper. Believe me, YOU will feel worse about it afterwards, not them. Think about as many of the potential reactions and outcomes as you possibly think of and prepare your response.
2. Privacy
These sorts of conversations can often lead to the recipient being upset. Respect their privacy and ensure that the meetings are conducted in private and that they can exit the meeting into a safe environment.
3. Be direct
Get to the point, but talk about behaviours and impact. Be direct AND sensitive
Example:
Direct and Insensitive – You’re passing the buck. You have to change
Indirect and Sensitive – Have you thought at all how you interact with others?
Direct and Sensitive – Working with other departments is key to our success. I received feedback that others are having difficulty working with you and we need to explore how to improve these relationships.
4. Discuss consequences / impact
Depending on the issue being addressed, there could be a whole range of consequences from mild to serious. The fact you are trying to tackle the issue means that this is at least important to you and your relationship.
Many larger businesses have policies for capability / competence / performance etc and obviously there are potential legal ramifications for other more serious offences such as harassment or bullying.
Obviously if you are having the conversation early enough and in the right way, you can hopefully sort the problem before any of these consequences are invoked.
The key here is for you to convey the seriousness of the issue and what may happen if the behaviours are not altered.
5. Discuss action
Ensure that you work with your employee on an action plan  to rectify the behaviour and ensure this is time-bound and you have one or more follow-up conversations to ensure the issue is resolved. If it isn’t in a timely manner then you start to apply the consequences outlined above.
6. Be supportive
For some people, unacceptable behaviours may have been tolerated by previous management or they may be completely unaware on the impact their behaviour is having on others or the organisation. As a good manager you have an obligation to help them through the process and if you don’t feel equipped to deal with the situation, take advice from peers or a Human Resources expert (internally or externally).
Obviously if someone is breaking the law or in serious breach of their employment contract, then serious consequences must be considered and invoked immediately.
Be sure to read part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs

Stop listening …. and give up!

Listen to your People

For a while now I’ve worked with developing my direct team into being more…

More focused, more passionate, delivering more and being more commercially and customer focused. And to a large degree we’ve succeeded. I’m really proud of them and what we’ve achieved so far. But to really succeed and make a step change in our performance we need to take everyone in the business with us. That’s not an overnight task.

We’ve recently set up a couple of teams, to make a start:

1. A team of managers – to focus on how teams interact together, how we work together better and to ensure that we are consistent in how we performance manage our people and get the most from them and the most for them.

2. A team of passionate, bright, brand champions – to focus on some ‘key’ projects that can make a difference and improve not only our customer experience, but the way we work, hopefully making our people’s working lives a bit easier.

We (myself and my direct reports) recently had a feedback session from the second team who had been tasked to come back with a prioritised list of key areas that we needed to improve. The presentation was relatively short, about 20 minutes, but had a huge impact on me. It was very professionally delivered, had been well thought through and did not pull any punches to us as a management team. The reaction was mixed to say the least. I had anticipated some of the feedback and had coached myself to keep quiet, to only ask questions of clarification, rather than defend, and tried to focus on the future potential rather than pick holes in the feedback. This feedback was gold dust and not necessarily criticism….even though it felt that way to some of us.

It’s easy to dismiss feedback with responses such as:-

  • We’ve heard all this before
  • You don’t understand the reality
  • That’s the way it’s always been
  • Well you don’t actually mean that, it’s actually like this

…I’m sure you could add to the list!

By listening to feedback freely, pushing your background conversations out of your mind, you can start to unlock a future potential. You also motivate the people giving you feedback to be more open in the future, and if you act on the feedback, you’ll motivate them even more to change.

Listening to feedback:

For people to be willing to invest time and effort in any change, they need to feel that the leadership understands not only the situation, but them as people. You need to develop relationships. This is possible only by sitting down with people and having conversations in which you listen a lot more than you talk.

Listen to what they do

Listen to what they think is going well

Listen to their dreams and hopes

Listen to their frustrations

Listening to what is bothering them about changes in your organisation

Listen to what they they don’t want to change and why

Listen to what they are thinking

Listen to their feelings

Finally, to listen rightfully to your team, you need to use your ears (to hear them), your mind (to understand them), your heart (to feel them) and most importantly, your hands (to act on them). Remember that your employees will not feel like they were heard by their bosses unless their bosses act upon their concerns.

Teams and Teamwork 2.0

Team 2.0

Teams and Teamwork have changed

The make-up and nature of teams have changed significantly in recent years. Organisations have become more distributed across geography and across industries. Closer relationships between people inside an organisation and those previously considered outside (customers, suppliers, partners and other stakeholders) have become more important. Organisations have discovered the value of collaborative work and with the advent of new tools and technology, the ability to work more efficiently, effectively and more competitively is a reality. There is a new emphasis on knowledge management – harvesting the learning of the experience of members of the organisation so that it is available to the whole organisation, quickly and easily. Used effectively across a business this knowledge and information flow can add a real competitive advantage to your business and create a better experience for customers.

All these changes in organisations over the last decade have changed how teams are formed and how they operate.

Teams have morphed over time:

  • From fixed team membership to flexible and temporary team members
  • From all team members drawn from within the organisation to team members that can include people from outside the organisation (customers, suppliers, partners)
  • From team members that are dedicated 100% to the team to most people are members of multiple teams
  • From team members that are co-located organisationally and geographically to team members are distributed organisationally and geographically
  • From teams that have a fixed starting and ending point to teams form and reform continuously
  • From teams that are managed by a single manager to teams have multiple reporting relationships with different parts of the organisation at different times

Although the technology that supports these new teams gets most of the attention when we talk about virtual teams, it’s really the changes in the nature of teams – not their use of technology – that creates new challenges for team managers and members. Most “virtual” teams operate in multiple modes including having face-to-face meetings when possible. Managing a virtual team means managing the whole spectrum of communication strategies and project management techniques as well as human and social processes in ways that support the team.

Managers of small and large organisations have known the importance of communication and facilitation for successful team process, but few people have really grappled with the issues of trying to manage teams that are connected by distance in space and time.

While there are some obvious problems and disadvantages of distributed teams, these teams also provide some advantages such as:

  • Developing and spreading better practices faster
  • Connecting “islands of knowledge” into self-organizing, knowledge sharing networks of professional communities
  • Fostering cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration
  • Increasing ability to initiate and contribute to projects across organisational boundaries

Certain things need to happen in order for organisations to make effective use of virtual teams:

  • Processes for team management and development have to be designed, defined, piloted, tested, refined
  • Team managers have to be trained in new team management strategies
  • Team members have to be trained in new ways of working, understand your vision and how they contribute
  • The culture of the organisation has to be reshaped to support new structures and processes
  • Organisational structures have to be modified to reflect new team dynamics
  • Rewards systems have to be updated to reflect new team structures
  • New information technology (IT) systems have to be built to support teams
  • New management, measurement and control systems have to be designed

New technology requires us to rethink these dynamics because we don’t have the option to use familiar approaches. It gives us an opening to change the way we manage the people and work process in general. The critical part of the question, “How can we manage teams operating at a distance?” is really “How do we effectively support the collaborative work of teams? Managing virtual teams is not about taking our old management techniques and transposing them for delivery using new media. Rather, it’s about expanding our available tools to create new dynamics aligned with the best thinking about supporting collaborative work.

Virtual Team

A New Management Mindset

There are some critical aspects of a virtual team manager’s mindset that must shift in order to be effective in the modern workplace:

Different kinds of environments can support high quality interaction. What matters is how you use them.

  • Collaboration happens in an ongoing, no-boundaries way.
  • Using technology in a people-oriented way is possible, desirable, effective and efficient
  • When the communication process breaks down, evaluate our management and interaction strategies, not just the technical tool.
  • Learning to manage virtual teams is about understanding more about teams and the collaboration process

 Some of the key ideas to keep in mind to make sure a virtual team works effectively include:

  • Teamwork is fundamentally social
  • Knowledge is integrated in the life of teams and needs to be made explicit
  • It’s important to create ways for team members to experience membership
  • Knowledge depends on engagement in practice, people gain knowledge from observation and participation
  • Engagement is inseparable from empowerment
  • “Failure” to perform is often the result of exclusion from the process

Strategies for Supporting Virtual Teams

Virtual teams form and share knowledge on the basis of information pull from individual members, not a centralized push. Knowledge based strategies must not be centred around collecting and disseminating information but rather on creating a mechanism for practitioners to reach out and communicate to other practitioners.

The goal is to find ways that support the transformation of individuals’ personal knowledge into organisational knowledge. That goal requires designing environments where all the individuals feel comfortable (and have incentives) to share what they know. It’s important that this activity not feel like a burdensome “overhead” task, which is why doing it in the process of what feels like informal conversation works well.

In order to have productive conversations among members of virtual teams, you need to create some kind of common cognitive ground for the group. Even teams from the same organisation can have a hard time developing conversations deep enough to be significant without some kind of specific context as a beginning frame. Contexts can be created by guest speakers, training courses, requests for input to a specific project/question or special events.

Managers of virtual teams can support their teams by:

  • Recognising them and their importance
  • Encouraging members to explore questions that matter including questions about how they are working together
  • Supporting the creation of some kind of shared space (the feeling that there is an infrastructure where people are working together)
  • Facilitating the coordination of the technology, work processes, and the formal organisation
  • Recognising reflection as action and as legitimate work (getting the infrastructure of the organisation to support the learning process)
  • Supporting activities which make the informal network visible

Technology for Virtual Teams

Different communication technologies can be used to support different purposes and participants.

New technologies are being launched every day to enhance the way we work. At KC we use and sell Microsoft Lync integrated with our Intranet, MS Outlook and SharePoint together with Salesforce.com and integrated tools. These tools not only have transformed the way we work and collaborate but have saved huge amounts on travel and hotel bills!

Too often, technology is introduced to organisations as a solution looking for a problem.

DON’T:

  • Try to introduce collaboration tool as a strategy to re-engineer your organisation
  • Expect to open the box and roll it out – it’s not always plug and play
  • Start by choosing a particular type of technology and then trying to find a problem where you can use it
  • Just put SharePoint or CRM into the organisation and expect users to learn it on their own
  • Mandate the use of technology and punish people who don’t cooperate
  • Try to use software tools to change the politics of your organisation

DO:

  • Start by changing the culture, and then use the technology to support the change
  • Change the reward system and measure people on their teamwork and sharing of information
  • Encourage bottom-up, grassroots efforts
  • Make sure the software fits your processes
  • Start collaboration with face-to-face meetings when possible
  • Use role modelling for spreading the use of technologyTeam
  • Virtual Teams as Building Blocks for Organisational Learning

One of the primary reasons leaders set up virtual teams is to facilitate change in their organisation. The driver for real organisational change is organisational learning. Today’s organisation interested in tomorrow’s success will run on its ability to create and use knowledge, its ability to learn.

The emphasis on learning has two powerful implications for the design of communications environments to support organisational teams that can have a significant impact on the organisation:

Dialogues, not just databases

Until recently, organisations relied on large amounts of explicit knowledge available to them through huge databases. Quantifiable facts, formulas, and procedures were, and still are, available to anyone in most organisations. In contrast, today’s “knowledge” or learning organisations create environments where experiential knowledge is shared through dialogue and interaction. Communication technologies are needed which support this interaction.

Learning and change are facilitated rather than managed

For a business or a non-profit institution to become a learning organisation, a different environment needs to be created. This environment should stimulate and nurture the complex network of interpersonal relationships and interactions that are a part of an effective management communications and decision-making process. People must be allowed to make choices about whom they need to communicate with without regard to traditional organisational boundaries, distance and time. A collaboration infrastructure provides the advantage and flexibility of forming and reforming groups and teams as requirements develop and change. This entire process must be facilitated rather than controlled by providing easy ways for team members to be introduced to each other.

What’s Next?

Virtual teams are fast becoming more the rule than the exception in organisations. It’s time to stop thinking of them as a special case and start developing strategies for dealing with the new challenges they create. Virtual teams need the same things all teams need – a clear vision and mission, an explicit statement of roles and responsibilities, communications options which serve its different needs, opportunities to learn and change direction as well as clear measurement.

Feedback: A teaspoonful of criticism, and a bucketful of praise!

BullyingA very wise lady, the late Blanche Eldon, told me something when I was about 15 years old, that has stayed with me ever since. I was in my first management role – a Patrol Leader in a local Boy Scout Troop.

We were mid-way through our ten-day summer camp and one of my patrol, Dan, had consistently not been carrying out his jobs around camp, and his behaviour was making my patrol, and me, angry. I was giving him a telling off – shouting, giving him punishments and generally being a bully, because he wasn’t doing what I needed him to do. In the midst of my shouting, Blanche politely called me over and said:

‘I’ve always found that a teaspoonful of criticism and a bucketful of praise is the best way to develop people rather than getting angry and shouting. Why don’t you try it?’

I did, with a bit of coaching…and it worked! Having different kinds of conversations turned around not only Dan’s behaviour, but our relationship improved too.

Feedback to your team and peers is hugely important if you want to develop powerful relationships, but in order to get the best out of those conversations, screaming, shouting, finger-pointing and aggression is NOT the best way to get the most out of people. Worse still, this type of behaviour can not only lead to poor relationships, it can have a serious long-term impact on the person you are targeting. Believe me, I’ve seen it a few times in my career. Framing feedback in a constructive, supportive way, pointing out  positive contribution and behaviours, as well as focussed time discussing where behaviours could be better, will do wonders when giving feedback to improve your relationships.

Below are a few tips on how you might handle giving negative feedback:

1. Don’t always wait for formal occasions to give feedback

Feedback works best in the moment. Performance reviews and monthly or quarterly 121’s are often too few and far between. Far better to offer feedback in a casual, non-confrontational conversation as soon after the ‘event’ as possible.

2. Ask permission to give a person feedback , especially if it’s to a peer

3. Always give negative feedback in private

4. Describe the behaviour and the impact that it had / is having, and be specific.

Feedback is much easier to accept when the person receiving it does not feel their personal worth is being criticised. It is much better to state feedback positively, rather than negatively, when possible. People generally respond better to specific, positive direction. Avoid saying things like, “You need to be more talkative in meetings.” It’s too ambiguous and can be interpreted in a lot of personal ways. Say something specific and positive pointed at the task you want accomplished, such as, “You have some good ideas. I want to hear at least one opinion from you in every meeting we’re in together going forward.”

 5. Discuss what is going to happen next.

How is the person going to change their behaviour? Ask if he or she understands everything you expect and that you’re there to help him or her succeed. As the saying goes: “People have a habit of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”

Giving feedback is first of all an attitude and can only be made a habit by constant practice. “The worst harm you can do,” Jack Welch, says in his book, Winning, “is not to be candid with someone else.”

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