Taking Feedback to Heart: How To Find the Coaching In Criticism

Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: Find the Coaching in Criticism
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

We all know that constructive feedback is necessary for personal growth and development. Simply put, you can’t improve your performance if you don’t know what you need to work on.

But, with that being said, at times feedback can be a little difficult to swallow. After all, no one likes hearing that they’re doing something wrong, or having their weaknesses pointed out.

So how can you become a stronger person, and learn to take feedback without becoming defensive or getting your feelings hurt? The following six steps suggested by authors Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (2014) will teach you how to “find the coaching in criticism.”

  1. Know Your Tendencies– How do you typically react when you receive feedback? Do you automatically put up a wall and get defensive, or do you try to really listen and understand the other person’s viewpoint? Being honest with yourself is the first step.

  3. Disentangle the “What” from the “Who”– Separate the message from the messenger, and assess each one accordingly. Consider the source: How well do you know this person? Do you value this person’s opinion? Is this someone you trust? But at the same time, don’t discredit valuable insight just because it comes from someone you don’t like. As difficult as it might be to admit, sometimes even your worst adversary may be spot on in their assessment!

  5. Sort Toward Coaching– Feedback can be evaluative or coaching in nature. Evaluative feedback focuses on past behaviors and where you went wrong, whereas coaching feedback provides you with ideas on how you can improve. Strive to focus on the future, and exploring new opportunities.

  7. Unpack the Feedback– Before you immediately react, take some time to understand the intended purpose of the feedback and why it was provided. Was the feedback you received given with malicious intent, or was it intended to help you grow and become better at what you do?

  9. Ask for Just One Thing– To avoid surprises at your annual performance review, ask for feedback regularly and often. Getting too much feedback at once can be overwhelming for even the most self-assured among us, so ask others for one specific thing they think you should work on. Ask your manager, colleagues or friends, “What’s one thing you see me doing (or failing to do) that holds me back?”

  11. Engage in Small Experiments– Try changing your behavior based on the feedback you receive. If it yields positive results, keep doing it. If not, try something different and see what happens.

Asking for feedback is relatively easy; it’s internalizing the responses of others and working on yourself that’s the difficult part. However, following these six steps will bring you that much closer to unlocking your potential and become a better, more improved version of yourself. Strive to find the coaching in criticism and see what happens. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Managing Your Emotions: Four Simple Steps to Success

Publication: Harvard Business Review (Nov 2013)
Article: Emotional Agility
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

Fact: All people think negative thoughts from time to time.

We may feel sad or gloomy, or find ourselves in a funk that’s hard to shake. We’re human; it happens. Attempting to suppress such feelings (or even worse, buying into them) can leave a person feeling drained.

Strong leaders know that it’s okay to think undesirable thoughts on occasion. But being a strong person means keeping things in perspective and not letting these thoughts take over. Managing your emotions is a key skill that can benefit everyone, both personally and professionally.

Susan David and Christina Congleton, the authors of Emotional Agility, offer four practices that can help you manage your emotions and tackle negative thoughts in a healthy and productive way.

  1. Recognize your Patterns: Pay attention to signs that negative thoughts and emotions are beginning to take over and cloud your better judgment.

  3. Label your Thoughts and Emotions: This allows you to see your negative thoughts as transient emotional responses that come and go.

  5. Accept your Thoughts and Emotions: Validate your feelings of frustration rather than merely brushing them aside. Allow yourself to experience negative emotions in response to important topics or difficult situations.

  7. Act on your Values: Once you’ve given your feelings the credence they deserve, you free up time to achieve your goals and become the person you hope to be.

Following these four practices can make the process of managing your emotions much easier, removing the stumbling blocks that prevent you from achieving your highest potential.

What Does an Executive Coach Do? 7 Things You Should Know

Publication: Harvard Business Review (2009)
Article: What Can Coaches Do for You?
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

There is a lot of buzz around the term “Executive Coach” so what does an executive coach do and what do you need to know before you hire one? Courtesy of a Coutu and Kauffman’s survey of 140 seasoned coaches, here are some FAQs that may help:

  • How much does it cost?
    The average cost is $500 per hour, and the range is from $200 on the low end to $3,500 on the high end.

  • How long does it last?
    Typical engagements last 7 to 12 months.

  • Does coaching cover personal issues?
    Though coaches are rarely hired to address personal issues, life does tend to get in the way of work, and 76% of the coaches surveyed indicated that they ultimately discussed personal problems with the executives.

  • Who typically hires the coach?
    Human resources, management, and the coachee were the most common initiators of the coaching relationship.

  • Will the coaching sessions be confidential?
    Over half of the respondents indicated that they keep management or human resources apprised of the executive’s progress. The authors did not mention if these updates breached confidentiality or were terms agreed upon at the beginning of the coaching relationship.

  • Why do people typically hire a coach?
    The three most common reasons are to develop the potential of an executive, to serve as a sounding board, and to address counterproductive behavior.

  • What should I look for in a coach?
    According to the respondents of the survey, key characteristics of a coach include previous experience, a clear methodology, and a measureable return on investment.

    3 Tips for Effective Decision Making from the Expert

    Publication: Harvard Business Review
    Article: You Can’t Be a Wimp: Make the Tough Calls
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    In his recent interview in the Harvard Business Review, Ram Charan, noted author, renowned scholar, and trusted advisor to the corporate elite, shares his tips for effective decision making in the twenty-first century. As someone who has counseled senior executives and board members alike, he admits that “getting to the right answer is tougher these days.” Technological advancements and the rapid pace of change within organizations, as well as in the greater marketplace, have made strategic planning a more important but more challenging endeavor than ever before.

    Charan explains that many executives have earned their titles because they’ve proven their ability to take risks and make tough decisions. The best CEOs are those who can gather and absorb a wide range of information from myriad sources, and siphon out the most important points and key takeaways for their businesses. They are also excellent at recognizing those assumptions upon which their decisions are contingent and consequences that may arise as a result of alternative courses of action. You may not be a CEO or even a senior executive, but we all make decisions at work and in our daily lives. Below are the three fundamental traits Charan believes are key to increasing the quality of your decision-making and improving the way you approach problems.

    1. Perceptual Acuity- The ability to anticipate change. This means scanning your surroundings for opportunities and threats, focusing in on the most important variables you must anticipate, and playing out potential scenarios and alternative courses of action in your head.

    3. Qualitative Judgment- Once you’ve thought things through, you’ll want to make the best decision, of course. Leverage your network of colleagues, co-workers, and friends. Ask for their opinions and input. Consider the consequences of your actions very carefully, and pay attention to important details.

    5. Credibility- Keep an open mind to others’ perspectives and build support among key stakeholders. Make tough decisions when you have to and have the strength of character to stand up for what you think is right. The title of this HBR article says it all, ‘you can’t be a wimp; make the tough calls.’

    How to Increase Your Productivity: Setting Priorities

    Publication: Harvard Business Review
    Article: Make Time for the Work That Matters
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    How many of us frequently find ourselves with a never-ending to-do list, wishing there were more hours in a day? We want to achieve our goals and increase productivity, but there’s just no way to get it all done. Well, the trick to boosting your productivity is not necessarily having more time to accomplish your tasks, but instead simply making the most of what time you do have by setting priorities.

    To help you in your quest to become more productive and time-efficient, the current authors, Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen (2013), developed a self-assessment that you can take to identify the low value tasks you perform every day. Managing your time effectively means being able to recognize what your priorities are, and delegating non-essential work when possible. However, that can be a difficult task when you are facing a list as long as your arm, all of which seem to be high priorities. This tool will help you decide which of your daily activities you should either 1) eliminate, 2) delegate or outsource, or 3) redesign.

    They suggest you sort your daily tasks into three categories:

    1. “Quick Kills” – Effort expended that may be appreciated, but is not absolutely necessarily; the kind of work that no one will notice if you stop doing.

    3. “Off-load Opportunities” – Tasks you can painlessly delegate to others.

    5. “Long-term Redesign” – Work that needs to be restructured, so it can be performed more efficiently.

    This will allow you to get rid of pointless tasks and clear up your schedule so you can focus your time on work that really matters.

    So what are you waiting for? Take the assessment today, and see how much more productive you can become!

    Genuine Leadership: How sincerity is the key to successful organizational leadership

    Publication: Harvard Business Review (Oct 2013)
    Article: Be Yourself, but Carefully
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    By now surely everyone knows that the key to successful organizational leadership is sincerity. Genuine Leadership — that is, leadership by individuals who make an effort to be open and honest in their dealings — has become the gold standard for successful team building and a basic expectation for professional advancement. No one wants to work for someone who is cold or aloof. Master networkers and business leaders earn their titles by being authentic and real. However, there’s a fine line between being genuine, on the one hand, and over-sharing or talking about yourself in a self-deprecating manner, on the other. If you ever hope to be seen as a credible source, you want people to be able to trust in you and take you seriously. That means you must be able to walk a tightrope between the two extremes. Not an easy task. Fortunately, the authors, Rosh and Offerman (2013), have explored this issue and bring us new information regarding leadership psychology that provides some helpful tips and advice on how to balance along that line.

    1. Build a Foundation of Self Knowledge’- Take a good, hard look at yourself and reflect on how your experiences have enabled you to become the person you are today. Ask for some feedback. Think about which stories portray you in the best light or show healthy growth, and which ones you might want to keep to yourself.

    3. Consider Relevance to the Task’- Share anecdotes related to the task at hand. Don’t simply make small talk in an effort to ingratiate yourself to others. Genuine leadership is about building a strong, functional team, not about shoring up personal insecurities by becoming everyone’s pal.

    5. Keep Revelations Genuine’- This one is simple: Don’t make anything up. Successful organizational leadership is based on trust. Need I say more?

    7. Understand the Organizational and Cultural Context’ – Be aware of cultural norms, and consider how others from different countries, companies, or functions will react to what you’re saying. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and sensitivity. It isn’t mere political correctness to respect the feelings and experiences of others.

    9. Delay or Avoid Very Personal Disclosures’- Ummm… Not everyone has to know that you fell flat on your face in the elevator this morning, or that your skirt is being held together by some strong masking tape and a couple of push pins you found in the supply closet. Those kinds of stories should be reserved for friends, after the work day is done.

    HR 101: Human Resource Management isn’t as simple as it looks

    Publication: Harvard Business Review
    Article: HR for Neophytes
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    When people think of Human Resources, they usually think of those pesky reminders that flood their inbox nagging them to fill out paperwork, or perhaps they think of performance appraisals. In my experience, it’s usually one or the other. Many employees see HR as ‘the fuzzy side’ of the business. To most of us, it’s the department that deals with people-related issues no one else wants to get involved in and that everyone else pretends are not there. Of late HR has a gotten a pretty bad rep, but as line managers increasingly begin to take on traditional human resource management and development tasks, they’ll find that there’s more to human resource management than meets the eye.

    Here are a few key questions that Peter Cappelli, the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School, suggested that anyone managing talent (whether a line manager or HR professional) should be thinking about.

    1. What are your talent needs? What kinds of human resource metrics does your organization keep? How can those be used to determine key trends and inform important decisions?

    3. How should we meet our talent needs? You’ve got three options: build, buy, or borrow. Each vacant position can either be filled by someone you have a) developed from within b) hired from outside the company or c) by a temporary or contracted employee. Striking the optimal balance of external hires and internal promotions is key to filling vacant positions with the right people and keeping within budget.

    5. How can we do a better job of hiring? Remember that hiring is a two-part process. You want recruit and attract the right talent, and then you want to make the right selection or hiring decisions.

    7. How can we develop internal talent? How are you investing in your employees? Are you giving your prospective leaders stretch assignments that force them to advance? Do you encourage your employees to take advantage of tuition reimbursement opportunities, so they gain knowledge and build skills after work hours? In short, are you making every effort to put the “develop” in human resource development?

    9. How can we manage employee career paths? Are there opportunities for internal mobility within your company? Do employees know when they’re likely to be promoted? Do they know what their next job title will be? When there’s no clear path to promotion job satisfaction suffers and turnover becomes more likely.

    Are you finding it hard to come up with concrete answers to these seemingly simple questions? Many do. Upon closer examination HR preforms more complex functions than its given credit for…

    Company Culture: Does Your Organization Measure Up?

    Publication: Harvard Business Review
    Article: Creating the Best Workplace on Earth
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    Much like finding a great deal online or getting out of a speeding ticket, designing a company culture that enables employees to do their best work is more of an art than a science. Managing internal and external demands to ensure that your people strategy aligns with your business strategy is not easy, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach that guarantees success. However, Goffee and Jones (2013) provide some guidance for those looking to create and foster a work environment where employees do more than just achieve their given targets: they push the envelope, demonstrate thought leadership, exceed expectations, and thrive. Follow the suggestions below to unleash the power of your workforce and make the most of your human capital resources!

    1. Let people be themselves: encourage individuality and diversity of thought.
    2. Unleash the flow of information: upward, downward and lateral communication is key!
    3. Magnify people’s strengths: help employees grow and strive towards continuous improvement.
    4. Stand for more than shareholder value: show your colleagues how their work contributes to the greater good rather than just the company’s bottom line.
    5. Show how the daily work makes sense: align employees’ interests with their assigned tasks. Give them the freedom and autonomy to decide how and when to get things done.
    6. Have rules people can believe: don’t make people adhere to silly restrictions or follow ridiculous rules.

    Hit these six points and you’ll be one step closer to creating what Goffee and Jones call ‘the best workplace on earth!’

    Selling To Women: Why it Differs from Selling to Men

    Publication: Harvard Business Review
    Article: How Women Decide
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    Deloitte Consulting is giving new meaning to the term “cross-selling,” a term in every consultant’s vernacular. In a nutshell, the traditional use of the word refers to the selling of additional products or solutions to existing clients.

    After losing several potential clients to competing firms, Deloitte did some internal investigation to understand why they were not successful on these projects. They found something quite interesting; selling to women differs from selling to men.

    I know what you’re thinking… Isn’t that obvious? Well, in some fields it’s not as obvious as you’d think. Considerable market research has been done regarding female preferences in the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) sphere, but Deloitte’s research shows that gender differences have important implications for B2B (Business-to-Business) transactions as well. As a result of these findings, the firm designed a special training program to teach partners and senior managers how to better engage female client executives. Below are a few of the major highlights outlined in this article.

    • Women see meetings with potential contractors as an opportunity to discuss different possibilities and explore their options with knowledgeable professionals; men see these meetings as an opportunity to narrow down their options and decide on the best course of action.

    • Women nod their heads during a conversation to express interest in what you’re saying and to encourage you continue; men nod their heads to signal that they are familiar with what you’re saying or agree with you and would like to move on.

    • Male clients want to feel powerful. They want you to try to impress them by rolling out the red carpet when they arrive, and arranging for them to meet with your most impressive executives. Women, on the other hand, want to talk to the people with whom they’ll be working most closely, be that the CEO or a line manager.

    A good understanding of these differences has obvious advantages. If a company greets a female client with the same mindset and meeting schedule they would present to a male client, time is wasted. As a result client and contractor alike may lose out on advantageous opportunities.

    How to Become Indispensable

    Publication: Harvard Business Review (April 2013)
    Article: Make Yourself an Expert
    Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

    If you’re early in your career and anything like me, you’re probably eager for advancement and seeking opportunities to gain experience with and proficiency in your intended line of work. Or, for those of you who are seasoned professionals, you may be wondering how you can become indispensable in your company or an expert in your field.

    Well, the best way to learn the secrets of success that come with life experience is to find a valued and trusted mentor you’d like to emulate in order to learn as much as possible from a person who has already graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. Fortunately, most people are happy to share their experiences and expertise if you ask, and in my experience, are supremely flattered to be seen as a role model and person of insight.

    How do make the most of a mentoring relationship and most effectively reap the benefits it can have on your career? Well, in their most recent article Dorothy Leonard, Gavin Barton and Michelle Barton (2013) explain that it’s through a process they call OPPTY, which stands for: observation, practices, partnering and joint problem solving and taking responsibility.

    • Observing: Watch your mentor carefully and analyze what he or she does.
    • Practice: Find behaviors or tasks your mentor performs that you can take on with his or her guidance and feedback.
    • Partnering and joint problem solving: Work with your mentor to pick apart work-related problems and develop solutions.
    • Taking responsibility: In time you’ll find that you’ve become an expert. Now you can take on some of your mentor’s responsibilities, not to mention bask in the limelight of success.

    What do you think is the best way to become indispensable?