On feedback

“Praise in public, chastise in private.” — I can’t recall exactly where I got that but the idea sort of stuck. It just made perfect sense to me. I reckon I’m not quite needy when it comes to external validation i.e., I don’t crave for having my good work publicly lauded. I’d appreciate it and it does give me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. But it’s just not my main motivation. I guess I like it better when I get good feedback when I least expect it. Say when a colleague leaves me a thank-you note, or when someone tells me that another colleague liked having worked with me. But that’s just me. Other folks might actually prefer the public recognition, so it wouldn’t hurt to give it when it’s deserved.

On the other hand, when I make a boo-boo, I think I pretty much give myself a hard enough time already. There’s the feeling of guilt or inadequacy, and the feeling of being so sorry for messing up. From there, I’d like to bounce back and think of how to keep the problem from recurring. I’d like to be able to turn things around and work on the problem. For my case, I don’t think publicly scolding me or telling me off would help me in bouncing back. And I suppose that also goes for other people. Public humiliation is an unnecessary evil. It gives off too much negative energy just to achieve something which can be accomplished with an open, straightforward chat.

So there… Praise in public, chastise in private. The praising part seems easy enough. As for chastising, well, I’d like to do away with it altogether but sometimes there’s just no going around it. Anyway, I stumbled upon a post (which I wish I found sooner) and it lists out some ideas on structuring feedback (link):

  • It must be given soon after the behavior or event occurs. Don’t wait until a behavior becomes a pattern to discuss it.
  • It must describe precisely what occurred, with enough specificity for the person to have no trouble recalling the behavior or incident.
  • It should be limited to one issue at a time. People are more likely to become defensive if a list is presented rather than just addressing a particular issue or behavior.
  • Language must be non-evaluative when delivering the message. Do not ascribe attributes, motives, attitudes, or intentions.
  • Give feedback only related to the useful, actionable information. If a person has no control over the behavior, it may not be appropriate to give feedback about it.
  • Feedback should establish an opportunity for growth and/or change. Focus on the future desired state to underscore your ongoing investment in the relationship.

And I think the three steps to keep minds open when speaking up also helps. I got it from Egonomics and previously posted it before (link):

  1. Establish permission — Just as you knock before entering, you establish permission before you speak up. You don’t want to come in uninvited.
  2. Make your intent clear — Instead of having others think the worst, just be outright with your intentions. You don’t want to be misinterpreted.
  3. Be candid — Just be straight to the point. But of course, exercise tact. You don’t want to bore people with details nor be rude.
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Veracity in egonomics

Veracity was described in the book as the habitual pursuit of, and adherence to truth… even when it hurts; actually, more so when it hurts. The book points out two specific abilities necessary to get into that habit: hearing down and speaking up (where down and up just refers to work hierarchy, not to our value as people).

To appreciate both, we must learn to shift our perspective of hard truths or negative comments. No matter how negative, oftentimes, there’s an underlying positive intent. For instance, in our office we have this co-worker who has this reputation of being such a whiner. But behind that, if only he’d learn to express himself better, what he is actually after is a positive change. To those who need to speak up, hard truths must be raised in a way that doesn’t incite the other person to jump the gun and feel like his identity is being attacked. To those who need to hear down, hard truths are not always attacks to our identity. We deter potential improvements if we immediately close our minds to what others have to say, and if we strike a feeling of pointlessness or fear in the hearts of others instead of encouraging them to exchange ideas or feedback.

Between hearing down and speaking up, I personally have great difficulty with the latter. I’m not sure if it’s the culture or the upbringing, as much as I try to break out of the habit, keeping mum is one of my more natural inclinations. The book shares three steps to keep minds open when speaking up (you’d need at least one depending on your relationship with the other person):

  1. Establish permission Just as you knock before entering, you establish permission before you speak up. You don’t want to come in uninvited.
  2. Make your intent clear Instead of having others think the worst, just be outright with your intentions. You don’t want to be misinterpreted.
  3. Be candid Just be straight to the point. But of course, exercise tact. You don’t want to bore people with details nor be rude.

Ultimate team player

This evening, I received an exclusive pre-release article from [the] new Marcum and Smith book, “Momentum”.  They’re the same guys who wrote Egonomics.  Anyway, part of the article is on the ultimate team player — which I’m sharing here.

According to our work and research, the ultimate team player has certain characteristics that set them apart and make it easy (at least easier) to know who they are when you see them. Here are some key questions that distinguish a great team player:

  1. Do they make the people around them better?
  2. Do others offer better ideas because of their questions?
  3. Do others work more passionately because they’re around that person?
  4. Do others pay attention more when they’re in the room?
  5. Are others more engaged because they’re on a project with that person?

Here are 12 characteristics of a great team player that feed into the five questions above:

  1. We, then me mindset; works with a team first approach without losing sight of his individual talent, confidence and contribution.
  2. Devoted to progress; committed to a cause or purpose beyond himself.
  3. Speaks her mind boldly and diplomatically.
  4. Listens to feedback carefully and anxiously, especially when it’s difficult to hear.
  5. Constructively discontent; not pessimistic, but not relaxed about status-quo.
  6. Inclusive; loves diversity and talent, especially those with talents and history different than theirs.
  7. Insists on debate, and debates ideas effectively; doesn’t care who has the best idea, as long as the best idea wins; doesn’t take things personally.
  8. Open minded; not change or new idea resistant.
  9. Doesn’t allow the early warning signs of poor communication and teamwork (defensiveness, showcasing, excessive competition, seeking acceptance) undermine team dynamics and individual talent.
  10. Sees people as equals, not as superiors and subordinates. Only in accountability and performance are those hierarchical relationships visible.
  11. People trust your intentions; people know where you’re coming from when you challenge ideas, share new ideas, etc.
  12. Desire to make a difference, not just “do your job.” There is a clear performance difference between “job-holders” and difference-makers.

Curiosity in egonomics

By nature, most of us are curious. However, the kind that most of us have is the “state” type of curiosity.  This is the type which still has to be triggered. A clear example of state curiosity can be observed when there’s some car wreck and you’ve got nosy passers-by and kibitzers gathering around. The other– more desirable — type of curiosity is the “trait” type.  As opposed to state, this one doesn’t need to be triggered. It doesn’t wait to be sparked, instead “it does the sparking”.

Trait curiosity requires a balance of openness and of order:

  • Openness: being open to new ideas; being open to the possibility that you are wrong and that you have much to learn; being willing to accept change
  • Order: resisting being too carefree or impulsive; exercising precaution when considering changes; allows you to focus your energies instead of getting caught up in one idea too many

Sometimes in our haste to reach a resolution, we fail to become curious. We satisfice, we jump to conclusions, we stop asking questions. Now, simply asking questions doesn’t mean we’re already curious. But it’s a start. And if nurtured, perhaps we can develop trait curiosity.

Here are four ways to raise the level of curiosity even in daily conversation:

  1. What do we mean? (clarity) Don’t assume that you’re already clear about what someone means. Clarify! Learn to seek out details.
  2. What are we seeing? (context) Get some background info. Identify the givens and the unknowns. Get the rationale behind a given point or idea.
  3. What are we assuming? (assumptions) Test your assumptions. See if you’re assumptions are sound or totally unfounded. Do a reality check.
  4. What does that lead to? (consequences) Ask what happens if… Identify the expected end result. Understand the motive behind the desired effect.

Humility in egonomics

Humility is intelligent self-respect that keeps us from thinking too much or too little of ourselves. It reminds us how far we have come while at the same time helping us see how far short we are of what we can be.

Humility has three unique properties:

  1. we, then me (devotion to progress)
  2. i’m brilliant, and i’m not (duality)
  3. one more thing (constructive discontent)

Devotion to progress. Sometimes, we need to put others before ourselves. Ironically, it all pans out and by helping others we end up helping ourselves. There is this parable (or anecdote or whatever it’s called) about how weak a single stick is — how it can easily be snapped into two. But bunch them up together, and you can’t break them anymore. I may be going out of context but the main point is (as I’ve also picked up from the Bride Wars) that sometimes it’s not always about you. And just like what Peter Parker told Harry, “There are bigger things happening here than me and you.”

Duality. The next property of humility is duality. Just as we may acknowledge our strengths, it is also important to acknowledge our weaknesses. By doing so, we counter the dangers of comparison since we don’t delude ourselves of our greatness; we are kept grounded. We also counter the dangers of seeking acceptance since duality makes us comfortable with the idea that we can both be liked and disliked. We counter showcasing since we are not always as brilliant as we would like to think. We counter defensiveness since we accept that we can be wrong just as we can be right.

Constructive Discontent. This is dissatisfaction with satisfaction. This makes us less resistant to the constant called change. Here we acknowledge even though there may be some that claim that we’re on the top of our game, we can still improve and we can still learn. This drives us to want to improve.
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Balancing your ego

In between my awfully busy time at work, I’ve recently read Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith. Well, it brings an old adage into mind: Everything in moderation. Without ego, you may not be as driven to improve yourself as you could be; Yet too much of it can inhibit your rise or push you to your downfall.

The book highlights 4 early warning signs:

  1. being comparative (competitive)
  2. being defensive
  3. showcasing brilliance
  4. seeking acceptance

And offers 3 principles to help keep your ego in check:

  1. humility
  2. curiosity
  3. veracity

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