July 3, 2014 / Coaching Skills

The Art of Receiving Feedback

Recently I wrote about the importance of giving feedback to your direct reports and others—openly, candidly and in a way that’s actionable for them. I think 50% of the feedback equation rests on the side of managers, who have to be willing and skilled in giving it.  Today I want to share a few tips on the other 50% of the equation: how to ask for and receive feedback.  How you receive feedback helps set the tone for your whole team.

  • Ask for feedback more than once a year
  • Listen to the feedback with everything you’ve got
  • Clarify the feedback
  • Say thank you

To read more, visit the Sierra Leadership blog.

 

About the Author:

Eric Nitzberg, M.T.S., is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach at Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Visit his blog.

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September 17, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Empower and Develop Your Team

Mary-Lou asks: I was just promoted to a senior director position. In order to get to know my direct reports better, I want to schedule 1-1 meetings with each of them. Can you offer some suggestions of  questions  I should ask them?

Anne Loehr, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Congrats on your promotion Mary-Lou!

Since your job is to empower and develop the individuals on your team, scheduling 1-1 meetings is a perfect start. During this time, you want to get to know each other personally and professionally so you can establish a great working foundation and understand what motivates them to do their best. Here are some example questions that will achieve both. Stay truly curious and open, and as you ask questions and listen you want to be picking up on what’s important to them in the way they describe themselves and their team. Some sample questions, in no particular order:

  1. Tell me about yourself – your strengths, your learning edge, how you like to work.
  2. How do you get to leverage your strengths in your role today? What do you like most about it?
  3. What is your definition of success in this job?
  4. What’s life like outside of work? Activities? Interests?
  5. Tell me about your team – what’s going well and any current challenges.
  6. How can I support you to be working at your best?

Of course, you can share similar information about yourself as well – you don’t want the conversation to feel like an interview, and they are probably quite curious about you. Depending on how this meeting flows and how much time you have, you may be able to dive in to talk about specific business items, or set that up for a following conversation.

Let us know how it goes!

 

 

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August 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Difficult Conversations

Erica asks: My department head is an extremely brilliant man and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.  But lately, I’ve noticed a shift in his behavior that is beginning to strain our working relationship.   He has become very irrational, negative, and all over the map with requests and demands.  What can I do to keep our relationship in tact without stepping over any boundaries?

Eric Nitzberg, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

A lot depends on the level of trust an openness you have with him.  This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to be thoughtful about any approach.  If you have a pretty open, high trust relationship you might broach the subject directly, “It seems like you have been a little on-edge lately.  I’ve noticed some changes in your leadership style.  Would you be open to talking?”   If you can’t address the issue directly, then I would consider which of the new behaviors are the biggest problem for you, and what you might do about them specifically.  If “requests all over the map” is the most frustrating issue, you might try having a neutral conversation with him about that issue, “I want to make sure I’m aligned with your priorities.  Can we talk about what’s most important among your requests?”

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July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

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May 31, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Distracted Or Do I Need Listening Training?

James asks:  I’ve received feedback several times in the past that listening is one of my strengths.  However, a colleague recently suggested I attend listening training.  I have a lot going on at the moment, but is listening training the answer?

Tawny Lees, COO responds:

If you are like most of our clients, you face a great deal of pressure and demand on your time.  Perhaps you have taken on a new role or have been tasked with an important initiative. Without realizing it, you might be encountering moments of distraction that prevent you from being fully present and listening as well as you would normally. Before you pursue listening training, try these tips before your next meeting:

  • Become present.  Before your meetings, take 5-6 deep belly breaths. Take a moment to get clear on the focus areas for the discussion.
  • In the conversation, keep your focus on others as you listen. Try to match their pace, tone and energy.
  • Repeat back key words said to demonstrate you are listening.

These resources might also be helpful:

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April 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Strategy

Ask Mariposa: Top 4 Executive Coaching Focus Areas

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Daniel asked: Can you share the most frequent areas that you help clients improve on with coaching?

Regan Bach, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Great question Daniel and you are not alone in wondering what actually occurs during a coaching engagement.  There is a great deal of customizing that occurs with each client’s needs, but here are the Top 4 most frequent areas of coaching focus:

1) Vision/Strategy/Execution

Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical.  From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given inputs over time.  A good coach helps leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve, b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) helps identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.

2) Going Slow to Go Fast

In today’s fast paced work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and initiative to initiative.  Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.  Coaches act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention.  What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.

3) Influencing

This is an area where almost everyone can improve.  I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.  I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.

4) Feedback, Communication and Relationship-Building

Organizations exist because humans create them.  Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.  At the core, business is all about communication and relationships.  Coaches help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.

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April 3, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

The #1 Leadership Communication Mistake

I have come to the conclusion that there is one pretty universal communication mistake that is the most damaging and causes the most mischief for leaders.

Are you ready?  The mistake is:  not preparing well.  Yes, I know this is not very sexy, but it is incredibly ubiquitos.  People just don’t think about preparing in advance for a crucial conversation, and they typically don’t invest nearly enough time in preparing for a high-stakes presentation or Q & A session.

Think about it this way:  there are probably 5%, maybe 10% at the most, of your communications that are truly extremely important.  Situations where careers, or very large amounts of money are at stake.  My most frequent and important advice is, invest the time to prepare properly for these moments.  The more important the communication, the more time you should invest preparing for it.  More specifically:

  1. For a 1-1 meeting, decide what you will say in advance; and role play the conversation with a skilled communicator whom you trust.  Do the role play as if you were having the actual conversation–don’t just talk about what you plan to say.  Do it fully in role.  Then have them give you feedback, and role play it again.  Practice until you’ve got it down.  It will make for a better outcome, and will also greatly enhance your confidence level going into the conversation, because you have already done it!
  2. For an important Q & A session, write down the questions that you are mostly likely to be asked, and also the questions you most fear.  Then map out your answers, and practice them out loud, again with someone who can give you feedback.  Practice the same question and answer several times, until you really nail it, then move to the next question.  When you have them all, then practice answering a series of questions.
  3. For a presentation, deliver the whole presentation several times, also out loud.  Practicing it in your head is not the same as practicing it aloud, because you are not rehearsing the actual behavior you are preparing for.  And again, if possible, have someone in the room who can give you candid feedback.

About the author:

Eric Nitzberg, is the Principal of Sierra Leadership and an Executive Leadership Coach for Mariposa Leadership, Inc. Want to read more from Eric?  Visit his blog.

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March 27, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa: Coaching vs. Therapy

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David asks: What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? 

 

Edie Heilman, Executive Leadership Coach,  responds:

This question comes up quite often because coaching and psychotherapy are both approaches to the challenges of life and work.  However the purpose and approaches are different.

Psychotherapy deals primarily with a person’s current or past difficulties to enable healing and resolve old pain.  The therapist is licensed, knowledgeable about psychological theories and is the expert in the relationship.  The therapist diagnoses then provides expertise to help improve the patient’s well-being. The process is often open-ended.

Coaching is forward looking with a focus on the client’s effectiveness and impact in their life, or their organization – as in with executive leadership coaching. Together the client and coach explore new ways of thinking, acting and solving problems.  The process includes assessment, feedback, goal setting and practice.  The coach provides tools and guidance to help the client self-observe, try new perspectives and behaviors and make choices that help them achieve their desired outcomes. A typical coaching engagement lasts six months with specific executive development objectives.

Patrick Williams says “therapy is about recovering and uncovering while coaching is about discovering”.

 

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