Best Practices by Tjai M. NIelsen, Ph.D.

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Document Description
Best
Practices
by
Tjai
M.
Nielsen,
Ph.D.,
Director
of
Executive
Education,
Dean’s
 Research
Scholar,
Assistant
Professor
of
Management
 
 The
Critical
Importance
and
Elusiveness
of
Consistent,
Candid,
and
 Constructive
Feedback
 
 Consistent,
candid,
and
constructive
feedback
(CCC)
is
a
critical
success
factor
for
 individuals,
teams,
and
organizations.
Feedback
is
the
fuel
that
propels
effectiveness
 by
providing
an
external
perspective
on
performance.
It
facilitates
an
understanding
 of
what
i
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  BestPractices byTjaiM.Nielsen,Ph.D.,DirectorofExecutiveEducation,Dean’sResearchScholar,AssistantProfessorofManagement TheCriticalImportance andElusiveness ofConsistent,Candid,andConstructiveFeedback Consistent,candid,andconstructivefeedback(CCC)isacriticalsuccessfactorforindividuals,teams,andorganizations.Feedbackisthefuelthatpropelseffectivenessbyprovidinganexternalperspectiveonperformance.Itfacilitatesanunderstandingofwhatisworkingandwhatisnotandallowsstrengthstobeleveragedandopportunitiesdeveloped.Thepowerfulbenefitsoffeedbackapplytoteamsandorganizationsbutaremostcloselylinkedwithindividualemployeedevelopment.Robustevidencefrombothresearchandpracticehighlightstheimportanceofconsistent,candid,andconstructivefeedbackforhighpotentialmanagers(HPMs).FromseminalresearchpapersintheorganizationalscienceliteraturetocommentsfromCEOstopopularpressarticlesfromexecutive‐developmentgurus,feedbackisessentialfordevelopment.Itmaybethesinglemostimportant andelusive leadership  successfactorIhaveencounteredinmyworkwithhundredsofexecutivesduringthepast10years.WhyisCCCfeedbacksoimportantandvaluable,yetsoelusive?WhatarethekeyobstaclesthatstandinthewayofCCCfeedbackandhowcantheybeovercome?Lastly,whatarebestpracticesfordeliveringandelicitingfeedback?*****************************MostmanagersandorganizationalleadersunderstandtheimportanceofprovidingCCCfeedback.Indeed,manyseniorexecutivescreditmuchoftheirsuccesstofeedbackreceivedfrompastmentors,bosses,andcolleagues.However,givingfeedbackisuncomfortableformanybecausetheyworryitwillbemetwithdefensiveness,leadtoconfrontation,andbedemoralizingordisruptive.Thesearevalidconcernsmotivatedbycorepsychologicaldriversofbehavior.Beyondtheseconcerns,manyseniorleadersassumetheirhighpotentialmanagersdonotneedfeedback,astheyarealreadystrongperformers.Inreality,candidfeedbackpresentedconstructivelyforthepurposeofdevelopmentisexactlywhathigh‐potentialmanagerscraveand  require.Theydesperatelywanttounderstandhowtheycanimproveandsubsequentlyassumemoreresponsibility.WhileHPMsareindeedstrongperformersintheirpresentpositions,theywantand  needtoknowthekeysuccessfactorsatthenextlevel.SeniorleadersmustmovebeyondtheirownconcernsaboutconfrontationanddisruptiontoprovidethefeedbackthatHPMsthirstforandthatwillultimatelycontributetotheorganization.Itisanabsoluteresponsibilitytotheirorganizationsandtothepeopletheyhavebeenentrustedtolead.  Afundamentalelementofeffectiveleadershipispeopledevelopment,specificallydirectreports.TheprovisionofCCCfeedbackisoneofthebesttoolsforincreasingtheleadershipcapabilityofothers.Withoutit,howcansomeoneimprove?Indeed,leaderswhoholdfollowersaccountableforperformancewithoutCCCfeedbackare‐‐atbest‐‐weakleadersand‐‐atworst‐‐unethicalleadersradicallyunderminingtheperformanceoftheirfollowersandorganizations.ProvidingCCCfeedbackeffectivelyrequiresthefollowing:(1)   Focusonbenefits: Movebeyondyourownconcernaboutconfrontationanddisruption;thevastmajorityofhighpotentialscravebothpositiveandconstructivefeedback.(2)   Provideconsistently&frequently: Thebenefitsoffeedbackaccrueovertime,soprovideitfrequentlyandconsistently.Givingfeedbackoftenmakestheprocessmorecomfortableforyou,moreexpectedbyyourfollowers,andoverthelong‐termwillbecomepartoftheculture.(3)   Makeittimely: Timelyfeedbackiscritical.Givingfeedbackshortlyaftersomeone’sbehaviorismuchmorepowerfulbecausethebehaviorinquestionisfreshforeveryone,sothefeedbackcanbemorespecificandwillbefocusedonmoretypicalbehaviorasopposedtoextremeexamples.(4)   Beclear&specific: Specificfeedbackiseasiertounderstandandismoreactionable.Asimple,yeteffectiveapproachistoconcentrateoncontext,behavior,andimpact.Describingthecontext/situation,therelevantbehavior,andthesubsequentimpactkeepsitsimpleandspecific.(5)   Positive&negative: CCCfeedbackisoftenconceptualizedasadiscussionfocusedonthemanager’sareasofopportunity.However,itisveryimportanttoprovidefeedbackhighlightingthewaysthattheycanmorefullyleveragetheirstrengthsaswell.(6)   Differentapproachforperformanceproblems: Whenaddressingmorelong‐termandsignificantperformanceissues,feedbackshouldbemoreformal.Thatis,thesesessionsshouldbescheduled,private,focused,andstructured.TheelusivenessofCCCfeedbackmeansthattherearemanyHPMsandotherswhoarenotreceivingthefeedbacktheyneed,desire,anddeserve.IrecommendthefollowingforthosewhowouldliketoelicitmoreCCCfeedbackfromhisorherboss:(1)   Tellthem: LettingyourbossknowyouarestronglycommittedtoimprovingyourperformanceandwouldgenuinelyappreciatehisorherhelpviaCCCfeedback,oftenservesasacatalyst.Onespecificapproachistoaskyourbosswhatyoushouldstartdoing,stopdoing,andcontinuedoing.(2)   Discussfuturegoals: Sharingwhatyouwanttoaccomplishinthefuturecanprovidean“opening”foryourbosstohelpyouwithCCCfeedback.Ifyourbosshasnoideawhereyouwanttogo,itwillbedifficulttoprovidefeedbacktohelpyougetthere.  (3)    Askforfeedbackrightafterevent/behavior: Youmayhaveconductedanimportantpresentationorledanimportantprojectteammeeting.Followupthese“performances”withquestionsabouthowyoudid.(4)   “Follow”byexample: Providingyourdirectreports(orpeers)withCCCfeedbackisanexcellentwaytodemonstratethebenefitstoyourbossandstartadialogueabouthowitwouldbenefityouaswell.(5)   Suggestaschedule: Explainyourdesireforregularfeedbacktoimproveyourleadership.Askyourbossifheorshewouldbewillingtomeetwithyoumonthlyfor30minutestodiscussstrengthsanddevelopmentalopportunities.(6)   Don’tgetdefensiveorrationalize: Onceyoudoreceivefeedback,evenifdeliveredpoorly,don’tgetdefensiveorstartrationalizingyourbehavior.Itwilldiscourageyourbossfromtryingagain.(7)   Takeaction: Everyonegetsfrustratedwhentheyprovidefeedbackandnothingchanges.Thisistruefororganizationalsurveysandleadershipdevelopmentfeedback,alike.Whenyoureceivefeedback,askfollow‐upquestionstoensureyoucompletelyunderstanditandthentakeaction.Thereareinherentchallengesinmakingconsistent,candid,andconstructivefeedbackafundamentalpartofyourwork.However,thebenefitscanbedramaticforyouandyourorganization.
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