Archive for the ‘ Criticism ’ Category

Lower Your Standards of Praise

“Perfectionist”
pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)nɪst
noun
1.  a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection, e.g. “he was a perfectionist who worked slowly”
adjective
2.  refusing to accept any standard short of perfection

I am a perfectionist. I mean, I’m not obsessive. The volume on the radio can be odd or even – that doesn’t matter. I do, however, like things to be right, and if I think someone won’t do a very good job, I’d rather just do things myself. I’m the kind of person that will ask their other half to make the bed; and then if the cushions aren’t in the right order, I’ll re-make it.

I’m also practically minded; and I know to be an effective team member, and – more importantly – to be a good leader, I need to overcome my perfectionist tendencies, because in reality not everyone I work with or lead will be able to reach the high standards that I set for myself. Trying to impose my own high standards on the people working with me is likely to frustrate them, and frustrate me. That won’t get us anywhere fast – we’ll be heading downhill in a spiral of “not-quite-right” annoyance. Alternatively, I’ll end up doing it myself, and that’s not an effective use of my time.

NotQuiteWhatIHadInMind

I struggled with the concept of letting people ‘get on with it’ a lot, until someone on a training course recently summed this up in one short phrase: “lower your standards of praise”.

Lowering your standards of praise means, instead of only giving people positive feedback when they get things exactly right, you lower the standard of achievement that merits reward to encourage the behavior you want, and then you can work on improving things gradually over time.

Think about when parents bring up children, and they try to teach their toddlers to talk. Of course, if someone wants to ask for a glass of water in adult life, we’d expect to hear “can I have a glass of water, please?”, but a two-year-old isn’t going to go from “mama” and “dada” to asking coherently for a glass of water overnight. Instead, parents start with the basics: “Water”. They’ll repeat the word, and encourage speech, until they get something that closely resembles the result: “Wa-wa”. Close enough! This behavior will be rewarded: the toddler will get the glass of water, and probably plenty of applause and kisses; but they can’t grow up using “wa-wa” every time they’re thirsty, so the development continues, and parents work on changing “wa-wa” to “water”; “water” to “water, please”, and so on.

A blog post on AJATT speaks about lowering our standards in every day life, and learning to appreciate the ‘baby steps’ we take to get to places in life, and then putting that into practice with our more long-term goals. It talks about how you shouldn’t ‘try to arrive at your goal. Just try to go there — and congratulate yourself for it: give yourself credit for only getting it partially right, partially done’. When you appreciate the little achievements, the bigger picture will fall into place.

Ken Blanchard, in his best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, talks about how the manager relies on catching people doing things right – which involves praising people immediately (and not waiting until they’ve achieved the whole); being specific about what they’ve done right – emphasizing how what they did right makes you feel, and how it benefits the organization; and encouraging more of the same.

By lowering your standards of praise, you’re not waiting for people to get all the way to the end of a project, only to be disappointed in the end-result. Instead, you can give positive feedback when they get things partially right, and slowly work your way to the desirable outcome, whilst keeping your relationship frustration-free. It doesn’t mean your end-result is going to be less-than-perfect, but it means that you’re not expecting perfection in the first instance.

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Why I Used to Hate Giving Feedback

How often have you heard your friends or colleagues moaning about someone or about something that has happened, but they never actually say anything to that person? It happens all the time and it’s all because people don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or are scared of giving feedback.

Giving feedback is tough, and something I often shy away from, so you are not alone!

Have you had that experience when you think, “I can give feedback,” and you do it, but crash and burn? You don’t get the response that you were hoping for, or nothing changes. You then get discouraged and think, “I am never doing that again!” Don’t worry, this is completely normal.

feedback2
I work with Situational Leadership® II, so I know very well that when I crash and burn, I am in the D2 stage, where I have low commitment and little competence to give anyone feedback ever again. The only way I am going to move to D3, where I feel more committed and become competent, is if I pick myself up, keep doing it, and ask for a bit of direction and support from people I know are good at giving feedback.

The more positive experiences you have with giving feedback, the more confident you will be, so please don’t shy away from it.

Handy Tips

Has this person demonstrated competence in this goal/task before?

Are you giving feedback to someone who has already completed this task or goal perfectly before? Or is this person new to the task or goal? Understanding this first will help you shape your discussion when giving feedback.

Always give feedback about a particular event/situation. Never make it general.

People cannot relate to general. So often in annual reviews, you hear feedback like, “You don’t respond to emails quickly enough”; if your colleague thinks they do reply fast enough, this type of general feedback will get someone’s back up. Instead say, “XYZ client emailed you and requested information concerning their leadership materials; they didn’t receive a response for three days. The consequences of this were their training materials didn’t arrive in time for the workshop.”

Try to give the feedback as quickly as possible.

You give feedback to try to stop mistakes from recurring. The quicker you address the problem, the less likely it is that mistakes will happen in the future. Plus it’s easier for people to embrace if it’s happened recently.

Give feedback from a good place.

When giving feedback, express why you are giving the feedback and how it can help that person in the future. If people see you are trying to help them, you are less likely to be met with resistance.

These are just a few tips I have picked up along the way—there are many more.

I would really like to hear from you about your experiences and tips on giving feedback. Please share your stories!

Humor me this…

You remember the ol’ classic one liners people used to tell? “Did you hear that one about the teacher, the pastor, and a farmer who went ….”. Yea, I can’t remember the rest of the joke either but I still find them to be simple and amusing.  These jokes have almost a sacredness about them and have this allure similar to the Cartoon section in the New Yorker. The classic nature of these jokes and the quirky delivery gets me every time. I love it. To me, one of the greatest attributes in a leader is the ability to inject humor and light-heartedness into a stressful situation.  The delivery and the punch line are the two greatest elements to good humor and a smart leader recognizes that being the brunt of most jokes is a good thing. Self-deprecation and honest humility are common elements that build trust and admiration with those you are leading.

However, one thing to remember is that just because you have something funny or witty to say, you shouldn’t always pull the trigger. As Winston Churchill once said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” Often people insert half-truths, undercutting jabs, subtle attacks, and mocking humor that can be very offensive and off-putting. As in any great play or performance, know your audience and the setting and be sure that your humor makes people feel appreciated and not belittled.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The boomerang generation: When 18 years isn’t good enough anymore

Get good grades they say. Get a college degree they say. Your life will be much easier they say.
I’m not sure who this “they” is but if someone can find them, I have a few friends and millions of young Americans who I’m sure would like to have a conversation with them.
The “they” that most parents may have been referring to was the previous economy, because Uncle Sam’s pockets have been quite drained for some time. He’s no longer the rich uncle that lives outside of town—now he’s more the one that lives in the baseboomerangkidsment.
Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) of 25- to 34-year-olds say they don’t currently have enough money to lead the kind of life they want, and thirty-six percent of this nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ homes in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center.
Also, large majorities (78%) say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements (living at home with mom and dad). So the stigma associated with living with parents is nowhere to be seen with this generation.
And according to the Journal of Marriage and Family, 79% of adults between 18-33 receive financial help, though there are varying reports about this data. I must admit that I fall in this age range and I used to receive some financial help from my parents while I was out of college. Since my cell phone and auto insurance were tied to the same bill, they never passed it along to me—thanks Mom and Dad!
If I had to guess, I would say the majority of the boomerang generation would like to spend the rest of their 20’s and 30’s chasing the American Dream as much as the previous generations. Stagnate wages, higher unemployment, and large student debt have been major obstacles to financial independence for the boomers. Although it has not been easy, much of the boomerang generation is optimistic about their future and financial progress. Many would suggest that they live life “entitled” but I believe many are hungry to begin their careers and add value to the organizations they serve.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

Flow_logo

The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

Image Credit: 1

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