Making the Most of Feedback

March 9, 2021

[This is an excerpt from my book Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, which is currently available at Amazon and wherever you buy books.]

Leading others in the workplace requires a combination of successfully receiving and giving feedback. At a very basic level, receiving feedback is about learning what you are perceived as doing well and should continue doing; understanding what you should not do and stop doing; and learning what you don’t currently do, but should begin doing.

Similarly, to give feedback effectively, you need to state what the other person is doing well and encourage them to continue; inform them of what they should not be doing and redirect as necessary; and communicate what they need to begin doing in order to be more effective in their role. Effectively receiving and giving feedback are essential in every career, but especially when seeking to lead by example.

It’s important to look at the feedback you receive as a gift by valuing the perspectives others have for how they see you showing up in the workplace. Ideally, this would come in the form of a 360-degree feedback appraisal, so you can learn how you are perceived by people up, down and across the organization. This collective perspective provides an overall picture in how you show up. It may differ from how you perceive yourself, yet this helps you gain an external perspective to increase your overall self-awareness.

When a comment is from one individual, you should see it as an opinion; when it is from two, you should treat it as a trend; and when it is from three or more people, you should view it as factual and especially important to consider.

Don’t dismiss the positive comments as these represent your strengths that helped you reach where you are today. Embrace this positive feedback and own it as part of your overall reputation and personal brand. Receiving feedback effectively means you are able to hear and accept both positive and critical information without dismissing, overreacting or becoming defensive. Developing self-awareness is based not only on how well you can accurately see yourself, but also on how aware you are of how others see you. This can come only through feedback from others. And it’s vital you are able to receive it well, determine what it means for you, and choose to act where appropriate in order to bring about any necessary changes to help you grow.

Getting feedback can be difficult in many workplaces because it may not be embedded into a performance evaluation process. Many companies that deploy annual performance appraisals find them dreaded by both supervisors and employees, which further undermines the potential for success in receiving useful feedback.

The best organizations deliver feedback as often as quarterly in order to course correct and pivot more quickly. This enables tighter communication, so employees can more immediately take corrective action and continually improve. The 360-degree feedback method can be especially helpful, but may not be used throughout your organization or used consistently. Regardless, top-performing leaders are those who regularly seek out feedback on their performance, according to Tasha Eurich in her book Insight.

“If anything, we are socially and professionally rewarded for seeking critical feedback,” says Eurich. “Leaders who do are seen as more effective, not just by their bosses, but by their peers and employees.” It’s important that you get the feedback you need in order to succeed in your role and throughout your career. Just as importantly, you need to receive it with a growth mindset so you can take appropriate action on what you get.

“If we can receive feedback with grace, reflect on it with courage, and respond to it with purpose, we are capable of unearthing unimaginable insights from the most unlikely of places,” says Eurich.

The 3R Model

She developed the 3R Model on how to best stay in control regarding surprising or difficult feedback. Using this 3R Model enables you to receive, reflect upon and respond to such feedback effectively.

  • Receive – Mine the insight potential by seeking specificity on where the particular behavior shows up and examples of when it was seen.
  • Reflect – How well do you understand the feedback? How will it affect your well-being? What affect will it have on your long-term workplace success?
  • Respond – Do you want to act on this feedback, and if so, how? Can you develop and communicate a plan for how you will go about this action?

Feedback should not be taken as judgment, but only as information that can be helpful to your growth.

“When faced with feedback in an area that plays into our self-limiting beliefs,” says Eurich, “merely taking a few minutes to remind ourselves of another important aspect of our identity than the one being threatened shores up our ‘psychological immune system.’” Using the 3R Model will help you make the most of the critical feedback you receive.

If you can be courageous enough to seek feedback, be sure you are also capable of receiving it well, reflecting on what it means, and responding in a way that helps you to grow.

Adapting Work Habits That Demonstrate EQ

January 27, 2021

[This is an excerpt from my book Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, which is currently available at Amazon and wherever you buy books.]

The behavior you demonstrate at work speaks volumes with regard to your overall emotional intelligence, and this behavior shows up directly in your habits. A habit—good or bad—is simply routine behavior repeated continually and without thinking. And because habits are automatic, you may not necessarily be aware of the impact they have on you or on others.

If you’re not clear which of your habits may be holding you back, you could scan past performance reviews for clues. There may be an indication of some habits that were identified as inappropriate and they may need to shift. You can also learn which habits are holding you back by directly asking your supervisor or a colleague you trust. Just remember to control your reaction, so that they feel comfortable fully sharing what they observe.

For example, let’s say a colleague says you have a tendency to look away when people are talking to you and this makes them feel you are not trustworthy. Knowing this habit is undermining your need to connect with others, you could try to keep longer eye contact with others instead of looking away.

Of course, if you’ve ever tried to break a habit or create a new one, you know it can be difficult to do. This can be due to a lack of self-discipline, but it is also likely that you haven’t broken the habit down small enough, so you can see incremental progress to keep you motivated and moving forward. Take the example of not looking people directly in the eye. This could be broken down so that you can work on looking just one person in the eye when he or she speaks to you. Get comfortable with that single interaction before attempting to do it with everyone.

“Habits should be small and easy do,” says James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results. “If you make changes that are small and easy to do, and layer them on top of each other like units in a fundamental system, you can get powerful results.” Clear calls habits the compound interest of self-improvement because over time these incremental steps compound and help you end up in a very different place.

Three important lessons Clear has found to help break bad habits and form new ones:

  1. When you perform a habit, you execute a four-step pattern: cue, craving, response, reward.
  2. If you want to form a new habit, you should make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
  3. You can use a habit tracker to measure your progress and maintain your motivation.

It can also be very helpful to recruit someone to observe your efforts and provide support as you make progress on your habits. Perhaps you can find someone at work who is also looking to break a habit or create a new one. You may want to partner with that person to keep you both motivated.

There are many estimates for how long it takes to develop a new habit. I’ve heard claims of 21 days to 30 days to 66 days to 254 days. The fact is that it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take. Rather than pinpoint a specific date on the calendar when you are done, look at habit forming or habit breaking as a continual process. If you embrace a growth mindset, you’ll recognize that you are never really finished with the learning involved.

By focusing on your habit daily, it will become ingrained and begin to lock in. Stay at it, acknowledge gradual progress, and don’t give up because of the inevitable setbacks you’ll encounter along the way. Before long, you won’t even be thinking about it because it will have become automatic. That’s when the habit becomes, well, habitual.

Your overall level of emotional intelligence in the workplace is demonstrated through your habits. The behavior expressed in these habits either enable or prevent others from connecting, trusting and working with you effectively. Habits are foundational to the personal and social competencies of emotional intelligence.

Human Behavior at Work

October 27, 2020

As an executive coach my focus is on helping clients raise their leadership capacity in order to lead more effectively. This typically involves tweaking certain behaviors, so leaders can to bring their best selves to the workplace.

While changing one’s behavior can be extremely difficult, it is crucial in order to become a better leader. Keep in mind that behavioral change is not an event, but a process. It requires diligence and patience. It often means that you stop behaving in a certain manner in order to start behaving differently.

“People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values,” wrote Marshall Goldsmith in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. “The higher you go in the organization, the more your problems are behavioral. The higher you go, the more your issues are behavioral.”

As much as we may recognize that our current behavior is holding us back, it can be difficult to change because that knowledge alone is not enough to move us forward.

According to Plato, human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge. It’s important to keep these elements in mind when trying to understand why we behave the way we do and in how we can change certain behaviors.

Desire

This is about the longing or craving you may have for something that will bring about greater satisfaction or enjoyment. In the workplace, desire drives the expression of your behavior even when it may not serve your best interests. Think about inappropriate comments regarding attraction to another person. Unfiltered desire may actually threaten continued employment. Desire can also provide the motivation or passion you need to initiate a change in behavior.

Emotion

This affective state of your consciousness enables you to experience joy, love, anger, hate, etc. Though some may think they can ignore emotions while at work, to be human means to be emotional and this is true wherever you are. But experiencing emotions at work doesn’t mean simply reacting to them. Instead, you should learn to leverage the information emotions bring about, which means not reacting to them in a way that may undermine your goals but responding to the wisdom they provide in order to behave appropriately. Understanding and practicing this can aid in your ability to initiate behavioral change.

Knowledge

Your knowledge informs how you behave. Though your intentions may be entirely clear to you, that doesn’t mean they are clear to others. Understanding that certain behaviors may be holding you back is very important, but it is not enough. The knowledge you have of your emotions and the desire driving them enables you to behave in a certain manner. This helps you understand how to bring about changes to behaviors that better serve your goals.

More than what you say, it is your behavior that demonstrates most clearly how you show up in the workplace. This behavior can either reflect well or poorly on you. When it undermines your what you intend, it is time for change.

I will be sharing an exciting announcement next week! Be sure to stay tuned and keep an eye out, I can’t wait to share this news with you!


Emotions in Decision-Making

October 15, 2020

Emotions impact our decision-making whether we admit it or not. These emotions are actually available to assist in evaluating an experience and then propel us to take some action upon it. We are informed through felt sensations in our body resulting in feelings that ultimately shape our views and perspectives.

While the US Senate is currently in the process of confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, many are trying to determine how Barrett’s personal views will impact her decision-making as a judge on the highest court in the land. Judge Barrett has been very careful to state that she will rule based on the law and not on her personal views.

However, if we can agree emotions impact our decision-making ultimately leading to better decisions and that emotions help shape our personal views, won’t this mean that Judge Barrett and in fact all judges make rulings that are indeed influenced by the emotions they feel? Afterall, none of us are Spock-like characters devoid of feeling. 

Total objectivity was the goal yet impossible to achieve, I was taught as a journalism student. I suspect total impartiality for a judge is equally impossible to achieve. Experienced criminal lawyers say the outcome of a case is largely determined by the judge one gets. Exercising complete impartiality is a worthy goal, but should we really believe it’s possible to achieve and realistic to find?

According to American Nobel Laureate scientist Herbert Simon, emotions influence, skew or sometimes completely determine the outcome of a large number of decisions we make each day.

We shouldn’t rely solely on our gut instinct to make important decisions, nor should we deny the emotions we feel while deliberating with only rational thinking. Emotions, when correctly interpreted, can actually assist in making the best decisions. Trust your gut, but back it up with facts and data to support it.

Psychologists differentiate between integral (e.g., envy and regret) emotions and incidental (e.g., sadness and anger) emotions. Integral emotions are those caused by the decision, such as thinking about the implications of a decision causes anxiety. This anxiety is actually very useful information for you to consider and you may need to be more cautious.

On the other hand, incidental emotions should have nothing to do with your decision-making. For example, it you’re about to make a financial transaction, being sad or angry should play no role in this very rational decision and yet it often does.  When you are angry, it’s extremely important to take a breath and pause because you are probably not in a good space for making a rational decision and could very well result in a costly mistake.  

Because of the many ways our emotions can affect us, it’s important to be aware of them and take them into consideration whenever we are in a deliberative frame of mind. Emotions are there to assist or undermine us, but they can’t be ignored.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with the creatures of emotion,” said American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie. Use the information your emotions provide to help you make the best decisions.