Give feedback that's useful and doesn't suck

Giving feedback to someone can feel very uncomfortable. It's especially difficult when it’s about a behaviour you're consistently seeing from them which needs to change. Below is some guidance on how to structure feedback in – it’s called the B.R.O.F.F. model.

  • Behaviour - a specific, recent example of a behaviour you've witnessed that needs to change.
  • Reasons - the person getting the feedback is given an opportunity to explain their behaviour.
  • Outcome - you state the impact the behaviour is having on you, the team and/or the business.
  • Feelings - ask the person how they feel about this feedback, and explore emotional reactions.
  • Future - clearly state specifics of what ideal future behaviour needs to look like and seek buy-in.

Ideally meet with the person 1:1 in a private room where you will not be disturbed and structure the conversation in the order shown below.

Behaviour

Describe the specific situation where the person’s behaviour was not as expected and created an outcome that you do not want repeated in future.

The event should have ideally been recent, so that the person can clearly recall it themselves.

Describe when the event happened and who was there.

The person giving the feedback should have been directly present during the event to witness it themselves. If you are feeding back on what others have reported as bad behaviour then you risk the individual stating that the feedback is inaccurate and does not reflect what really happened. If you saw the event then they cannot dispute your interpretation of the events as you experienced them.

You should also be as specific about what they said, how they said it and what they did (body language) if that forms part of the behaviour that needs to change.

Example:

Person giving feedback;

“On Tuesday during our weekly team meeting I saw that you arrived 20 minutes after the meeting started. You’ve arrived late for the past 3 team meetings over the past few weeks, so I’m keen to meet you today, so I can understand this behaviour and how we can address it going forward, so that it no longer continues.

Reasons

Then give the person receiving the feedback an opportunity to give reasons for the behaviour. It can be easy to make assumptions about why someone has behaved poorly. However, there may be perfectly valid reasons for explaining the behaviour that you were not aware of, so it’s important to give an opportunity for this to be shared at this stage in the conversation.

It’s important you ask the question:

a)      with genuine positive intent, and

b)      without judgement, and

c)       with curiosity too.

If you've already decided why they have behaved how they have and judged them accordingly before you’ve even asked the question then that will shine through in the tone you use when asking the questions and in your body language.

Take a moment to consider how you want the question to land with the individual. If they feel judged when asked the question then they will respond accordingly – in a defensive manner and close up. The conversation will quickly either close down or blow up and you don’t want either.

You’re aiming for a constructive conversation between two adults. Stay calm, curious, and don’t judge until you’ve heard all the facts. 

When they do give their reasons. Seek to understand what the underlying causes are for their behaviour. Is it:

·         External circumstances – is there something about their work situation that needs change?

·         Lack of self-awareness – simply highlighting the behaviour might make them aware of    something they didn’t realise they were saying or doing. This increased awareness may be all that is required to make them realise they need to change something and promptly do it.

·         Behavioural habits – they may already be aware of this behaviour pattern and say they’ve struggled with correcting it historically. It therefore might be then appropriate to explore ways that they can address it (further training, mentoring, coaching, informal feedback in future similar situations)

·         Mind-set/Internal thoughts – sometimes people can have their inner critic or limiting beliefs strongly influencing how they feel in certain situations and consequently how they then behave in them. Again if this is the case it might be useful to explore ways they could address their inner critic or challenge their limiting beliefs (further training, mentoring, coaching, informal feedback in future similar situations). If the behaviour may be linked to any mental health issues then referring the person to a counselling or well-being specialist may also be appropriate.

Example:

Person giving feedback;

"I’m keen to understand the underlying reasons behind you arriving late 3 times in a row. What’s causing this?”

Outcome

Here’s the point where you discuss the consequences/outcomes of the person’s current behaviour. You cover how its impacting you, the team, and the business.

a)      State how it makes you feel when they behave that way. (If they’ve given a perfectly valid reason for their behaviour then it will likely influence how you feel. For example, if they are late consistently to meetings and say it’s due to some recent family problems then you’ll likely feel differently than if they have no good reason at all).

b)      State the impact of their behaviour on the team (e.g. the feelings of colleagues, impact on staff workload)

c)       State the wider impact on the business (e.g. project delays, lost sales, increased costs, customer complaints)

It’s also useful to include what the consequences will be for you, the team and the business if this behaviour continues. It’s important to clearly convey the reasons why the behaviour needs to change at this point.

Example:

Person giving feedback;

“I feel frustrated and annoyed when you don’t turn up to team meetings on time. It feels as though you are not respectful of the rest of the team and our time. We really value your contribution to the meetings and we need you to hear the issues we’re discussing too to inform your own work during the rest of the week. If you are not there then there is a real chance that you’ll miss out on key information you need to do your job properly. That said I feel confident we can explore how we can change things, so that we get your full participation in future meetings.

Feelings

This is the point where you ask the person receiving the feedback how they feel.

It’s important not to assume how they will react to the feedback, so make time here to find out how they really feel.

It can be easy to skip this part and jump straight into telling the person what you want the behaviour to look like in the future, but you’re less likely to get them to buy into making a change if you completely ignore how they feel and how that might impact the next steps needed to make the change happen.

A key determinant of how someone will respond will be whether they accept your feedback as reality or deny it. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you only share specific feedback on behaviour you yourself have witnessed and to then share how that behaviour has affected and impacted upon you in a business context. It is not likely that someone will deny that the behaviour occurred when you do this. It is not possible for them to deny how you felt, since it is your personal experience.

If you present someone with this reality as you have experienced it and they accept it to be reality too, then they may feel a variety of emotions – guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated. It’s important for you to show curiosity around why they say they feel the way they do.

If you present someone with this reality as you have experienced it and they deny it to be true then you have a problem – the person is in denial, and until they can accept what has happened and own it, then you will not get any change in behaviour from them.

Sometimes it can be helpful to reiterate that it is the behaviour that you want to see change and not them. Some people can take feedback as a direct attack on them as an individual – as a person.

It’s important to ensure you are not communicating the message of;

“You are a bad person”. 

It’s the behaviour in that specific context that you want to see change. The intended message should be;

“You are a good person, but I need this specific behaviour to change. I believe you can change. Let’s explore how.”

Example:

Person giving feedback;

“How do you feel about what I’ve told you regarding your behaviour and its effects? I’m confident that we can fix it, but I’m keen to know how you feel about this feedback before we explore next steps.”

Future

This is where you then give very specific information on what good looks like in the future. Tell them exactly what behaviours you expect to see in future (what needs to stop, what needs to start) and then invite them to explore how they can make that happen. Let them know what support could be offered to help make it happen (e.g. change in work arrangements, training, mentoring, a coach, regular informal feedback in future, counselling).

Agree an action plan – this should ideally refer to a future event and date where the person will aim to demonstrate the desired behaviour and an agreement of any additional actions that might need to be taken in order to achieve that (e.g. attending a training course, working with a mentor, changing work arrangements).

Example:

Person giving feedback;

“From next week, I want you to arrive before the team meeting is due to start. I need that to be the case for all future meetings. What support do you need from me to make that happen? What barriers do you think might arise that need to be addressed?”

When you see the behaviour you want more of from that person, acknowledge it and express appreciation. It doesn’t need to be overly gushing, but make sure it’s direct and timely (ideally as soon as you witness it or soon after). This will help influence and embed the desired new behaviour.

I call the above approach the BROFF model, but cannot seem to find any reference to it elsewhere online. If anyone knows the origins of this model and can let me know then I will gladly add details to this blog entry to provide appropriate credit to the original source.

How to become a rockstar at work...

I coach executives undergoing significant transition in their career - typically seeking promotion or looking to land well in their new role. 

A challenge we all face is learning new behaviours to succeed in new roles. Never straight forward. 

Behaviours that made us star performers may no longer be needed in new roles and sabotage our future success (e.g. micro management is valued in some roles and a disaster in others).

So how can you make sure you: 

  1. become aware of these limiting behaviours and what drives them, and 
  2. rapidly shift them whilst still staying true to yourself?

No one wants to pretend to be someone they’re not. Quickly evolving how you behave in a way that feels right can be tricky. 

I use the following exercise when coaching to answer the questions above. When illustrating how to use it I use a recent real client example with my client’s name and details adapted to maintain confidentiality. 

“Situation/Think/Feel/Do/Result” exercise:

1) Situation

Consider a recent and memorable situation where you got a poor result and the consequence of not changing your behaviour will hold you back from promotion or sabotage performing well in role. 

If there’s no significant consequence for current behaviour - then guess what? - you won’t change.

Then briefly describe that situation:

  • What was your role in that situation?
  • When did it happen?
  • Who were you with?
  • What did they say?
  • What did you say?

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

2) Think:

Reflect on how you thought in that situation that may have affected your behaviour in a way that meant you didn’t perform at your best. 

When the other person spoke what was your internal dialogue saying? 

What beliefs did you have about what you should or should not be doing in that moment? 

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

3) Feel:

How did that situation and your thoughts make you feel that affected your behaviour and performance?

What one emotion would you say you felt? 

Common emotions clients note down during coaching sessions include:

Anxious

Annoyed

Frustrated

Angry

Upset

Depressed

Hopeless

Embarrassed

Sad

Ashamed

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

4) Do:

What did the situation, your thoughts, and your feelings, then influence what you did?

How did you behave?

What did you say? 

What was your body language like?

What was your tone of voice? 

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

5) Result (actual):

What was the outcome of what you did and how you behaved?

How did the other person/people react? 

How did they feel?

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

6) Result (desired):

What would have been the perfect outcome?

How would the other person/people have reacted to you? 

How would they feel?

Note down your answers to some or all of these questions. 

Coaching client example - background:

Amanda was promoted and the role required £2m in sales from Banking consulting projects. She didn’t know contacts at some target clients and believed she needed to ask her boss who managed those client accounts to introduce her via client meetings. Her boss was very busy. She was swamped delivering complex projects. Arranging multiple meeting times that worked for her, the target clients, and her boss seemed impossible. She had to do this with lots of targets. How was she going to hit £2m in sales? 

In coaching sessions I asked Amanda to reflect on a typical situation which linked to this, so we could try the “Situation/Think/Feel/Do/Result” exercise. Here’s what unfolded:

Situation

“I attempt to get my boss to arrange introductory meetings, but he keeps postponing them.”

“I know my he’s increasingly stretched at work and too busy to do them.” 

Think

“I should be getting more introductory meetings and winning more work.”

“I should be pressing my boss to introduce me.”

“But I don’t want to annoy him and jeopardise my career.”

Feel

Anxious - not winning work.

Frustrated - meetings kept getting postponed.

Hopeless - she couldn’t see how to make meetings happen.

Scared - her boss would be annoyed if she asked him to stop postponing meetings. 

Do

She was delaying rescheduling meetings, since she didn’t want to bother her boss. 

Result (actual)

Meetings weren’t rescheduled. Target clients weren’t met. This behaviour wasn’t going to win her £2m in sales. 

Results (desired)

She wanted introductions to her boss’ contacts. She knew banks had challenges her team could solve.

How we used these answers

During coaching I challenged her thoughts and beliefs, so she understood why she held these beliefs and confirm they held up to scrutiny. If not perhaps there were other ways to react to this situation and get different results. It soon became apparent she was repeating a pattern of always seeking permission from senior people before acting. So I got curious and asked;

“Do you really need to ask permission now you’ve been promoted?”

“Does it make sense to continue to believe ‘I should press my boss to introduce me to clients?’”

“Could you introduce yourself directly without your boss? You have skills that could solve key business challenges, so surely they’ll want to meet.”

Until now Amanda had no chance to consider the situation and explore different perspectives. 

She no longer needed to seek permission - an old belief to discard. Banking clients would likely want to meet her. Her boss didn’t need to attend.

Her boss loved her suggestion to approach clients alone. He felt guilty cancelling previous meetings and didn’t have time to win work with those banks. Amanda taking the lead was a relief. 

What does this tell us?

We can hold old beliefs that no longer serve us in new roles.

We make incorrect assumptions we must challenge or risk behaviour that gets unwanted results.

Problems can be solved when making time to reflect or talk through them using such exercises. 

Obviously using this exercise with a coach will likely shift behaviour more quickly than if done on your own. Self-reflection and self-challenge is hard for most of us. If you can’t access one I’d talk with someone you trust about what you write down or use the exercise to structure that conversation - perhaps ask what they would “Think”, “Feel”, and “Do” in a similar situation when you know they’d be likely to get a different result. 

I’d welcome any questions or comments once you’ve tried this exercise. I hope you find it useful when exploring how you can enhance your performance at work.

You need a coach - test how ready you are for one

Image credit to banksy 

“Have a coach. Everyone needs a coach!”

Google CEO, Eric Schmidt apparently said this when asked about the best advice he ever received. 

I totally agree. The valuable clarity my coach brings when grappling with the next right steps to take with my biggest challenges at work and in life is huge. She enables me to challenge myself, transform, grow as a person, and avoid getting stuck in roles, assumptions, beliefs and situations holding me back from positive change in life. 

But I don’t believe most people think they need a coach. Therefore most don’t yet want one. That will change soon as those who do communicate the benefits. The value a coach brings you can last a life time. Coaching enables you to transform and grow beyond your current situation. We all spend money on things that don't last with little or no enduring value. A monthly haircut, an expensive restaurant meal. The value of these quickly disappear. The enduring value of a coach means people spending their time and money know its an investment in their personal growth - like a personal trainer for the mind. The more you invest, the more cumulative the benefits are as you provide yourself with more space to explore your key challenges and how to overcome them with someone who listens to you deeply and stretches your thinking on how to achieve the change you need.  

But how do you make sure you get the most value from your investment in a coach? 

This week I attended a coaching practitioners event entitled “It’s Not About The Coach: getting the most from coaching” which got me thinking…

·         When you become interested in getting a coach how do you know whether you are actually ready to be coached? [And by that, I mean ready to fully realise the potential value of investing in a coaching relationship.]

·         And does your readiness and openness to being coached change over time during a coaching relationship?

These questions help you maximise the value from your coaching.  We explored these very questions with the event speaker, Stuart Hadden, who shared key research insights from his book on the topic.

He's developed a model following his survey of 85 UK organisations, big and small, across various sectors on determining how ready people are to be coached to maximise its value for them. Below is a summary of 9 key areas which emerged across those organisations on how best to determine whether you will be ready to fully realise the value coaching can bring you:

1) Goals - What aims, targets, or desired results can you use to shape the focus of your coaching sessions?

2) Change - How open are you to change? How much change do you want? Do you fear it?

I think these first two are present for almost all of us that show an initial interest in coaching. We'll want something to be different. Though the extent to which we want change may vary dependent on whether we have sought out a coach or whether someone has told us to get one. For example, if your employer recommends you to get a coach to improve your performance and assigns an internal coach to you then you may not agree and so I would argue the process is doomed to fail or achieve minimal results. That said, if we are open to change, then it will happen. And the more of the areas below are present in your coaching, the more transformation and value you are likely to get. 

3) Emotion - How willing are you to show your emotions and to articulate them with your coach?

4) Authenticity - Are you seeking to be more authentic in how you operate on daily basis and interact with others in your life? How willing are you to be authentic?

4) Curious - How curious are you about your own self, the people you work with, and the wider systems you operate in (e.g. your employer or organisations you belong to)?

5) Challenge - How open are you to receiving challenge from your coach? How much do you want it and believe it could help you grow?

6) Questioning - How able and willing are you to work with tough questions; answering them and asking them of yourself?

Sometimes we just want an answer to be provided by someone else on how we can address our problem, and coaching isn't about getting direct solutions from your coach - it's about exploring your situation, so you can discover answers that will work for your personal circumstance.

8) Systems - How much do you want to explore, understand and leverage the systems you operate within (workplace, family, friendship groups), and build/extend new personal networks?

9) Energy - How much drive and ambition do you think you can bring to achieve the outcomes you are seeking from a coaching relationship?

You don't need to answer all of the above fully or positively in order to benefit from having a coach. But the more you can honestly answer positively, the more personal transformation you will see in yourself when working with a coach and the more you will benefit. 

When you think you don't want coaching or are not fully realising the potential benefit of existing coaching sessions it could be because you aren't ready to bring some of the above to a coaching conversation... yet.

It's worthwhile to consider how these could be used to assess both how ready you are for coaching before it begins and to use it as a measure for how coachable you’re becoming as your coaching relationship progresses. 

If you are thinking about being coached or are currently being coached here are 3 ways you may use the insight above:

1)      During or before your initial coaching session – Discuss your comfort levels around the 9 areas above. 

2)   After each coaching session you have – if you feel your session went badly/well, perhaps refer to the 9 areas to identify why and consider different future approaches with your coach based on those observations.

3)   During various stages of your coaching relationship – your readiness for coaching will vary over time. It will be influenced by your current life circumstance and your sensitivity around the topics being discussed. The above could be used by you when thinking about the question “Right now, given the challenges I am talking through and my current life circumstances, how ready for coaching am I?”

I firmly believe most people need and can benefit from a coach. A coach can transform your life for the better and those benefits can last a lifetime. 

But as I said at the start a lot of people - including you maybe - don’t yet want one. A large contributing factor to this could lay somewhere within the 9 areas above. These 9 areas are the ingredients required from you if you are to truly benefit from the transformational benefits of a coach. 

What do you think? Is the model above useful? Do you agree or have an alternative view?

All thoughts welcome!

Get What You Want: Challenge Your Assumptions

When coaching my clients I challenge their assumptions. 

I challenge their assumptions about who they are, what they believe, how other's will respond to them, and what options are truly open to them. I do this because we all make too many assumptions. They prevent us fulfilling our lives - at home and at work. I'll now share how I challenged my own assumptions once. I don't do it all the time. I'm not perfect. But it conveys when we do challenge what we assume great things become possible. 

How does Summer living in Los Angeles for 4 weeks sound?

The picture for this blog entry is from my trip to Santa Monica beach in 2012 when I did just that.

For those of you who like the idea of living in this sunny city (or anywhere other than home), your next question might be "How is that possible?" Some might even jump straight away into thinking it's not;

"How could I afford to live overseas for 4 weeks?"

"How could I get holiday for that period of time?"

"How could I get my employer to let me be not doing my job for that long - wouldn't that endanger my career?"

Many might stop thinking soon after that point; assuming it's not possible. But we all need to recognise that this is an assumption - not necessarily a fact. 

When you accept this and believe there can be positive answers to the questions above you then give your brain permission to start working its magic on figuring out the 'How'. 

My 'How' consisted of the following:

  1. I researched how I could reduce the key costs of living abroad - mainly flights, food, and accommodation. I was flexible on flight dates to bring down cost. I booked an AirBnB apartment, which eliminated parking costs (most hotels charge), since it came with free parking. The apartment cost 40% less than many hotels nearby. I got my own kitchen, so I could buy food and not spend loads on restaurant meals and room service (this happens when staying in hotels). If you've not tried AirBnB yet you can use my discount code here - feel free to ask me for tips and advice in the comments. 
  2. I found out how I could get 4 weeks off of work by... asking. Many people I speak to would not get to this stage. Many fear what their employer would think of them for requesting it. I thought about the benefits for my employer. I'd been working long hours for several months and needed to refresh and re-energise. The business would benefit from this, since it would prevent burnout. I told them this. They saw the value. I listened to the concerns of the business about me being away for 4 weeks (What if there's an emergency while you're away? What if we need to contact you? Who will cover your work load?). Then I figured out the 'How' for each of those. 
  3. I then found out how that period of time off would not endanger my career - by making myself unneeded. I started thinking and talking to my employer about this trip 6 months before I did it. Their key concern was that bad things may happen because I wasn't around. So I thought about projects happening while I was away and made sure I trained colleagues who could cover for me on specific tasks. That gave them a chance to grow personally, since they got to learn about some of my responsibilities and learn new skills to cover my role. A win-win for me and them. For the tasks where I was essential I made sure I covered those aspects before I went on holiday. And for unexpected emergencies I agreed they could text me in that event (that way I didn't have to wade through e-mails while on holiday). That text thankfully never came :) 

Some people may read this blog entry and conclude the 'How' I've stated above is flawed, since it could never work for them and they may be 100% correct (provided they are not making any assumptions, which could be proven untrue). And if that's the case, its because my 'How' is not appropriate to their life circumstance. But that's not to say there isn't a 'How' that applies to them. It simply means they haven't yet taken the time to think through "How" they could do it given the constraints they live within.  

So now I invite you to think about what you want right now...

  1. What do you want?
  2. What assumptions are you making about yourself, your options, how people might react, and what is possible?
  3. What if you challenged your assumptions?
  4. What if you figured out your own 'How' for getting what you want?
  5. What if you did that whenever you wanted something and initially caught yourself thinking "That's impossible. Forget it."?

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below or share this blog with others. If you read comments you feel you can add something useful towards then please share your insight for the benefit of other readers.