Last week I talked about the value of purely positive feedback. But what do you do with it? How do you actually leverage a strength?
My clients never know what to do. They know how to solve problems but are always stumped by how to build on something that is already strong. What is surprising to me is that when I ask other coaches, a shockingly high percentage of them also have no clear answer to this question of, “How does a person leverage a strength?”
Here are the three ways I offer to my clients.
- Spend more time using the strength. This could mean more time in the same activities where you are strong or applying your strength in new places.
- Build a related skill. If you are great at communication, don’t rest where you are. Figure out a new communication skill to add. Take a course. Read a book. Strengthen the skill that is already feeding your success.
- Teach your strength. Not only will others in your organization benefit but you will also learn more as teaching forces you to deepen your own understanding.
It’s getting to annual review time. That wonderful time when (some) managers unload all the feedback they’ve been storing up all year.
In my coaching I deliver 360 feedback to my clients. So I know a bit about delivering a deluge of feedback information. And there is one technique that is more powerful than anything else I’ve learned over the years.
Separate out the positive.
Make your performance management meeting into two meetings. Spend one meeting telling your employees nothing but all the things they do that make them valuable. Tell them all the places they are most wonderful. (Even your poor performers have things they do well. Spend this whole conversation talking about those positive places.) Ask them to set a goal for how they will leverage their strengths in the year to come. Do this before they get the rest of their review. We are all too fixated on fixing our problems. Once you discuss the problems the strengths become all but irrelevant. So stay in the positive until you have a strengths based goal.
Then have the regular performance management meeting in which you review all the data – both positive and critical. Refer back to the strengths often.
We may be grown up, but we are not rocks. We are not islands. We still seek approval. And we get far too little of it. Give your employees a whole meeting of nothing but the positive and see how they soar as a result.
No matter how often I confront it in myself or hear my clients express their own experiences of it, I never cease to be amazed at how common the fraud complex is. Very simply, this complex is the part of your brain that says things like:
- I’m not good enough.
- I don’t know as much as they think I do.
- What if someone figures me out?
- What if someone discovers I don’t have the answers and am not as capable as they think I am?
This is an equal opportunity complex. It afflicts young and old, CEOs and line workers, poor and wealthy, failing and successful. In fact, if you are like me and about 95% of the people I’ve coached in my career, it affects you too.
But here’s the thing. You are where you are for a reason. You were invited there. You do belong. You know enough – not everything, but enough. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to not have every answer. It’s even okay if they think you know more than you do.
You’re there. Therefore you belong.
And if you are still nervous, just remember this. Almost every single other person in that room with you – all the ones that make you nervous with all their knowledge and ability – all the ones who might uncover you for a fraud at any moment – they’re all wandering around with that exact same fear. The fraud complex is striking them too.
One of my coaching techniques is that when I conduct a 360 feedback review (always based on interviews I conduct, not surveys) I split the feedback into two parts. In part one the coachee receives only positive feedback. All negative and even neutral comments are removed from the report.
So they receive the positive commentary 100% divorced from any negative feedback. In fact, they don’t get to see the rest of the feedback until they deliver to me an action plan based on their positive feedback. They actually have to figure out how to further their development based on their strengths before we ever even look at what the negative feedback has to say. This is a profound experience for the coachees. They frequently site it as one of, if not the, most valuable experiences in their coaching.
When we receive positive feedback mixed with critical feedback we give the positive lip service only. We quickly gloss over it to focus our attention on the negative. But when we sit with the positive, amazing things happen. It builds our confidence and esteem. It encourages us to focus on and spend more time in the activities at which we excel. In a world in which feedback usually means a review of, or at least focus on, wrongdoing, imagine a process in which you focus solely on your most positive traits.
In fact, that is exactly what I recommend as part of my revolutionary performance management idea. Very simply, I think companies should engage in a quarterly review process in which quarters 2 and 4 are your standard general review. Quarters 1 and 3 however are dedicated to only positive feedback and action planning based on that positive feedback.
Just imagine an organization filled with that positive energy.
Everyone is an artist. This is obvious when you look at a classroom of preschoolers. Somewhere along the way many of us forget and convince ourselves that we are not artists.
This is because we equate “artist” with “great artist.”
But you don’t have to be great. Being an artist is about the joy of creation. Reasons to let out your inner artist:
- For the fun of it
- Stress reduction
- Pursuit of passion
- Finding new friends
- Chasing mastery
- Reduces your TV time
Examples of paths to express your art:
- Playing a musical instrument
- Writing poetry, stories, blog, etc.
- Home brewing
- Making pottery or jewelry
Two years ago, after never having played a musical instrument before, I decided to buy a ukulele. It is one of the best purchases I ever made.
So what’s it going to take for you to reconnect with your inner artist and allow yourself the fun and freedom of expressing your artistry?
I know you have it in you. So tell me, what form of artistry is in you dying to come out?
I was asked to clarify what I do as a coach. There were a few different concepts that emerged, one of which was that I help people understand goals and consequences.
What do you really want to have happen?
How do your actions lead you toward or away from that result?
That isn’t all there is to coaching, but those two questions can take you a long way to a healthier, happier, more effective, productive and successful existence.
- How was your day?
- What was the best part of your day?
- What are you planning for tomorrow?
- What are you working on?
- What is exciting to you about it?
- How can I help?
One exercise I occasionally ask my coaching clients to go through is the “3 Questions” exercise. For 24 hours, their challenge is to begin every single conversation with 3 questions. Before they are allowed to offer a single opinion or comment or idea, they have to ask the other person 3 questions.
If the other person beats them to it and asks them a question. They are to deflect it and ask their own questions.
In a world where many of us have been trained to speak, to get our ideas out, to be focused on ourselves, this challenge represents a seismic shift. My clients tell me the effects are profound at work, but the biggest impact is at home, with spouses and kids.
Try it. 24 hours. 3 questions. Every conversation. Let me know how it goes.