One of the people I admire a great deal in this area is David Taylor – aka The Naked Leader. David is Professor of Leadership at the world renowned Warwick University Business School, and I was lucky enough to hear him last year at Henry’s Club – Henry Schein’s Annual Dinner for leaders.
In one of his recent thoughts for the week, David challenged us to try not saying anything behind someone’s back that we weren’t prepared to say to their face. Sounds simple, and we all know the negative consequences of gossip, backbiting, moaning and the like. When you stop to think how often we do this (me included) however innocently, it seems an impossible task.
It seems it is much easier to allow problems with performance or behaviour to go unchallenged, and to allow resentment to build. But by not addressing character problems, performance shortcomings or upsets that people cause us, we allow pressure to build up.
Of course what happens is a negative cycle – an offence leads to us harbouring resentment, which in turn means we start to look for aspects of someone’s behaviour which reinforce our own beliefs about them. Then we start to generalise and see everything through that filter. Our brains simply don’t allow us to see good in a person because of the filters we have created.
The reality is that people will upset you, do things wrong, fail to live up to expectations. I do it all the time! It’s called being human!
But without feedback, I can be blissfully unaware. What I need is my team mates to tell me.
After all, if ‘All problems exist in the absence of a good conversation’ – How about talking?
It takes courage, but the results will be well worth the price paid in discomfort. Ultimately, a happier (and better expressed) you, and a more healthy team.
We have recently re-introduced a system for dealing with this sort of feedback and created an expectation within the Bridge2Aid team taught to us a while ago by Chris Barrow:
Permission - ‘Can I have your permission to give you some direct feedback?’ – Be polite, start with a question.
Perception - ‘My perception of what just happened was that….’ – My perception, recognising that I only have my version, not the full picture.
Feelings - ‘When you did that, I felt…’ – Let them know what reaction their behaviour provoked in you.
Change - ‘So what I would like you to do differently is…’ – Suggest a way forward.
The results for us are positive. Provided we act out of a desire to give feedback that will help us improve, not to cast blame, we create an open and honest culture.
Why not try it? Sure, it will take some courage. But the results will take you forward, both as an individual and as a team.
What we are trying to do within Bridge2Aid is foster a culture where the team will give it to you in the gut, but not in the back.
This is a team that will be less stressed, more together, and ultimately more effective than one that has a culture of blame, gossip, backbiting and negativity.
Let’s connect – You can follow me on twitter here.