Author Archive

Friday Night In

November 11, 2013

Tesco-Van-BSI was sat in last Friday night, anticipating some great TV moments ahead. I had already started to plan out the mindless action films I was going to watch, the rubbish I was going to eat…..My better half was heading out for the night leaving me to put the kids to bed and sort the food shopping delivery. The latter task for some reason I build up in mind as something I hate doing.

The food had been ordered online; the man had packed it up and had delivered it to my doorstep! What is there to hate about the process….maybe it is me being a grumpy old man…but my experience tends to be…..The van pulls up, the guy then proceeds to pull 3 huge boxes from the back, rings the door bell and then drops them outside and grunts a hello. I then have to become a human shopping sprinting machine.… where I have 5 seconds to pick up all 12 bags at once, race to the kitchen, dodge the kids who have started to unpack the goodies as I carry the bags, catch tins that have fallen out of the wafer thin bags, unload it all and race back before the guy puts another 3 huge boxes down in front of me. This process repeats until I have no breath left and no room on my kitchen worktop or floor to put more bags down!

I saw from the corner of my eye the supermarket van pull up outside.  I sighed here we go…..The doorbell rang….anticipating the normal grunt and ritual cliché exchanges. Not this time, I was met by a middle aged guy who can only be described as a very happy man, who loved his job! He immediately scanned the situation and observed that I had two children poised ready to take any chocolate from the bags that they could see. He must have noticed I was a little flustered, he calmly said…. “There’s no rush, I will give you a hand to bring these ones in before we get the rest!”. Could I believe what I was hearing… I had readied myself and limbered up even for the customary race  back and forward to the kitchen. But it looks like this time it would be different, the delivery guy was helping me.

As the chap walked back through the lounge he noticed my daughter who at the time was holding her guitar, practicing 3 Blind Mice from memory. He stopped in his tracks and started asking her about the guitar and how long she had played. Loving the attention my daughter proceeded to tell him her musical career (all 2 weeks of it). He asked if he good borrow the guitar for a moment and started to show her a couple of chords… which he then wrote down on the back of the receipt so she would not forget them. All I could think of was…. why don’t more people take the moment to scan the other persons situation and seek ways to help them in the moment? This is what great attentive and thoughtful service is about…. make it easy for people, connect and leave them with a peak ending they will remember.

The delivery guy could have chosen to be oblivious to what was going on for me, but he didn’t. He took a few precious seconds to slow down the process to allow me to only break a moderate sweat moving the bags, he took the time out to engage with us and most importantly he left a lasting memory of the service. That is what I call a peak end to a customer experience. I would love to hear about your stories.

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement Seanatbluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is a ‘me’

September 11, 2012

Success is a great thing. We all want it, because it’s the undisputed champion in measuring our selves. We know it’s hard to get, and that’s what makes it all the more satisfying. We cherish it, because we know what it’s like to fail (because we all do). So, when it happens, when you achieve success…. there’s the part of us that feels like the cat that got the cream.  I did it! How about that! God, I’m good. Why not celebrate your success? It feels good when you get all of that praise and recognition. The praise often flies in your direction and it’s so easy to slip into ‘I know, I did a great job…thank you’.

But there’s a catch to this if you are a leader on the road to greatness. Should we take all the credit?

Probably not, as most successes are achieved as part of a team. You may have “shown them the way” (the definition of a leader), and they got there. They deserve the credit.  Yes, you played a major role.  Yes, if you weren’t involved it might not have happened at all. But they still DID it.

Inspire - Teddy Roosevelt - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

It takes a lot of humility to step aside when the accolades come, and deflect them elsewhere. A selflessness that puts aside a certain fear – the one that thinks that unless you strut your stuff out there, it won’t be noticed by your bosses when bonus or promotion time comes.

I succumbed to that fear a few times earlier in my life. I remember a time that I really felt I was being under appreciated, deserved more recognition and probably a promotion…I was sitting in a project review meeting where we had just implemented a new IT system and found myself spouting phrases like…

 “I did that, I found that I achieved that, my system……, I solved this…… I, I, I, I, I, I …..”

I had neglected the fact that this was a huge team effort and in that moment, I wanted to bask in the glory and selfishly grab the limelight. I am sure you can imagine the impact this had on the project team. Luckily I learned, it has taken time, several great mentors, some personal reflection and painful feedback.

The other thing that convinced me once and for all that I shouldn’t take the credit was scientific fact. Jim Collins figured it all out in one of my favorite business books, Good to Great. The leaders of all the “Great” companies all had this humility – they gave the credit to someone else.  And it was researched, and documented, many times over. Because they didn’t DO it.  They just showed the way.  Collins calls them “Level 5 Leaders” – they’ve taken leadership up another very important notch.

As Teddy Roosevelt said in his famous speech at the Sorbonne in 1910:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause”

Greatness will await you, for your team will respond to your selflessness with an even greater desire to make you proud, and start the credit cycle all over again. What will you do differently? Listen to the number of times you use the word ‘I’ in conversations this week…….

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The Cost of Poor Service

July 5, 2012

David Carroll is a musician, who travelled United Airlines, and on one occasion put his precious guitar into the baggage marked as fragile! That’s where the story began. Sitting on the plane, waiting to get off, he saw the baggage handler throw it without care onto the truck. He tried to complain to the company representatives immediately but was dismissed. When he collected his guitar, it was damaged.  He went to the customer help desk, where no one seemed to care, and he was told to write in. He wrote in on numerous occasions, and got little or no reply. He called up and still no one took ownership, responsibility or tried to fix his customer experience.

Eventually he decided to write a song about it, and he posted it on YouTube. The result? Millions of people worldwide viewed that clip and United Airlines’ share price dropped! The Times reported that $18 million of shareholder value was lost!

Discover - TV - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

One happy customer is a powerful thing as he or she will tell some people. One unhappy customer is a very damaging thing as they will tell more people! We call this the power of one.

What is the lost opportunity cost associated with customer churn?

I believe all businesses should use great care and concern when determining how their customers and clients are treated. The time, energy, and cost associated with acquiring a customer are substantial, the benefits of retaining customers are considerable, and the costs associated with customer churn are significant. I’m always amazed at how much money will be spent to acquire a new customer, but how little care is given to insuring customer satisfaction after the sale.  There is great truth in the old axiom that states: “if you’re not serving your customer well, someone else will.”

If you believe customer service is someone else’s problem, you have a much bigger problem than you realise. Most businesses these days will have a grasp on the concept of lifecycle value, I’m not sure they really understand the true cost of losing a customer. Let’s just assume that the lifetime value of a customer for company X is £2,000. If company X loses just one customer, the total lifecycle loss could run well into the tens of thousands, if not the hundreds of thousands. If you don’t believe me consider the following points:

  1. The Initial Churn: First you have the £2,000 lifetime value loss attributed to churning the account itself.
  2. Sunk Acquisition Costs: Don’t forget to add in the cost of acquiring the account to begin with. You spent money to acquire the account so you need to factor that into the total equation. I’ll let you pick the percentage you want to use and add that into the total number.
  3. Replacement Costs: Remember the cost of acquisition number you just calculated above? Well, you need to add it back in again, because now you have to go out and replace the customer you just lost. By the way, you should probably multiply the cost of acquisition number by 5 since it costs about 500% more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
  4. Lost Ancillary Revenue: On average, a single account is good for a 30-40% cross-sell/up-sell revenue increase over time as new products, services, joint ventures etc. are brought online and offered to existing accounts. This means you can conservatively expect to lose another £600 of upside in our £2,000 example.
  5. Lost Referral Revenues: Depending on your business, and whether or not you have a solid customer acquisition process in place, a single account should be good for a minimum of 2-3 referrals (direct or indirect) on an annual basis. Over a 10 year period of time, assuming only 2 annual referrals, without any cross-sell or up-sell value being added-in, you just lost another £200,000.
  6. Loss of 2nd and 3rd generation referrals: But wait; it just gets worse. Those lost referrals mentioned above would have also given you 2-3 referrals each year, and if you carry this formula out over 20 years the loss of a single account could easily cost your organisation more than a million pounds in lost revenue.
  7. Negative Brand Impact: If it isn’t bad enough already, a lost account can easily have a negative impact on future sales due to spreading the news of their bad experience with your company.  The average dissatisfied customer will persuade 10-20 other people from doing business with your firm. If the upset customer takes their dissatisfaction online and amplifies it via social media you could see a much bigger problem. This will not only impact your revenue, but can also taint your brand equity. Just think back to Dave Carroll!!!! If you like that story, why not visit ihateryanair.org for another example of this.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

The more I practice the luckier I get!

May 24, 2012

Even the top sports people practice their skills to master them. Johnny Wilkinson practices kicking all day, people used to say to him imagine you are aiming for a barn door, his coach then told him to aim for the key hole! So he practiced for hours every day to hit the key hole. After every competitive golf match Monty used to hit 100 four foot puts in a row, his target was to hole them all. If he got to 99 and missed he would start again from 1 until he holed the 100 in a row.

Olympic athletes take practice to the next level, training and practicing their skills in the cold and dark winter nights for four years, maybe to run a race for 19 seconds or to make 3 jumps.

If you’ve ever looked at famous players like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Bruce Lee, these people were the masters of their game. But as non-human as they may seem to us, they all started from the beginning and they weren’t always the best when they started out either. Nobody is. But there are people who excel faster than others when mastering a new skill. In fact, the secret isn’t so complex. It is practice.

Granny Band - Perform - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

It is just as important to practice even when we have mastered a skill. In the early stages it is all about forming new habits or new pathways in your brain. Imagine walking through a previously unexplored forest, if you are followed by two hundred people, the pathway becomes much clearer. In the same way, pathways and patterns of behaviour are developed in your brain. Practice is crucial in the formation of new habits.

In a passage from Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell writes:

The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.

I can totally hear you screaming, “ten thousand hours?” That’s the number that experts say it takes to reach true mastery. But that doesn’t mean that you need to be the next Bill Gates or Mozart in order to become a master at it. You do however need to practice at a skill enough times until it seems perfect to you.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Building True Rapport

May 1, 2012

Rapport is when we feel on the same wavelength as someone; we feel in sync and connected on an emotional level. We feel connected with a person, as if there is no barrier between us and them. We feel comfortable and natural and as though we like and know this person – as if somehow they are the same as us. We feel comfortable and good about ourselves around them.

There are many techniques for building rapport, but techniques are limited because they are just that: a technique. When we start trying to build rapport by using a technique so that we can make a successful sale or build relationships, we are fundamentally flawed. True rapport is created when we are not trying to manipulate for our own end gain. Rapport is created from an intention to not achieve anything for yourself. It’s created from a desire to deeply understand someone and to see the positives within them. When trying to build rapport with someone, the only question to ask yourself is, ‘Do I really care?’

Captivate - Building Rapport - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

When speaking to people…if I am asking them questions about their weekend and their wife and kids, do I really care what their weekend was like?  People very quickly know if you don’t really care because you no longer listen, you are not present with them or you are thinking about how you can get them to do something you want. When you are not listening, people find themselves to be boring and either stop talking or stop engaging in what they are saying. They start thinking, ‘Why is this person not listening to me? What are they thinking about?’ and they stop being engaged in what they are saying. Below are some handy tips to help you listen better and build rapport:

First…here’s an example of rapport breaking down all together

Handy tips:

  • Become curious about other people
  • Listen to understand and avoid listening to interrupt
  • Acknowledge what people say to you
  • When you are listening to yourself…you cannot be listening to the other person
  • Suspend your judgement about the other person
  • Don’t look over the person’s shoulder for someone more interesting
  • Try to find out one thing you did not know about a person on a regular basis
  • Focus on interests rather than positions i.e. we all have a ‘position’ and ‘interests’ about a subject
  • Make the conscious choice to really listen to people you are talking to…if you are thinking about what you had for dinner you are not listening
  • Be present in the moment at all times
  • Watch other people’s body language or listen for their tone of voice, listen for the unsaid
  • Ask genuine questions. A genuine question is one that stems from curiosity; you ask to learn something you do not already know. A rhetorical or leading question is one you ask to make your point of view known without having to actually state it. For example, the question “Do you really think that will work?” is not a genuine question because embedded in your question is your own view that you don’t think it will work. However, you can easily convert this to a genuine question by first stating your views. You might say, “I’m not seeing how this will work because we only have three staff members. What are you seeing that leads you to think it will work?”
  • Seek to enjoy every interaction you have with people
  • However clear you may feel about your understanding of the answers, it can be worth reflecting back from time to time and summarizing.  This ensures correct understanding, demonstrates attention and reassures people that they’re being fully heard and understood. This will play a major part in building trust.
  • Look for ways in which we see the world in the same way as someone else and let them know that
  • Try opening up and disclosing some personal information about yourself. The more open we are, the more people feel as if there is nothing hidden and they can trust us

None of the above will work, unless you really care about interacting with the person you are talking to.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Making Training Stick

April 2, 2012

Lots of organisations now spend thousands or even millions of pounds on training programmes every year. But how many of them actually stick, how many make lasting performance differences or behavioural change? Whilst you reflect on that question, let me share with you one reason why many training programmes are not as successful as they could be. That is they are not followed up immediately after the training, they are not consolidated.

If you have ever been on a training course or seminar before, I am certain you will know what I am talking about. You turn up at the venue and the course may even extend to 2 or 3 days. During that time you are mixing and mingling with either colleagues in the same large corporate company or a mixture of people from different companies and backgrounds. There is usually a buzz about the place as the course progresses and in some instances it can be quite entertaining.

What happens next? Still slightly high on the euphoria of all the new tools and techniques you have picked up, you go out with a renewed kind of vigour, desperate to try them out. Then after a few days, at best, maybe a few weeks the lift has almost gone completely and you find yourself slipping back into that fabulous recognisable comfort zone. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Sustain - Blah Blah Blah - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what is it that happens and why, in most cases, does the training not deliver the return on investment that you would expect? A huge part of this challenge is down to something called the Ebbinghaus Effect. Please allow me to explain.

Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out the first experimental investigations of memory in Germany from 1879 to 1895. He discovered that our ability to recall information shows a rapid decrease over a very short space of time. After just a few hours, more than 60% of information is lost. A frightening thought! The decline in recall then eases slightly but, even so, within a month, more than 80% can no longer be recalled. His now famous results are known as the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting. So you see, it’s not necessarily the training itself, it’s just the natural human trait of forgetting.

A cause for concern maybe? Let’s look at the possible implications. On a course spanning 3 days, more than 50% of the information given on days 1 and 2 will be lost before the training has ended. A further 50% of day 3 could be lost on the drive or flight home. Now start adding those lost days and attach a monetary value to them.

Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting Diagram - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Imagine in the world of sports, would a Premier league manager give a team talk about strategy in the boot room and then not practice that in a game situation? Would a tennis coach tell you how to improve your forehand in training and then wait until a competition to check whether you have understood it? Training is just the beginning, to truly master a skill in particular takes lots of practice, and some say 10000 hours to master any skill. Lots of training does involve role play and real play activities, which are great for practicing. But real plays are not the real world, it is a bit like swinging a tennis racket in training without the ball or court to practice your forehand, but until you practice that forehand in a real situation with another player and then practice it when it really counts in a competition you cannot test whether you have made improvement and changed your swing. It is the same with delegates, you can start the practice of skill or knowledge transfer in the training room, but you must follow it up with practice in the real world with the ball (customer) and the court (the work environment). We call this practice consolidation. So what do we mean by this?

This is about taking the opportunity to practice and receive further feedback and coaching. The purpose of consolidation is to practice what you have learnt and seek additional feedback and coaching, to refine your skills and address any issues that may prevent you from transferring what you have learnt. To make sure you have the time to practice, polish and improve your skills.

Let’s think about the steps to learning, how do you move people to conscious or unconscious competence? Is this achieved in training? I would argue at best you move people to conscious competence. To really master the skill or apply the new knowledge effectively will take hours of practice. Unless the quality of this practice is monitored and supported, lasting change will not happen, people will slip back into their comfort zones, back into old bad habits and back to unconscious incompetence in some cases. This is where consolidation comes into play.

Top tips

Here are just a few things you could do:

  • Get your line managers to attend the training, so they fully understand the skills or knowledge that needs to be embedded
  • Create a Training Sustainability / Stick ability Plan –  Build in time to work with all stakeholders to achieve this, focus on what will make the training stick and consider what road blocks might make it fail
  • Communicate to the rest of the business what training is taking place
  • Build consolidation, resource and time, into your training budget
  • Ramp up your coaching activity for 6 weeks post training
  • Introduce ‘coach the coach’ activity, there is no point ramping up coaching if the quality of the coaching is not there
  • Start to consolidate your training, this means trainers and leaders spending time immediately after training coaching delegates in the live environment to help support them to embed the learning
  • Align your quality process with what is being trained
  • Plan ahead, ensure that there is significant time set aside following training for line managers to consolidate training
  • Provide trainers with coaching skills necessary to embed the learning back in the real world
  • Train your trainers on how to feedback in the real work environment
  • Conduct post course de briefs at regular intervals, to see how delegates present back what they have learnt, how they have applied their learning, what the impact has been and what the next steps are
  • Review action plans, where delegates committed to learning actions in training
  • Conduct post course surveys, following Kirk Patrick’s learning evaluation model
  • Conduct a TNA two months after training to benchmark skill / knowledge transfer and application compared to pre training TNA
  • Measure the quality of your consolidation activities through surveys
  • Measure ROI, link success to training
  • Celebrate success, recognise people for performance improvement and most importantly, behavioural change
  • Catch people doing things right, fill people’s emotional bank accounts and build their confidence
  • Introduce behavioural coaching, to help people address limiting beliefs and breaking old habits
  • Nudge your team post training, provide them little nudges that support key messages in training
  • Conduct skills drills, use team meetings to focus on specific skill areas
  • Test retention of knowledge 4 weeks after training, not just at the end of training
  • Build in refresher training post course, make this modular and focused on areas where delegates are struggling or need advanced skills to take them to the next level

There are many more things you could do, contact me if you want further thoughts or ideas. The key thing is to remember that learning is a continuous cycle, unless businesses stop thinking of training as isolated interventions….. training will not stick. So next time you roll out a training programme ask your self:

“Will the investment I am making be worthwhile or will the Ebbinghaus Effect take its toll?”

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Receiving Feedback

March 13, 2012

Often the forgotten part of the feedback process, but for me the most fundamental part of creating a feedback culture is to help people understand the principles of receiving feedback. Some people experience feedback as criticism and do not want to hear it.  Others see it as crushing or a confirmation of their worthlessness.  Others only want to hear positives and nothing that might suggest imperfections. Other people view it very differently – accept feedback however, even if it is sometimes disturbing believing they can grow from it. It comes down to whether you believe feedback will harm you or benefit you.

Think of a time you responded well to feedback.

What did you do? 

Think of a time you responded badly to feedback.

What did you do? 

One of the problems for some people with regard to receiving feedback is that they only know how to behave as a ‘feedback victim’ rather than take responsibility for receiving feedback as well as delivering it. We do not always have to accept feedback, or the manner which it is delivered.  We all have the right to disregard feedback and we can expect feedback to be given in a respectful, supportive manner… but even delivered badly, we may be able to learn. Best practice for receiving feedback – what do we want to do?

Positive / Open Style

  • Open – listen without frequent interruptions of objections
  • Responsive – willing to hear what is being said without trying to turn the tables
  • Accepting – accepts other persons point of view without denial
  • Respectful – recognises the value of what is being said and the speakers right to say it
  • Engaged – interacts appropriately with speaker. Asks for clarification
  • Active listening – tries to understand the meaning of the feedback
  • Thoughtful
  • Interested
  • Sincere – wants to make personal changes if appropriate

Negative / Closed Style

  • Defensive – defends personal actions, frequently objects
  • Attacking – verbally attacks the feedback giver, turns tables
  • Denies – refutes the accuracy or fairness of the feedback
  • Disrespectful – devalues speaker and what speaker is saying
  • Closed – ignores feedback, blanks it out
  • Inactive listening – no attempt to understand
  • Rationalising – finds explanation for the feedback that dissolves any personal responsibility
  • Superficial – listens, appears to agree, with no intention of doing anything about it

This is not to say you cannot challenge the feedback if you disagree with it.  It may be appropriate to go away and think about the feedback in a pro-active, responsible way first though. It can be OK, valid and right to not do anything about the feedback or to decide you want to challenge the feedback. You may have other feedback or examples to show this feedback is invalid or not the case. This is not to be used as an excuse for never taking on board feedback. If you receive the same feedback several times from different people (and you are interested in self development!) you need to explore it. Also, there is no need to argue with feedback – it may not be factual, it may be someone’s personal opinion.  Always repeat back the feedback to check you have fully understood and be curious.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Giving Feedback

March 6, 2012

“It is easy to be angry.  But to be angry, with the right person, to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose in the right way, this is not easy.”   Aristotle

We could easily swap the word ‘angry’ for ‘feedback’.  Lots of organisations want and claim to have a feedback culture.  We talk about giving it, receiving it, who likes it, who hates it, who does it a lot, who never does it, what a feedback culture looks like. It is easy to talk about it. The trouble is, an organisation can’t just do it and individuals can’t just do it. We need to plan it together, think carefully about it, learn it, unlearn some old habits, practice it, make mistakes, have models to help us and know we are always learning. Feedback (both positive and negative) is an indispensable part of our lives. If we can understand and use it, this feedback can empower us to communicate more openly and improve. Why then do so many of us resist taking full advantage of what can be such an enormous benefit?

One of the reasons why we tend to resist feedback is that a good part of our self image is based on how other people view us. When we find out that someone sees us in a less than positive light we may feel devastated. The world over, people tend to like to hear what is consistent with their own views and to resist ideas contrary to their belief structures. But if we knew we were doing something ineffectively, wouldn’t we automatically try to improve the deficiency? Negative feedback implies that we could be wrong. What could be more personal and threatening? It takes an open mind to be able to listen to an opposing view. That is why we are going to look at models and best practice for receiving feedback as well as giving feedback.

Think of a time when you gave feedback to someone and it was successful as far as you were aware. What did YOU do that made it go well? Now, think of a time when you gave some feedback that was not successful? What did YOU do that prevented it from going well? Chances are you did that quite easily.  It is likely that you can list what makes feedback good and what doesn’t work in theory. Can you think of a time when you wanted to give someone some feedback but you didn’t do it? There are so many barriers we can put up ourselves to stop us from giving feedback to others, even if we know in theory how to do it.

These include:

“If I wait long enough the situation will resolve itself so I do not have to get involved”

“Since I do not like to receive feedback I can’t imagine anyone else would so I will keep quiet”

“I give feedback indirectly by using sarcasm and jokes”

“There just never seems to be the right time to give feedback and I keep putting it off”

“It takes too much time to provide feedback effectively, I’d rather pick up the slack than take the time to do it”

“I’m unsure of how the other person is going to respond to my feedback so I avoid giving it”

“I’m not perfect so who am I to judge anyone else’s behaviour”

“If I give my boss any negative feedback it may be used against me in my next 1:1”

“I’ve let the situation go on for too long now and I am so angry I will probably blow up and mishandle the situation”

Once you are familiar with best practice for giving feedback and have practiced using the phrases and models, but find you are still resisting giving feedback, check you are not hiding behind one of these barriers. Remember your comfort zone is guarded by fear, upset, pride, apathy and anger and these guards try to stop you going into stretch.  Thank them for letting you know you are in stretch, then turn them off and get into stretch anyway…..it is where you learn the most and we will not achieve a feedback culture if everybody stays in their comfort zone!

Guidelines

Effective / Positive delivery

  • Supportive – Delivered in a non threatening encouraging manner
  • Direct – Focus of feedback clearly stated
  • Sensitive – Delivered with sensitivity to needs of other person
  • Considerate – Not intended to insult or demean
  • Descriptive – Focused on behaviour that can be changed, rather than personality
  • Specific – Feedback focused on specific event or behaviour
  • Healthy timing – Given as close to the prompting event as possible at an opportune time
  • Thoughtful – well considered rather than impulsive
  • Helpful – Feedback is intended to be of value to the other person
  • Speak for yourself – not others
  • Consider language – if you say never do you mean never or sometimes?
  • Secure the other person’s permission to give the feedback

Ineffective / Negative delivery

  • Attacking – Hard hitting and aggressive, focuses on the weakness of the other person
  • Indirect – Feedback is vague and issues hinted at rather than addressed directly
  • Insensitive – Little concern for the needs of the other person
  • Disrespectful – Feedback is demeaning, bordering on insulting
  • Judgemental – Feedback is evaluative, judging personality rather than behaviour
  • General – aimed at broad issues not easily defined
  • Poor timing – Given long after the event or at the worst possible time
  • Impulsive – Given thoughtlessly with little regard for consequences
  • Selfish – Meets givers needs rather than needs of other person

Well that is all well and good, but what should you actually say?

Giving the feedback

Step one – Check out why you are providing the feedback?

Step two – Research the facts and plan your feedback

Step three – Be immediate

Step four – Be specific

Step one: Check out why you are giving the feedback

Reasons to give feedback:

  • To continually improve team performance
  • To correct an individuals poor performance
  • To motivate
  • To learn from past mistakes

Reasons not to give feedback:

  • To make yourself feel superior and / or right

Step two: Research the facts and plan your feedback

Be sure you have accurate information about what the person did and why. You will need to listen to others and focus on their intent rather than their style (although sometimes it is appropriate to give feedback about style too). Seek more understanding through clarification and ask questions to check you have not misunderstood the situation or the facts. If appropriate, make sure you and others know and understand what is expected of them and what the standards are. Remember that any positives should be given as feedback as well. Negative feedback will be better received if your ‘emotional bank account’ with that person is in credit. A useful quote to bear in mind from Dr James Dobson’s book ‘What wives wish their husbands knew’:

“The right to criticise must be earned, even if the advice is constructive in nature. Before you are entitled to tinker with another person’s self esteem, you are obligated first to demonstrate your respect for him / her as a person. When a relationship of confidence has been carefully constructed, you will have earned the right to discuss a potentially threatening topic. Your motives will therefore have been clarified.”

Excellent advice… not only for personal relationships, but for professional ones too. You have not gained the right to give feedback to someone merely because you have a certain title or position.  You must earn the right through your relationship with them. When planning your feedback it is important to avoid the feedback sandwich – actually advocated by some people. The feedback sandwich sandwiches negative feedback between two positive pieces of feedback. Did the receiver actually get the developmental feedback? Will they walk away thinking about it? If you use this style the next time you give positive feedback to someone they will automatically assume you will follow it with critical feedback. Unfortunately, the sandwich approach negates any positive reinforcement you try to provide.

Step three:  Be immediate

Once you have checked out your intentions for giving the feedback, checked your facts and planned how to say it, you are ready to give positive or negative feedback. If someone has done a good job, praise that person for it.  Positive feedback should be given as close to the event as possible to have the greatest impact. However, for negative feedback you need to consider your timing. You can do it immediately following the behaviour, as constructive feedback or you can do it just prior to the next opportunity to improve or grow, as advice. Be short and specific. Select a good time, but do not save up your comments until you have lots to reel off. When giving feedback you should not be asking for a complete change of lots of behaviours. It is far more effective to address one thing at a time. It is important to be sensitive to personal timing when you give constructive feedback. If the situation already involved stress for the person you may correctly decide to wait until the other person is in a better frame of mind to listen and do something about your feedback. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself when you would prefer to receive the feedback. Giving effective feedback requires compassion, insight and tact.

However, beware against putting the feedback off. If you wait and wait, hoping that someone will change on their own you will probably be disappointed. Storing it up is more likely to make you frustrated and lash out, rather than planning your feedback appropriately and just because something has been on our minds for ages does not mean you can expect overnight change. Be mindful of ‘mind readers syndrome’.

Step four:  Be Specific

Using ‘I’ messages is one of the best techniques for giving feedback. Normally people have a tendency to use ‘you – blaming’ statements such as “you never promote on calls”  or “why are you always late to our meetings?”.  In contrast to ‘you – blaming’ statements we need to take responsibility to express our own feelings and let the person know the effect of his / her behaviour on us. Make sure the feedback is specific and observed, avoid feeding back on second hand information. Use verbatim quotes or specific observed behaviour, come from a place of curiosity when exploring the point you are feeding back, ask genuine questions and listen to understand.

This concludes the first part of my feedback blog, second part coming soon, so watch this space or follow us to stay up-to-date.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Climbing your way to the top takes courage

February 16, 2012

Alex Honnold definitely likes to live life on the edge and takes calculated risks to achieve his goals. Making this climb, Alex said ‘some climbers sit on the ledge on their backsides and edge along, I thought it would be cooler to walk…..when you are climbing, the fear is not there’. Some might say he is courageous, I know I would! So what is courage? It is simply acting on what we should do, regardless of any fear we may have. It is the choice to disregard worry. It is the choice to do right, to pursue our dreams, to be successful people, to lead the way for others.

Courage - Mountain - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Today’s leaders face all kinds of challenges that require courage. Do you have the courage to make tough decisions? Do you have the courage to stand out from your fellow leaders and stand for what you believe is right? Do you have the courage to admit when you are wrong? Do you have the courage to change directions? Do you have the courage to empower your people? Do you have the courage to listen and embrace new ideas?

Watching this clip made me think about what makes a courageous leader and can leaders develop this courage? Many leaders reach the top and admire the view, great and courageous leaders celebrate the climb and how they got there and take in the view looking for their next challenge!

John Maxwell provides 10 steps to developing courageous leadership:

“Convictions that are stronger than my fears”

A leader is one who overcomes their fears. This may be fears of stepping out, fears of trying something new, or even a fear of standing up to what you know is right. Most everyone has convictions but many are too timid to stand up when those convictions are challenged. To succeed as a leader your convictions must overrule your fears.

“Vision that is clearer than my doubts”

For any leader, vision is essential. A leader must be able to see where they are now, and look ahead to where they strive to be. While any vision comes with doubt, the doubt cannot be paralyzing to achieving the vision.

“Spiritual sensitivity that is louder than popular opinion”

Many people try to check their spirituality at the door when it comes to work and leadership, when in actuality they are inseparable. Spirituality is the core of who you are. Unfortunately, many allow trends, popular opinion, or even a louder voice in the room hold sway over what they truly know and believe in their heart. Spiritual strength is essential to establishing a firm moral foundation that cannot be blown over or toppled by the voices around them.

“Self-esteem that is deeper than self-protection”

Protecting oneself from outside forces and influences is a natural reaction. But sometimes people allow that to come at the expense of their own self-esteem. They protect themselves by going along and not standing out. This is contrary to true leadership. Leaders must be able to stand out and, by doing so, put themselves in a vulnerable position. Having the self-esteem to stick to your core convictions may leave you vulnerable, but no true leader ever succeeded under a roof of self-protection.

“Appreciation for discipline that is greater than my desire for leisure”

Greatness (or even desired goodness) can rarely be achieved without a measure of self-discipline. We all want and need leisure time, but those who stand head and shoulders above others almost universally have something in common. They are willing to sacrifice some of their precious leisure time for those things that help them grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

“Dissatisfaction that is more forceful than the status quo”

While I’m a firm believer in learning to be content where we are, there must also be a measure of dissatisfaction with things always being the same. Contentment helps us learn to survive and be happy with what we have. Dissatisfaction helps propel us forward to better things that we know can be achieved. While we cannot live in a state of unhappy dissatisfaction, we can use that dissatisfaction to grow our measure of success.

“Poise that is more unshakable than panic”

Nobody likes a panicky leader. While any leader may become worried or distressed, how they handle those situations says a lot about them. Keeping cool under pressure produces a calmness that spreads within an organization, allowing everybody to think with a clear head and develop strategies that will bring you through any crisis. Keep in mind, however that poise without action is just as devastating as panic… it just takes longer to feel the results.

“Risk-taking that is stronger than safety-keeping”

Leadership itself is a risk. There is no safety in standing up or stepping out when everybody else is just sitting around. Sometimes the risk is mental or emotional. Other times the risk will be financial. But there are very few profitable investments that don’t require some measure of risk. True leaders understand that risk is a part of the job.

“Actions that are more robust than rationalization”

It’s possible to rationalize your way out of anything. The problem is rationalizations reduce us to inaction rather than action. Nothing ever gets accomplished when we can find all the reasons not to do it rather than looking at why it needs to be done. Focus on the goals and find ways to get there, instead of reasons not to try.

“A desire to see potential reached more than see people pleased”

Every person has potential for greatness. Leading is rarely ever easy. Some have natural ability, for others it must be developed. But every leader faces the same trials and struggles. Learning to overcome the roadblocks and other obstacles that often try to set us back is essential if we are going to reach our fullest potential.

Courageous leadership means finding ways to succeed regardless of our circumstances. It means putting ourselves out there, facing our fears, doubts and potential ridicule all for the greater good. What sort of leader do you want to be? Do you want to stand out from the crowd when it matters? Unlike Alex, most leaders have a team of people who can act as your support team, you may be the lead climber showing the way…but you don’t have to climb alone! What you need is the courage to take the lead.

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Do you listen to interrupt or listen to understand?

January 30, 2012

Firstly watch this video

How many of you have had conversations with people and you are not truly engaged? You’re hearing the words but are not truly engaged or connected with that person. A bit like the video; we were so focused on counting the number of passes we did not even notice the gorilla walk on the screen. I wonder how frequently that happens with people you engage with. They are there but do we really notice? Do we miss out on opportunities to connect and engage with them? Are we really present in the moment with them…ready to really listen?

Listen - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

We all understand the benefits of listening to people, it builds rapport, it shows we are interested in them and it shows we value what they have to say. On the flip side how do you feel when you are not listened to…think about how many times today you had a conversation with someone, maybe your children, when you were not totally present in the moment with that person and truly listening to them. What did you miss…did a Gorilla walk by? As individuals we hear sounds all of the time.  Our ears are constantly battered by noise, from the alarm clock in the morning to the ‘noise’ of silence just before we go to sleep. We’re not always consciously aware of what we hear; the sounds are simply there.  However, hearing is not listening. Listening is seeking to understand before being understood.

What type of listening will you be doing tomorrow? What difference will that make to the people you meet?

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement