Category Archives: Feedback

Face What’s Holding You Back

Career Roadblock

What Do You Think is Holding You Back?

What do you tell yourself about what is holding you back?  You need another degree? Your boss doesn’t like you?  You have to relocate for the next step? You’re too old?  Too young? You’ve been out of work too long? Your technical skills aren’t current? You’re overweight/a minority/gay/a woman? You don’t fit into the culture?  They don’t think you’re a ‘hi-po’?

Two Questions:

Whatever it is, I have two questions for you:

1)  How do you know you’re right?

Are you sure that you aren’t looking at it through ‘victim’ eyes?  What is your evidence that you are right?  Are you the only one with this problem? Are you fully engaged, working as hard as you can, delivering results and this is still happening?  Or have you checked out?  Have you talked to anyone about what is going on?  Have you asked for feedback? Has this been a pattern at other organizations/with other bosses/in other jobs? Are you on an emotional roller coaster or on an even keel?

If you are right in your assessment of what is holding you back, I have another question:

2)  What are you going to do about it?

If you need another degree, why don’t you get one?  No, really, why not?  No money? No time? Look at it through business case eyes–will it get you a better job, with more money, with a higher quality of life?  If so, tell me again why not?

If you are ‘too’ old, find someplace that appreciates your wisdom.  Why not?  There are places that do.  Just because your present organization doesn’t DOES not mean they all don’t.  Go FIND a better place.

Whatever the thing is that is holding you back, it is possible to overcome it.  It is possible to find a solution.  Set an audacious goal to fix/solve/overcome it and then do it.  Maybe it is the way you’re looking at it that is really what is holding you back?

Who can fix THAT?

(Did you notice that I asked more than two questions?:-))

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Hi Po, Personal Change

Career Accelerants

Win the Career Race

Do are you know people who are about your age, have about the same experience, and aren’t more talented/smart/capable than you, but who are more successful in their career than you?  Are you puzzled about what they have that you don’t?  What do they do/who do they know/how do they do it? Do you want to go faster, too?

There are some tools that can help you accelerate your career success.  I call them career accelerants.

Mindset.

How you think.  What you think.  When you think.  All make a huge difference in how fast and how well your career progresses.  Mind set includes:

  • Your Attitude–“I can.  I will.”
  • Being Positive
  • Constantly Learning
  • Being committed

Adaptability.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says that the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.  The second you get stuck with “this is the way it is” or “I’m not going to do this,” is the beginning of the end of your upward trajectory in that organization.  The way I think of it is, “If I had started at this organization today, I wouldn’t object to this. I would just do it.”  This can apply to systems, processes, organizations, etc.  It doesn’t occur to us to ‘resist’ when we’re new to an organization.  Try to adopt that way of looking at things.

Tools.

Use whatever tools you can to help you learn/understand/experience faster.  Some of the best tools are:

  • Books
  • Feedback
  • Goals/Measures
  • Training

Energy.

You need a high level of energy to speed up your career.  You are more in control of your energy level than you might think.  For high energy you need:

  • Good Health
  • Fitness
  • Mindset

Infrastructure.

Successful careers need an infrastructure too.  Set up your life so that it supports your career.  To do this, you need:

  • A Support System
  • De-clutter your life–get rid of the things that you ‘tolerate,’ but which weigh you down–anything from messy desks to people who suck you dry
  • Balance–whatever this means for you (not what others think).  Keep adjusting this, it is a work in progress.

You are in control of your career.  If it isn’t moving the way you want it to, look at this list and start experimenting with changing the way you’re doing things.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Feedback, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Are You a Good Fit For Your Organization?

What is the Culture of Your Organization?

Two key components of managing your career to success are to know yourself well and to understand your organizational environment.  The next step is to evaluate your fit within your organizational culture.  All organizations have cultures–like personalites.  The culture of an organization is like the water that fish swim in. The people who work in the organization are pretty much unaware of the culture on a daily basis.  It surrounds them and drives a lot of the behavior, it includes the unwritten rules and the things that are important, the values, the rituals and the history.   It is very likely that you know a lot about the culture without really realizing that you do.  This exercise will help you see your behavior within the context of the organization.

Evaluate Your Behaviors

One good way to evaluate your fit in the organization is to first assess your behaviors, like decisiveness or leadership, on a continuum and then to do the same assessment looking through the lens of what the organization rewards in that behavior.  Take a list of behaviors like those below and first mark where you believe that you are on the continuum between the two extremes of the behavior.  Go with your gut.  Try not to answer according to where you “should” be, but rather where you believe you are.  Then make a mark on the same continua according to where you believe your organization wants you to be.  Think about what you’ve heard from managers, in 360 assessments, in reviews.  Think about the people in your organization who are obviously successful and highly thought of–where does their behavior fit? Even if you aren’t completely right about what your organization wants, you will be able to identify the biggest discrepancies.

Behavior continuum analysis

Once you have marked where you think you are and where you think the organization wants to you to be, connect each set of marks like in the example below.  This will provide you with a graphic that shows you where the gaps are between where your behavior is and what the organization’s norm is.  For example, if you look at the continuum Optimistic . . . Pessimistic or at the bottom, Change Leader . . . Change Resister, you see that there is a gap.

Example of behavior continuum evaluation

PDF Version of Worksheet

Address The Gaps Between Your Behaviors and the Cultural Norms

Once you are aware of the gaps, then you can decide what you want to do about them.  You have several choices:

  1. You can do nothing.  You can decide this is who you are and you aren’t willing to change to fit better in your organization.
  2. You can decide to change your behaviors (remember, behavior is not WHO you are).  Think about the way you are different at your boss’ staff meeting than at home, or how you are different at church than you are at girls-night-out.  You can change your behavior without changing who you are.  When you learn to change your behavior, you have more control over your career.
  3. You can be selective about which behaviors you want to change.  Which behavior have you heard the most about?  Which one do you think would be the easiest to work on (it is always best to start with baby steps)?

If you decide that you want to change a behavior, here are some steps that will help:

  • Observe others who have the behavior you would like to have.  Imitate them. Try it out.
  • Share with someone that you’re trying to change and ask him to give you feedback on how you’re doing.  Just knowing that someone is watching you will help you be more aware and will push you to try harder.
  • Practice “being” different in your mind.  Imagine what you look like, what you say, how you sound.
  • If the behavior you’re trying to change is something you’ve heard about in your reviews, make sure that you demonstrate the new behavior in front of your boss.

It’s normal to be uncomfortable as you go through this process.  Keep trying.  Don’t expect others to notice at first. It will take a while.  That makes it easier, though, because it gives you some time to practice and get more comfortable.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Feedback, Personal Change, Success

Dealing with Feedback You Hate

feedbackIt’s pretty easy to deal with being told that you are great, that you’ve nailed the job, that you are the best thing since sliced bread.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the feedback most of us get most of the time.  We get mixed feedback.  We are told the good things that we do and the not so good things that we do.  Since the former is not difficult how to deal with, let’s talk about dealing with feedback that you hate.

Reacting to Feedback

There are common (normal/human) ways that people react to feedback:

  • Rationalize–“well, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” or “they don’t really know how much I care or how hard I work or what a good job I do.”
  • Diminishment–“compared to all the good things I do, this isn’t important.”
  • Disagree–either in your head, or worse, out loud
  • Overreact–hear only the bad feedback, and then not put it in perspective; sometimes, people even leave over negative feedback–a serious overreaction!
  • Accept–agree with the feedback and accept it as valid–this can be good or bad, depending on the feedback
  • Obsessing–not being able to let it go, thinking about it all the time
  • Listen–take it in, hear it objectively.  This is the best reaction, because it gives you the most runway for a reaction.  (Always thank people for feedback.  Despite what you may think, giving tough feedback is hard.  You need to keep that communication open.)

One of the most important things to remember with feedback is that it is correct.  It is an accurate expression of someone’s OPINION of your performance.  You can tell yourself that that person’s opinion isn’t important.  You can tell yourself that that person doesn’t know enough about your performance to be completely correct.  But you can’t say that s/he isn’t right, because s/he has expressed his/her opinion, not a universal truth.  You need to ask yourself, why does the person have that opinion.  Look at the list of normal reactions, above.

When you come up with your response on “why” the person thinks what s/he does, which of the reactions are you having?  Take a “that’s an interesting opinion” approach.  Look at your interactions with the person.  Filter out everything else.  What/when/how does the person see you?  Does the person know you outside of a particular kind of exchange? How did you meet?  Do you listen to the person?  Do you treat the person with respect? Do you make the person’s life easier or harder?

Now, What’cha Gonna Do About It?

The initial reaction is one thing.  Hopefully, you’re able to listen to it and to take it in as an interesting opinion.  Then, you need to figure out what to do about it.

I was once reorganized into a new department.  It was a department completely outside of anything I had ever done.  I also outranked all my peers.  Let me say that again.  My peers were sitting there in that department, doing their job and plotting their career paths and suddenly I was reorganized into the middle of their career paths.  I outranked them (read a step closer to their next step than they were).  From their perspective, I knew NOTHING about the work of their department.  They didn’t ask for me, they didn’t want me, and they didn’t particularly like me.  As a part of my first assignment in that job, I was evaluating executive feedback instruments.  As a part of that assignment, I had them fill out a feedback form on me (within 3 weeks of starting in this job).  I got the WORST feedback that I had ever gotten.  I had had good feedback and not so good feedback in the past, but this time, I was completely blown away by the feedback I received.

I went through all the normal reactions (see list above):

  • I rationalized–they don’t know me.  They don’t like me.  They are jealous.
  • I diminished–their opinion doesn’t count.  My boss’ opinion is the only one that counts. I don’t care what they think.
  • I disagreed–luckily in my head.  Here are the reasons they are wrong: 1), 2), 3), etc.
  • I overreacted–yes, I did.  I could only see the negative in what they said.  If there was any positive, I certainly didn’t see it (and I don’t remember it now).  I thought, “I’ll just leave . . .” I was angry.
  • I obsessed–luckily, I got the feedback on a Friday.  I might have had to call in sick if I hadn’t had a couple of days to cool down.  I thought about it non-stop.

Luckily, I had a lot of knowledge about how you should react to feedback.  Notice that didn’t stop me from the reactions listed above.  It did, however, help me come full circle.  No matter what I thought about their opinion.  No matter how much I understood about why they might have given me the (unfair, I thought) feedback that they did. I understood that their opinion was their opinion and it was right.   After I cooled down, I decided to use the experience to experiment with how to turn the situation around (because I sure had a situation to turn around!).

I put together a response.  I listed all the things that I had heard from the feedback.  I literally put together a presentation that listed the questions and the responses.  I presented it neutrally (as if it was about someone else).  (NOTE:  if it hadn’t been an evaluation of a feedback instrument, I probably would have done this individually, not with all of them together).  I came up with responses to the feedback.  I was rated low in communicating–I came up with a list of the ways I would communicate in the future.  Then I asked them if these would be adequate if I actually did it.  I took the top three most negative (I don’t remember what they were any more), and then I came up with suggested improvements.  It was hard (because I didn’t really agree with the feedback–it didn’t match what I had heard before).  I focused on being objective.  For those things that I really didn’t agree with to the point that I didn’t have any “improvement suggestions,” I just didn’t deal with.

My reaction got their attention.  I think they knew, to a certain extent, that they had vented.  They agreed to my suggested improvements–or backed off some of them.  It defused some of their anger at the situation.  I changed the situation from a them v. me to a “let’s address how to make this situation better.”

Now the Even Harder Part

Once people give you feedback, they expect to see changes.  Small changes, as long as they see them–as long as they perceive that you’re trying–are enough.  That means, somehow or other you need to let them know that you’re trying.  That you want to make the situation better.  That you appreciate, value and respect their feedback.  People give you a lot of benefit of the doubt if they think you are trying, especially in response to something they feel a bit guilty about.  Experiment.  You won’t do it right the first time every time, but once you learn how to do it, you can get good at it.

Managing people’s perceptions, accepting and acting on feedback, are huge tools for a successful career.

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Feedback, Personal Change