Tag: feedback


Good day, team.
A former client of mine sent me an article this week about our blind spots — character traits or personal behaviors we don’t see but that show up in our interactions with others. This week’s challenge is about being willing to see our blind spots and what to do about them once we see them.
When I took my training to become a coach, I was introduced to one of my major blinds spots: I often interrupted people when they were speaking. I did this in a variety of ways. I interrupted them mid-sentence to express what I thought about their subject matter, I finished their sentences for them, and I sometimes asked them a question while they were still talking. This behavior was definitely not appropriate for coaching someone and, I painfully discovered, was extremely irritating to my friends and family who had been putting up with it for years.
Once I got over the embarrassment of having this behavior pointed out to me, I began to observe what was happening to me when I interrupted someone.
First, I was more prone to interrupt someone if I was really engaged in what they were saying. Getting excited about the subject matter raised the energy in my body. My heart would beat faster, and I felt the excitement of connecting with an idea or having thoughts quickly come to my mind. I had to do something with all that energy, so words would come out of my mouth before they were supposed to, often right in the middle of another person’s sentence.
Second, somehow I thought I knew exactly what other people were talking about, so I finished their sentences for them. This became such a habit that I found people I often talked with just naturally allowed me to finish their sentences.
Third, I was clueless to the reaction people had to my interruptions. I was usually so absorbed in what I was saying that I would miss their reaction. This kept my blind spot fully intact. I was missing all of their “this really irritates me” signals. I had no reason to change my behavior if I wasn’t aware of how irritating it was to others.
When I became certified in the Goldsmith stakeholder coaching program recently, I realized the importance of having others give us feedback so we have an opportunity to observe our blindspots. At the heart of this coaching model is the participation of the stakeholder, and that’s why it’s so successful. It’s the people you ask to observe your behaviors and give you constant feedback — or as Marshall Goldsmith calls it, “feed forward” — that make this coaching model so useful.
With this method (if you have the courage to do it), you ask your stakeholders to tell you if you’re using the behaviors you want to use to improve or if you’re still stuck in your blind spot behaviors. In my case, I asked my stakeholders to observe whether I was still interrupting them, and they had my permission and encouragement to tell me when I was. In the spirit of feed forward, they could also give me ideas for what I could do going forward to change this blind spot behavior.
I have a clear memory of the first time my coaching professor observed my interrupting behavior in front of the rest of the class. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. To make matters worse, within my body I felt like someone had just taken all the wind out of my sails. All that energy that was enthusiastic about what the other person was saying was stopped dead in its tracks, and I was left to wallow in it as it slowly dissipated.
I weakly asked, how do I stop this and what do I do with all this energy? What do I do instead? The teacher was smart enough to ask my fellow classmates. Many of them chimed in with great suggestions, and I realized that by being vulnerable and willing to listen, I got some very sincere and great suggestions:
“Try being present to your breathing while the other person is talking, and when the desire to speak arises, breathe your way through it until the person is done speaking.”
“Sit on one of your hands or put your hand in your pocket as soon as the other person starts to speak. Don’t allow yourself to say anything or move your hand until the person is done speaking.”
“Listen to your voice when you speak. Is it high and excited sounding? Or does it sound like it’s coming from deeper within you, from your belly rather than your throat? Try hearing the difference in tone, and when you do speak to someone, try speaking from your belly. You may find that speaking from there allows you to control the urge to interrupt and slows you down enough to catch yourself from interrupting.”
I was humbled by the sincerity of their suggestions. Everyone could see that we all have blind spots, and mine weren’t any better or worse than anyone else’s. And when they were caught in their own blind spots, I greatly wanted to help them see their behavior and find good ways to change it.
All of this encouraged me to ask for more feedback and suggestions. As painful as it was to receive it, I knew that this was where I really needed to do my work — in the places where I was most blind.
This week, have the courage to ask some of your stakeholders (the people who see your behaviors daily) what behaviors they see you doing that are not helpful or useful. Ask them how you could change your behaviors to better suit the situation and be more appropriate.
Maybe you get immediately defensive when someone gives you constructive feedback and say things like, “I do not” or “You’re mistaken.” This certainly won’t encourage the person to continue to offer suggestions. Maybe you’re someone who talks too much. Try becoming more aware of how people react to you in the moment. Do you notice that people stop listening to you while you are talking? How about the blind spot of always playing the role of the devil’s advocate? Do you find that you almost always disagree with what’s being said just to make sure the other side is heard? Or maybe you want people to see how smart you are by raising the other perspective? Sometimes this behavior can be useful and sometimes not — it all depends on the situation. But if you always do it, chances are there’s a blind spot there. Here are two more of my favorites: acting as the class clown or the cynic. Do you frequently use humor to buffer situations, even at the expense of others? Or are you the one who often makes a cynical comment, particularly when someone in the room is excited or hopeful about the work he or she is doing? One client of mine told me he was afraid to go into meetings with his boss. He seemed so mild mannered and polite with everyone most of the time, but occasionally, his boss would make a snide remark to someone in a meeting. It was so out of character that no one was even sure if he’d actually said it — except for the person he made the snide remark to. They never forgot it.
The best part about asking others to help us increase our self-awareness is in their sincere responses. We all know we need help, and it’s the loving kindness in us that wants to serve each other in the best way we can. When someone sincerely asks for help seeing their blindspots, we are more than willing to assist. It’s like seeing a blind person trying to cross a busy intersection, would we just allow them to walk into the street without trying to help them cross it?
Have a good week!


Many thanks to Christian Buschow for sending me this blog entry about blind spots. Here’s the link: http://aslantraining.com/blog/what-does-your-sign-say.

3/3/13 “Feedforward”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about the usefulness of feedback and how we can use other people’s observations of our behavior to help us in our professional development.

Think about the last time you made a presentation in front of other people. How well did you do? How many times did you say “um” or “like” (sentence fillers that when repeated too frequently can send the wrong message to the audience)? Did you just stand there like an inanimate object? How did your voice sound? Was it high and squeaky or so low and quiet that others couldn’t hear you? What about your content? Did you rely on PowerPoint to do the presentation for you? And were your slides so detailed that your audience was completely bored after the first one?

We all know what a shock it is to hear our voice played back to us from a recorder. It’s even worse to see ourselves on film or video. Is that what I really look like to others?

Most of us are under the impression that we’re so nervous when presenting in front of others that we act differently from how we do in our day-to-day interactions. But studies show that when we’re “acting” in front of others, our actions and behaviors are very similar to how they are when we’re communicating normally with others. It’s hard for us to see, but we rely on certain patterns of communication. We use them everyday, and many have become habitual.

Long ago, I realized that many of my behaviors were invisible to me. I would communicate something to a colleague in a meeting and think I knew what I’d said. But later I would be surprised to find out that what I thought I said and what he or she heard were different. I recall one such meeting when I was talking with one of my direct reports. As I was talking, she began to give me a funny look. Her brow began to furrow, and she looked nervous. I remember thinking, “I’m just giving her information, why is she looking so nervous all of a sudden?” When our meeting was over, she left the room quickly, obviously wanting get out of there. Later in the day, I called her and asked if she’d come back to my office. She looked worried when she came to my doorway. After she sat down, I asked her what I might have said that made her so nervous in our earlier meeting. She was hesitant to answer me. I explained that I thought I had just given her some information regarding a process. There didn’t seem to be anything I said that should have been disturbing to her.

She finally said, “It’s not what you said but the way you said it. You seemed to be so irritated with me. I could tell by the tone of your voice that I’d done something wrong, but you never told me what it was. You just kept going on and on about the process, and yet, based on your facial expression and your tone of voice, I knew you were unhappy with me. It made me nervous that you weren’t telling me what was wrong with me directly. I didn’t understand why you were hiding how you really felt.”

I was shocked. Her impression of my behavior was not what I had intended at all. The truth was that right before our meeting, I had been driving to the office and had gotten stuck in traffic. I wanted to stop for a cappuccino before getting to the office, and because of the traffic, I was unable to do that. By the time I arrived at the office, I was irritated and missing my morning coffee treat. As I poured a cup of bad office coffee, I remember thinking, “I hope this isn’t an indication of the rest of my day — traffic delays and bad coffee, ugh!”

Five minutes later, I was in my meeting with her. I was irritated, and I’m sure my facial expressions and tone of voice reflected that. I was behaving like a five-year-old who hadn’t gotten the treat she wanted. What surprised me later was to realize that my team member saw all of this as her fault, and my behavior had communicated something totally different than what I had intended.

Our inability to see the impressions we make creates a great deal of miscommunication between people. We think we’re acting in a certain way, but if we could actually see ourselves communicating, we might see that what’s coming across to the listener is a completely different message.

Once I knew why my team member was so uncomfortable with my communication, I had an opportunity to tell her why I was irritated. I mentioned the traffic and the cappuccino, and she immediately smiled and said, “Oh, I’m so relieved. I thought I’d done something wrong and couldn’t figure out why you weren’t being honest with me. And,” she exclaimed, “I know exactly how you feel when you don’t have the right coffee in the morning. I’m a complete bear if I can’t have my latte before I get here.”

The usefulness of feedback from others in a business context cannot be overstated. Without the observations of others, we really have no idea how we’re coming across. We can’t observe our own behaviors like others can. With honest feedback from others, as hard as it can be to hear, we can begin to see how we impact the people around us. We can see why we’re often misunderstood and why others react to us in the way they do

But (and this is a BIG BUT) none of us enjoy getting feedback. No matter how it’s framed, we don’t react well to constructive criticism. Even when someone tries to break it to us gently by saying something like, “I’d like to share some constructive feedback with you. Is now a good time?” The normal human reaction is, “NO! It’s never a good time.”

In my recent coaching training, I learned about something called “feedforward.” Marshall Goldsmith defines it as “feedback that’s forward-looking.” For example, when giving feedback, I could say, “You’re not delegating enough responsibility to your subordinates.” This is a statement that describes what you’ve done wrong in the past. That same statement framed as feedforward would sound more like, “Going forward, you could distribute more of your workload to your direct reports so that you’re less bogged down.” In addition, asking team members how they would like to proceed encourages them to describe what they can do to effect this change.

Asking for feedforward from others gives us a great opportunity to discover how we impact others with our behavior. Plus, rather than focusing on the past, it focuses on the future. The intention is to help us improve our behavior going forward, not because we’re wrong or stupid but because all of us have behaviors that are not particularly useful in a work context.

Requesting good, honest observations from our teammates has multiple benefits for everyone. Asking for feedforward helps us be open-minded to what others have to say, and we have an opportunity to make a behavioral change. By offering observations about others, we help team members improve, and we become invested in the changes as we share our thoughts. In this type of exchange, both people have a chance to create a more trusting relationship going forward. Through feedforward, we can explore how to improve things and send a message to teammates that, from this point forward, we are invested in each other’s success.

This week, try asking for some feedforward from your teammates. Ask a fellow teammate what he or she observed about you in a meeting you both attended. Or you could ask a team member in advance of a conference call to pay special attention to your tone of voice and your messaging — did he or she think that others understood what you were trying to say? How about asking for some behavioral suggestions, such as how you might be more articulate at the up-coming status meeting or how you might share more information with others over the next month?

I used to have a boss who often asked me what he could do to improve. I remember how unusual I thought this was. We met every week to talk about the status of projects, any challenges I was having with my team, and generally, how I was doing. When we were just about done, he would always ask, “What can I do to help you be more successful? What can I do to be a better boss?” I remember how uncomfortable his question made me at first, but after a while, I got pretty good at sharing my observations of his behavior and even made suggestions I thought would help him. I never realized how important his question was and what a difference it made in my ability to share feedback with others.

This week, try experimenting with feedforward and see what kinds of suggestions you receive — as well as give.

Have a good week,


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