LinkedIn Conscious Business Week 9: Co-Evaluation
From the introduction:
For each week of this course I am going to take my notes on what I learned and turn it into a short blog post. I am hoping this will encourage you to take a look at the course and maybe do it yourself.
This weeks notes on Conscious Business focus on co-evaluation.
Feedback Isn’t Constructive
There are three problems with feedback, in the traditional sense: goal, framing, and language.
When you think of a conversation that involves constructive feedback you might be thinking of a discussion of what’s going well, what’s not going well, and to include examples and suggestions as well. However, this isn’t the true goal of giving feedback. The actual goal is talking. And this is the problem. Talking doesn’t accomplish anything.
So, we need to change our goal:
The goal of a performance improvement conversation is not to provide feedback. Rather it is to collaborate to make things work better.
The next issue is the framing of the conversation. Often feedback will be setup as though one person is right and understands, while the other is wrong and doesn’t understand.
This hurts the relationship. Nobody wants to be in any kind of relationships where they are always wrong and the other person is always right.
So, we need to change the frame:
We need to stop the arrogance of one person knows and the other doesn’t, and we have to work on creating a collaborative relationship where both people are open, honest, and constructive.
The final problem is in the language, specifically in confusing facts with opinions. Performance is measured by objective facts. But ultimately the opportunities to improve have to do with opinions people have on how to improve performance.
There is a massive difference between “I dislike what you are doing” as opposed to “What you are doing is wrong” or “It shouldn’t be like this”.
Structuring an Improvement Conversation
The first step in any performance improvement conversation is preparation. During one of these conversations delicate information will be shared and so if you don’t prepare it’s bound to fail. The classic adage goes:
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
This isn’t just making factual and strategical preparations, thinking about things going well, and aspects to improve. It is also emotional preparation in understanding the three issues with performance conversations being in the right frame of mind to counteract them.
Understand the Goal
It is then important to ensure that the other person understands the goal of the conversation. That you aren’t there to tell them all the things they’re doing wrong. But rather that the goal is to collaborate to make things work better.
Greatness comes from capitalizing on strengths, not from fixating on weaknesses.
So, it’s important to start with what’s going well and what the other person is doing right. And then you can have a conversation about how to do more of this and capitalize on it even more.
Psychologically, it is also a good idea to start positively as well. When our brain encounters stress, neurotransmitters like Cortisol, and hormones like Adrenaline, are released which shuts down parts of our brain in order to active our fight or flight response. This makes it impossible for the other person to process and really understand what you are saying.
Discuss the Delta
This section is discussing the not so good parts, where improvement is needed. It’s important to think about this not as what’s going wrong, but what is going less than right. That is, discuss the delta between the current performance and a good performance:
- What’s not going well for me. Why?
- What’s not going well for you. Why?
- Do you have any suggestions for improving your performance.
This is the final stage of the conversation and it is where we discuss concrete actions and come to an agreement. But remember that agreement without commitment is meaningless.
Finally there should be a follow up. A document should be made, most likely an email, outlining what was discussed and the agreements each person committed to.
This doesn’t have to be a formal document. Rather, it is just a record so that in the future, that record can become the ground for the next conversation.
A Combustion Engine Is Better Than a Bomb
Both a combustion engine and a bomb both experience explosions, and they both may have the same total energy. Yet, a combustion engine works with lots of small explosions. The bomb, on the other hand, has one massive, irreversible explosion that destroys everything.
We can use this as a metaphor for providing feedback.
If you wait until everything has gone wrong, and there’s a lot of stress, before you provide feedback then it’s like igniting the bomb. There will be a massive explosion with irreversible consequences.
Alternative, it you give little bits of feedback, often and consistently, then there will be more opportunity for less extreme, stressful improvements.
These small discussions aren’t meant to be big, formal processes that are the evaluation processes that occur once or twice a year as part of being in an organisation. This is more of a connection between two people.
The two main take aways from this section that I found useful were:
- Understanding the goal of performance improvement conversation which isn’t to talk, or provide constructive feedback, but it is to work together to make things better.
- A combustion engine is better than a bomb.