Roll with the punches (more on feedback)

October 13, 2017

“Nick is opinionated.”

This kind of feedback is never easy to take. The offending statement came in written form about 15 years ago as part of one of those management team exercises. Again, most of what was shared with all of us was extremely positive but can I remember any of it? Hardly. The difficult stuff? Never forgotten.

Most of us have the tendency to focus on the negative aspects of ourselves and that’s not good. Building confidence based on the positive feedback we receive is really important. Discovering our strengths and developing them is a central aspect to successfully making our unique contribution to the world.

So what about the tough stuff?

That “Nick is opinionated” comment has been more useful to me than I can ever have believed possible. As I reflected on it at the time, and many times since, I began to realise that I did tend to state my opinions pretty strongly. I came to realise that this worked OK in some situations where the other would counter just as strongly and we’d enjoy a lively discussion.

But for others, that was overwhelming; it seemed dominating, arrogant even. So I learned to temper. To speak but make sure I also listened and be persuaded by others where appropriate. I became familiar with a weakness (or a strength gone too far), and over time learned to improve how I communicate and how I work with others. Still learning… but the feedback has been so valuable.

At the time I was not grateful for it. Now I can’t even remember who it came from but I am so pleased it did come.

This is why feedback is a gift. Be open. Dwell on the positives. Ponder and learn and change when you receive feedback that’s not so comfortable but when you reflect on it, there’s a ring of truth to it.

More to come on this subject…

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The Gift of Feedback

October 11, 2017

I hate this title. I hate feedback.

That at least is my instinctive reaction when I receive feedback that isn’t simply ‘Nick is amazing’, or something wonderfully positive like that!

I run a lot of training courses so I am given feedback almost every day. Thankfully, most of it is very good and for that I am extremely grateful.

But then, out of nowhere (it seems!), comes something not-so-great…and it lands a withering blow to the stomach as the words, whether written or delivered verbally, find their target.

Another human being has the gall to have the opinion, much worse even, to share that opinion, that Nick Howes is not perfect. There are things about how Nick does his job that they find annoying, boring, confusing…whatever it may be.

The thing is, it’s this kind of feedback that makes us. We need it and we need it badly. The positive feedback builds our confidence and that’s crucial, but to become better, to really excel, we need those ‘would be better if….’ comments.

They are indeed a gift to us and we can learn to treasure them (even if we still hate them)!

I’ll write some more on this. Hope this has got you thinking for now.

 


Is it possible to over-encourage?

September 5, 2017

A very brief article today based on this question: “Is it possible to over-encourage people?”

Yes, you need to have the confidence to confront poor behaviour and manager under-performance through clear communication and constructive conversations. Let’s take that as ‘sorted’.

Without that accountability it’s certainly possible to create a culture that is falsely positive, where poor attitudes and slack work habits go unchallenged.

But, assuming that’s in place because you have well-trained managers (if you don’t, give me a call and let’s get them well-trained!), is it possible to over-encourage or is it the case that the more praise, encouragement and generally positive inputs to the work environment, the better?

What do you reckon?  And what will you stop doing, start doing and continue doing as a result?

I’m genuinely really interested to hear your thoughts.


Where did that extra energy come from?

February 22, 2016

Saturday afternoon I went out running with my youngest son Jonar, who’s 8. We got a bit lost round the woods – I’m not known for my sense of direction despite a Geography degree! – and ended up going quite a bit longer than I’d planned and than I thought he would be able to manage.

Understandably he was flagging as we headed for home. Quick check on the maps app – 1.4 miles from home. It’s raining. I have a very tired and increasingly unhappy child on my hands whom I have to coax home before he gets too cold.

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The obligatory post-run selfie!

Something really interesting happened. A short way into that part of our run, Jonar recognised where we were. I had been saying it’s not that far and giving out all the right “You can do it” encouragement, but it wasn’t working too well.

Suddenly it all changed! When he knew where we were, he was on familiar ground, energy flowed in quite a remarkable way. We ran that last mile or so faster than I would have comfortably done it on my own! I was genuinely amazed.

Three lessons here that I think are important in how we lead ourselves and our teams in a way that galvanises that extra energy and effort that can make the difference between winning (or surviving) and not:

  • Being on familiar territory: create landmarks, familiar habits, systems and ways of operating that breed confidence even in challenging times.
  • Knowing exactly how far there is to go: define the end, or at least a definite staging post on the journey towards the end so people understand there’s an end in sight rather than just plodding on endlessly.
  • Make a big deal about getting there: celebrate small victories, take a picture, have a meal. It makes a huge difference.

Have a great week!

Nick

 

 


Making space for public praise

May 7, 2015

This morning I was with a company in the Midlands for the course end presentations / graduation of a group of managers and team leaders who were completing the LMI Effective Leadership Development programme.

For the last 18 weeks we have been meeting fortnightly for two hours, reviewing each set of lesson material, sharing goals, tracking progress, dealing with challenges and generally facilitating the process of attitude and behaviour change that leads to performance improvement. Some of the results shared by the participants were incredible – reports delegated that frees the manager up two hours of valuable time each week, 50% reduction in error on the production line, improved atmosphere in the warehouse that is noticeable to every visitor…I could go on but that’s not the main point of this blog.

After each participant shared their own development through the programme and gave examples of how they have applied new ideas, their line manager made some comments. It would be easy to think ‘old school’ and be worried about what your manager might say if you were in this situation. As it happens, each of the line managers present has also been through this same LMI programme and understood the power of public praise!

Their comments were incredibly affirming as each one shared how their direct report had, through the duration of the programme, made huge progress and achieved tangible, significant victories that have resulted in better performance of their teams.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, but it’s incredibly powerful when it does. Each graduate walked out feeling a hundred feet tall – it feels good to receive honest praise and affirmation – but there’s something else I’ve seen happen when this takes place….the relationship between manager and their team member is deepened, trust built and hence their ability to work together effectively and harmoniously in the future is strengthened.

I’m not saying public praise should be an everyday occurrence – but it should be regular. How can you make space for this in a meaningful way? If you do, watch the impact it will have on your team!


Too many chiefs?

March 3, 2015

A quick reflection on what I heard loads over various media outlets last weekend. You may have heard it too if you’re into sports, or just happen to have the radio or TV on at the wrong time! The lament is a familiar one:

“This team needs more leaders!”

One pundit was going on about how when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, that was a team full of leaders. Another was adamant that the current England cricket team was ‘sadly lacking leaders’.

On the one hand, no team needs a whole load of ‘classic’ leaders – multiple people trying to set the direction, establish rules, assert their opinions above others. That’s where we get the common refrain “Too many chiefs….”. Too many people wanting things their way and not enough people being team players.

So what do we mean when we say that more leaders are required? It is something right at the heart of my work with organisations and core to the LMI philosophy. We assert that:

“The best organisations develop every person to become a leader. Leadership is not a position. It is a way of thinking, believing and behaving.”

This, and what I think the sports pundits are getting at, is about the attitude and character displayed by team members. Leaders take responsibility. They roll their sleeves up and put a shift in when the odds are stacked against them. They handle disappointment well and can maintain a positive outlook. They make it their role to encourage their teammates. They find solutions to problems rather than complain. They innovate. The do what it takes to get results. They are great people to be around.

Every team does, in fact, need more of these kind of leaders! This is Personal Leadership. It’s not the role you play. It’s the person you are.


Extra maths!

November 21, 2014

I was walking Eden, my ten year old daughter, to school this morning half an hour ahead of the rest of the family because of an 8.15am extra maths session.

Was this a punishment? A chore? A drag-your-feet, wish-you-weren’t-there experience? Nope – the absolute opposite.

Eden was bouncing along the road, and had been bouncing round the house for at least an hour before we left. She was excited….about extra maths!

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What makes this really interesting for me, and worthy of a blog, is that just a few weeks ago she was ‘rubbish at maths’ and regularly told us how much she disliked it. When it came to maths homework, motivation was seriously low.

Then it changed, literally overnight.

One day at school there came a Maths test in an area that she was ok at. She did well. She felt good. The teacher praised her. She felt encouraged. She liked that feeling and she set a goal to go one mark better (out of 20) next time. So she worked at her homework and achieved her goal. Suddenly, she loves maths, is doing loads better at it, motivation is sky high and her attitude has been transformed.

This morning’s early start was for a special invitation maths club for the super-keen!

Proud parental gushing aside (sorry about that!), this is such a lesson in how attitudes, motivation and results can be similarly transformed. Set yourself and others up for some small success, celebrate that success, set another goal. Achieve that goal…and so on.

Sounds over-simplistic I know, but it works. Sometimes it takes longer to see drastic change, but sometimes there really is an immediate impact. Either way, set goals, celebrate every small success and keep on going!