There are 2 things most people are very bad at:
1. Understanding how other people experience them. Unless individuals tell us, we often don’t know what another’s experience of us is. You may get a clue by a facial expression or some other body language. But frankly, you then have to make an assumption. And you know what happens when we make assumptions. We make an “Ass” out of you and me. So if we really want to know how others are experiencing us, we need to get them to tell us.
2. Understanding their strengths. Even with a very good assessment, I tell individuals in my workshops and private coaching to go ask several other people. They can validate what the assessment says or they can get new information on strengths.
It is important, however, that we know how we are being experienced and what our strengths are so we can build on that for maximum success in achieving our goals. We want to modify anything that is getting in the way of goal achievement. We want to build on our strengths.
I do an exercise in some of my workshops that demonstrates the power of this. It is a “simple” exercise of moving crayons around. With timely feedback it can be accomplished in 24 seconds. Without it, it can take a participant up to 30 minutes.
How can we get the feedback we need? The short answer is to ask. You can reference my last blog on being an Ask Holefor more information on how we always want to be asking in general and how to go about it effectively. And one of the types of “asks” we need to include is asking for feedback.
One of the guests on my podcast The KTS Success Factor™ Podcast for Women was Kym Harris. She suggested the following simple but powerful feedback questions:
1. Based on your experience and observations of me, in what ways would you say I am most effective?
2. How could I be more effective?
3. What else would you like me to know?
Anyone can ask these questions. It will bring up information on perceived strengths as well as obstacles to effectiveness. And the last question elicits information on how we are being experienced.
There is another format that I like:
1. On a scale of 1-10, how do you experience me in _______________ (our relationship, my performance, etc.)? This will get you some data on how you are being experienced.
2. What am I doing that causes you to rate me this high? This gets you data on strengths.
3. What would it take to make it a 10? This gets you data on obstacles that are getting in the way and more clarity on how you are being experienced.
And finally, there is one question that is really good to ask a mentor? How do you see me limiting myself?
The trick in any of these approaches is asking the question and then keeping quiet while taking notes. We will want to explain or defend. Resist that urge. Just gather the data. And then process it with someone else who knows and cares about you—like your peer coach.
When you process the feedback, I suggest that you put the feedback in several buckets:
1. Strengths. You are going to get a lot of data on things that you are good at. That is going to come from questions like “In what ways would you say I am most effective?” You can decide if you need to add to your list of strengths to build upon.
2. Obstacles. You may get data on behavior that is getting in the way. It can be a usual behavior that is just not a strength in the situations where it is observed. For example, if you are very verbose and talk a lot in meetings, it could just be that you need to channel this strength behavior in other areas. Or it could be behavior that is what I call stress behavior. This is behavior that is problematic and most anyone would view this as ineffective. An example of this is cussing at a coworker when they irritate you. Much of our stress behavior is the result of needs not getting met. So we want to get to the underlying need and explore more appropriate ways to get that need met.
3. Areas where you need to develop. You may get data that you do not have sufficient experience or knowledge or skill in a particular area. As Malcolm Gladwell reported, It often takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. So as long as the feedback relates to knowledge or skill that relates to an area of interest and does not conflict with a behavioral strength, you are golden. Just keep working on it.
4. Habits that need to be developed. It could be that you get data on habits (like procrastination) that are just getting in the way. You can map out small action/practice steps with your peer coach to develop those habits. It takes close to 30 days for something to really become a habit, so give it the time needed to actually develop.
5. Data to be aware of but dismissed. So maybe you get data that you are unlikely to be able to address. It is related to a “preference” of the feedback provider but unlikely something you are going to change to accommodate. Let’s suppose that your feedback is that you do not speak enough in large meetings. But you are an introvert, need to process things before speaking, and have a hard time getting a word in edgewise when everyone else is talking, talking, talking. What to do? Well, you do not need to remake yourself in the image of the feedback provider. But there are probably things you can do like asking if you can supply ideas after the fact or asking the meeting leader to directly ask you a question. You can think through the various ways that would be comfortable for you to make a contribution and then ask for that.
I hope you were able to thank your feedback provider when you actually got the feedback. But after you have processed it with someone else, it is nice to go back and tell that individual what you did with the data provided. When someone knows they have made a meaningful contribution, they are more likely to do so in the future, and they start becoming invested in your success.
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