Giving feedback – making informed choices about intention vs impact


By Elisabeth Goodman, 12th March 2020

Professor Yeun Joon Kim and Junha Kim feature in an interview in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review (Meeker, A. 2020).  Their conversation, based on a study in a Korean health-food company, and amongst students at a North American university suggests that feedback might have a different impact depending on whether it comes from superiors, peers or direct reports.

Their results suggest that individuals might react more defensively to negative feedback from line managers and peers, whilst their creativity might be boosted by negative feedback from direct reports. (Although there could also be negative repercussions on those giving such feedback.)

They thought that positive feedback could be good for creativity, and might help people feel valued and more motivated as a result.  But they also thought that the effect of positive feedback might wear off as people got complacent about their performance.

These conclusions raised a couple of questions in my mind:

  1. Would these conclusions hold true in other cultures and in other kinds of organisations?
  2. Might any of the results vary depending on the personality of the recipient and their receptiveness to feedback?

I did a mindmap of what I’ve read, know about and thought about on giving feedback.

Giving feedback - intention vs impact

Giving feedback – a mindmap of intention vs impact

Understanding your intention for giving or collecting feedback

I know from people that I’ve worked with through RiverRhee, as a trainer and as a coach, that individuals value getting feedback, albeit for different reasons.  For some people it is an extrinsic motivator:

  • It’s reassuring to know that they are doing well
  • Or they thrive on receiving suggestions about what they could work on to be even better at what they do
  • It can help them to feel valued

At the same time, there are people who don’t welcome feedback:

  • Positive feedback can feel uncomfortable or patronising
  • Or they can feel threatened by what feels like negative feedback

Tools such as the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) can give some insights on what people’s feedback preferences might be.  They could well be different from those of the manager!

For managers and leaders, giving feedback can feel like an essential tool for developing the performance of their direct reports:

  • They might use positive feedback to reinforce new or improved behaviours that have been agreed with an individual
  • They might use constructive feedback (an alternative definition of negative feedback) to highlight gaps in performance or further discussion

There are several options for how to give feedback, and who to get it from

These options are summarised in my illustration above, so that I will just pick out a few of the points.

Evidence-based immediate feedback

The most effective feedback, in my experience, is that linked to evidence, especially when given as soon as possible after an event.  These are central tenets of the “STAR-AR” model that we use in RiverRhee’s management and appraisal training.

For positive feedback this works as follows:

  • Cite the SITUATION or TARGET relating to the feedback that you wish to give – for instance a presentation that the individual gave yesterday
  • Describe the ACTION that they took – for instance a  request to the audience that answers be kept to the end
  • Describe the RESULT that you observed – for example the audience’s level of engagement

For constructive feedback the model starts in the same way – with STAR.  But then, if the result could have been improved upon it follows with:

  • An ALTERNATIVE action they could take in the future
  • What the anticipated RESULT of that would be

Self-reflection by the individual

An ideal approach to take with any form of feedback, for more buy-in and more effective development of the individual, is to invite them to reflect on what they noticed about an experience, and what they would like to do differently or the same next time as a result.

This more effective approach to feedback is also described in one of my earlier blogs (Goodman, 2019).

However Carucci (2020), suggests that people are often unaware of the gap between what they intend to do, and the actual impact that it has, so that some form of external feedback is essential to close this gap.

5 questions from 5 people (or Ask five people)

Is a tool for gathering feedback that we have been trying out on the Barefoot Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching that I am currently completing.

It has a more positive and empathetic slant than other tools that I’ve come across. The questions are:

  1. What one word of phrase describes me best?
  2. What do you think is my greatest achievement?
  3. What do you value most about me?
  4. What one thing could I change for my own benefit?
  5. What do you believe to be my greatest strength?

I have found the insights gained from the people who answered those questions about me very enlightening, affirming and also useful in my further development.

Collecting feedback from project managers

This is just a quick reminder that many of the companies we work with operate a matrix structure, whereby people spend a lot of their time working with project managers who are not their line managers.  It is therefore invaluable for many reasons to obtain feedback from these project managers too.

The impact of feedback

My earlier blog (Goodman, 2020) also includes a reference to the neuroscience of the impact of feedback, which I will re-quote here.

Buckingham and Goodall (2019) cite the following insights:

  • When we focus on areas that we need to correct, our sympathetic “fight or flight” survival system kicks in and actually impairs learning.
  • When we focus on  dreams and how to achieve them, our parasympathetic or “rest and digest” system is stimulated and fosters openness to learning.

So their take is that people are more likely to be receptive to feedback and more open to learning if the feedback is framed in a positive way – a finding that partly confirms, and partly contradicts this blog’s opening references to Meeker (2020).

Conclusion

Some possible next steps are summarised in the illustration at the start of this blog.

It does seem as though having a clear appreciation of the purpose for collecting and giving feedback will help to inform what is collected, and how it is given.

Understanding what form of feedback will be most effective for an individual, and actually having a discussion with them about this beforehand would also seem like a recipe for success.

It may be that individuals will benefit most from a coaching approach and self-reflection.

Finally, as with everything to do with managing people, this is an area that is ripe for continuous evaluation so as to ensure that the intent of giving any feedback does indeed have the desired impact.

Notes

References

Buckingham, M. and Goodall, A. (2019)  The Feedback Fallacy. Harvard Business Review, March-April: 92-101

Carucci, R. (2020) Giving feedback to someone who hasn’t had it in years. Harvard Business Review, January 22nd. https://hbr.org/2020/01/giving-feedback-to-someone-who-hasnt-had-it-in-years (accessed 12th March 2020)

Goodman, E. (2019) A more effective approach to feedback? https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/a-more-effective-approach-to-feedback/ (accessed 12th March 2020)

Meeker, A. (2020) A subordinate’s criticism makes you more creative.  Harvard Business Review, March-April: 30-31

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

When you need to fire someone – do so with humanity


By Elisabeth Goodman, 8th March 2020

One of the questions that comes up periodically in our training and coaching work with managers (see RiverRhee), is what to do about someone who is underperforming.

Often, the manager has put in an enormous amount of time, effort and worry to do everything that they can to help the employee.  And yet the individual is still underperforming, does not have the ‘right attitude’ and is generally undermining the morale and productivity of the rest of the team.

The manager probably knows it’s time to fire someone, but they may be worried about the consequences for the individual’s state of mind, and/or the repercussions on the morale of the rest of the team.

I came across David Rock’s (2008) SCARF model whilst reading Jenny Roger’s (2016) “Coaching Skills” and it seems a particularly apt representation of some of the emotional aspects that might be involved.The SCARF modelRogers (2016) describes how helpful the model was when she showed it to someone she was coaching who had been fired.  It helped the individual to understand the emotions she was experiencing and to come to terms with the situation.

Joel Peterson’s (2020) article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review provides a well thought out series of steps for how to fire someone that touches on how several of these emotional needs might be humanely addressed.

Being clear about the reasons for firing someone

An important first step is for the manager to be clear about why they want to fire someone.  It could be for one of several reasons:

  1. The individual is not a good fit for the job
  2. They are underperforming
  3. There are organisational reasons for changing people’s roles – and there is no good alternative fit for the individual
  4. There are other organisational changes for instance a need to reduce headcount – and again, there is no alternative fit

Being clear about these reasons will help the manager to ensure that they have taken whatever preventative action they can, and to take the appropriate follow-up action.

How to avoid firing someone

The individual is not a good fit for the job.

Obviously something has not worked in the original recruitment process.  Either the manager made an error of judgement, or the individual did.

If the timing for this realisation falls within a probation period, then there is scope for an open and honest conversation about the lack of fit, and both the manager and individual can part with dignity on both sides.

If not, then the firing will need to proceed – see the principles below for how to do so.

The individual is underperforming.

There is a responsibility on the manager to do everything they can in terms of:

  • clarifying the expected performance and attitude for the job
  • agreeing a plan for addressing any gaps – including specific actions, timings, and how both will know that the gap has been addressed
  • providing appropriate training and coaching
  • documenting all of the above and keeping HR informed

Again, see the principles below if none of the above is effective.

Organisational reasons or changes mean there is no longer a good fit for the individual.

Again, open and honest discussion is key to the situation.  The individual may choose to leave.  If not, the next section kicks in.

Sometimes, a combination of reasons might be involved.  I once had a direct report whose underperformance was actually caused by her no longer wanting to do the work.  We were able to have a conversation where she chose to disclose this, and I was able to support her in finding a better fit for her outside of the organisation.

SOme principles for Firing with humanity

Peterson’s (2020) steps for firing reflect some important principles, which I’ve summarised here:

1. Avoid making the firing discussion a surprise (hence my suggestions above on being clear about the reasons, and exploring options for avoiding firing ahead of time)

2. Avoid making any special cases – areas of risk for this are friends and family.  Making these exceptions will not help the individual or the organisation in the long run.

3. Practice what you are going to say ahead of time (maybe with someone in HR or a colleague) and prepare your mindset so that you can exercise the following principles

4. Treat the individual with dignity and respect (see the SCARF model earlier).  There is a place for everyone in work and society, and you have a responsibility to communicate your awareness of that.

5. Show empathy and compassion but without entering into the emotions involved. To do so would not be helpful, could be seen as patronising, and might unnecessarily prolong the discussion.

6. Keep your message clear and short – to give the individual time to take it in and process it.

7. Offer an opportunity for a follow-up discussion to support the individual in working out their next steps.  This may include keeping the individual in your professional network.

8. Be as generous as possible with the severance package – see suggestions in the illustration

CONClusion

Firing someone is not easy, but not to do so can be harmful to both the individual, and the organisation.

Hopefully the reflections above will help managers to do so in a way that creates positive outcomes for all concerned.

Referring to the SCARF model might also help all concerned to better understand the emotions that might be involved.

Notes

References

Peterson, J. (2020) Firing with compassion, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2020: 135-139

Rock, D. (2008) SCARF: A brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, NeuroLeadership Journal, 1: 1-9

Rogers, J. (2016) Coaching Skills. The definitive guide to being a coach. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill, Open University Press.

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Being at choice – choosing how we respond to situations


By Elisabeth Goodman, 19th February 2020

I have just come back from the second of three modules for my Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching.  One of our pieces of homework is to practice writing in a critically reflective style.  I thought a great way to do so would be choose one of the course topics as the subject for this blog!

Being at choice – choosing how we think, feel and respond to situations

“Being at choice” is a phrase that one of our tutors, Linda Marshall, used with us to remind us of the ‘Mercedes’ model (Barefoot Coaching, 2019).  This model describes the relationship between our:

  • internal state – sensations and feelings
  • internal processing – inner dialogue, thoughts and beliefs
  • external behaviour – what we do and how it’s demonstrated in our posture, facial expressions and language
Mercedes model of feeling thinking and doing

How our feeling, thinking and doing are interrelated. Based on Barefoot Coaching Ltd, 2019

Day seven of the course focused on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), an area of knowledge that I previously explored in my NLP Practitioner accreditation in 2014 (Goodman, 2014). I found the day fascinating both as a refresher of what I had previously learnt, and in the new insights that it brought for applying this approach in my coaching practice.

One of the premises of NLP is that any automatically triggered response to a situation has been programmed in us through how we experienced previous events in our lives. We are often most aware of such negative responses as anxiety or insecurity (both of which I have been experiencing at various stages during the course!).

We can in effect re-programme ourselves to respond in a way that we would choose to do, and generally increase our resourcefulness for future events.  This is what Linda Marshall described as “being at choice”.

The NLP Circle of Excellence is one one of the tools that we experimented with for achieving this.

The NLP Circle of Excellence

The Circle of Excellence was developed by John Grinder and Judith DeLozier and is described in the online NLP University Encyclopedia.

NLP Circle of excellence - illustration by Sabrine Francis

NLP Circle of excellence – illustration by Sabrina Francis, Barefoot Coaching, 2020

During coaching, the person being coached (a bit awkwardly referred to as the ‘coachee’*) visualises a virtual circle on the floor, and steps into it to create a powerful representation of a new response that they would like to ‘anchor’ within themselves.

(*I like Myles Downey (2014) alternative use of the word ‘player’.  For practicality I tend to refer to the ‘client’ in my coaching practice.)

It works on the premise that our embedded automatic responses will often have been triggered earlier in our lives by a combination of authority, emotion, and our state of ‘suggestibility’. The figure of authority could have been a parent, a teacher, or even a friend that we were strongly influenced by. 

So any re-programming of our responses may be more effective if some new emotion is engendered, and if it is facilitated by someone that we trust.  

The coach is effectively the figure of authority and it was humbling, when it was my turn to coach, to witness the level of emotion engendered as my ‘coachee’ accessed the emotions associated with their new resourceful state. I could see, hear and feel something of the new state that they were experiencing and anchoring within themselves for the future.

We were a bit short of time when it came to my turn to be coached and to step into the circle.  I found the new resourceful state – which was to do with having a sense of fun to take into my training courses – easier to access, visualise and internalise.  This may be because I had a very vivid previous experience to access and build upon.  I like to think that it may also be that all the coaching I have received on the course has heightened my emotional awareness and somehow made me more ‘elastic’.  At any rate, I now have a virtual parrot, complete with sound effects and an internal giggle to accompany me when I deliver a training course.  Hopefully this will translate into a positive experience for my delegates!

Conclusion

Being ‘at choice’ in how we feel, think and respond to situations is a very powerful skill.

There are various techniques that coaches can help us with to understand how we are experiencing and responding to situations, and to ‘re-programme’ ourselves to respond in the way that we would prefer to do.

It may be that, the more we practice this level of awareness and conscious choice, the more ‘elastic’ and resourceful we can become.

As ever, I am curious to hear of others’ experience in response to this blog.

Notes

References

Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019). Course manual for Cohort 57 of the Postgraduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching.

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Goodman, E. (2014) https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/exploring-nlp-for-enhancing-team-effectiveness/ (accessed 19th February 2020)

NLP University Encyclopedia http://nlpuniversitypress.com/html/CaCom30.html (accessed 19th February 2020)

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Keeping our personal values in mind in the workplace


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th February 2020

I am finding some great intersections between my regular reading of Harvard Business Review and my new reading as part of my development as a coach.

This blog explores how congruence between our personal values and those of the organisation for which we work can influence how we feel about our work. It relates to Myles Downey’s writing (2014) and Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith’s article in the January – February issue of HBR (2020).

Congruence between the inner and outer worlds of individuals and organisations

Downey builds on the work of Tim Gallwey (1974) to develop a model of individuals’ and organisations’ inner and outer worlds as shown in this illustration.

Values at work - illustration adapted from Myles Downey (2014)

Values at work – illustration adapted from Myles Downey (2014)

As my adaptation of Downey’s illustration shows, values are a key component of the inner world of individuals, and of organisations. These values are, in turn, reflected in how an individual behaves, and in how an organisation articulates its goals and assesses the performance of individuals.

It follows that, if there is not a good match (or congruence) between the four quadrants, then:

  • Either the organisation will not be satisfied with an individual’s performance
  • Or the individual will not be happy in their place of work

The values that might have the greatest influence on these dynamics are those associated with the ethics of the organisation, or in how they play out as individual morals. Kouchaki and Smith refer to these as “eulogy virtues”.

Eulogy virtues

Eulogy virtues, as the name implies, are the ones by which we would like others to remember us after we’ve died. So they may relate, for example, to our kindness, our generosity or our honesty. In an organisation they would translate to how we would expect peers and managers to behave towards each other, and towards their customers.

Kouchaki and Smith’s article has some useful guidance on how we could help ourselves keep to our chosen values for instance by:

  • Anticipating situations where they might be compromised and how we would behave in those situations
  • Sharing our values with others who could hold us accountable for our behaviour
  • Thinking about how we would feel if our behaviour was publicised (if we did not adhere to our values)
  • Considering ourselves as role models to others

Identifying and relating personal and organisational values

Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019) has a beautiful set of cards covering 50 potential values.

Barefoot Coaching Values Cards

A snapshot of Barefoot Coaching’s values cards (Barefoot Coaching Ltd, 2019)

These and other values-related tools can be used to stimulate reflection and discussion with individuals, in teams, and in organisations.

A previous HBR article by Patrick Lencioni (2002) has some excellent tips for defining company values – an approach that I have facilitated in team building events as part of my work with RiverRhee.

Lencioni suggests that company values typically relate to three areas:

  1. What makes your company unique
  2. Employee qualities and interactions
  3. Customer service

Examples of questions that individuals could ask themselves when developing or reflecting on their company values include:

  • Why do I enjoy working at my company?
  • What unspoken values have contributed to our success so far?
  • How could each person in the organisation integrate their company’s values into their day-to-day work?
  • How will we know that people are practising the values

Conclusion

Values are an important component of our inner lives.  They affect how we approach and feel about our lives at work as well as at home.  We can gain some valuable insights from the authors mentioned above about how we can shape and influence organisational values to achieve maximum congruence with our own and others’ personal values.

Notes

References:

Barefoot Coaching Ltd (2019). Values coaching cards.

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Gallwey, W.T. (1974).  The inner game of  tennis.  New Yort: Random House.

Lencioni, P.M. (2002).  Make your values mean something.  Harvard Business Review

Kouchaki, M. & Smith, I.H. (2020) Building an ethical career. Harvard Business Review, January-February, 15 – 139

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching skills and practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the ICF (International Coach Federation) and of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

The manager as coach: leadership, management and coaching


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th February 2020

We had a question during our recent RiverRhee Introduction to Management course about the relevance of learning about leadership skills as part of a management course. (We do have a follow-on Transition to Leadership course.) We believe that the visionary aspects of leadership are valuable ones for managers to bear in mind, albeit their focus might be more on the operational side of things.

I have, coincidentally, just come across a connection with this topic as part of my reading on coaching skills (Downey, 2014).

Leadership_management_coaching per Myles Downey

Adapted from Myles Downey’s illustration (Downey, 2014)

Myles Downey asserts that a manager can usefully draw on skills from all three areas: leadership, management and coaching, depending on the situation and the individual involved.

(This is a slightly different take on Hersey and Blanchard’s ‘situational leadership’ model (Hersey and Blanchard, 2013))

exercising leadership vs management vs coaching in a management role

Referring to my version of Downey’s illustration above, a manager can make good use of their leadership skills to inspire the members of their team.  They can articulate and role-model the organisation’s vision and values.

They can use their management skills to clarify purpose, roles and responsibilities, to define measures for performance and to foster continuous process improvement.

And they can use their coaching skills to assist with the on-the-job and career development of the individuals reporting to them by:

  • providing feedback on their performance
  • listening to understand and asking open questions to stimulate further thinking
  • supporting (rather than automatically advising) them so that they can find their own answers and solutions

An Individual’s authority over their destiny

I remember feeling ‘liberated’ in my last months as an employee to be totally myself, and more in control of my destiny than I had ever been. I did not worry unduly about needing to respect hierarchy and the boundaries between departments, so much as looking for opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and ideas, and be of value. How different would my life at work have been if I had adopted more of this kind of attitude throughout my career?

Myles Downey suggests that, whilst an organisation (and a manager) have authority about what work an employee needs to do, the employee could have authority about how they do their work.  It’s something that is often referred to as ’empowerment’, and as something that is in the gift of managers to give to their direct reports; or that individuals should somehow take the initiative to acquire.  Wouldn’t it be better if we just assumed that this is the way we work?

Downey also suggests that an individual could think more in terms of whether an organisation will be a good fit for them before they join. They could ask themselves: “does the organisation have the kinds of purpose, values and ways of working that I can relate to?”.

Similarly, he suggests that an organisation, when recruiting new employees, could consider whether the individual’s aspirations, values and approach, as well as their technical skills are a good fit.

Conclusion

Underpinning all of the above is the necessity for a good relationship between managers and their direct reports.  Such a relationship would be founded on mutual respect, trust, open communication, honesty.  Building this relationship is in the gift of both the manager and the individual.

Notes

References:

Downey, M, (2014). Effective modern coaching. London: LID Publishing.

Hersey and Blanchard, (2013). https://www.selfawareness.org.uk/news/situational-leadership-and-developing-great-teams (Accessed 3rd February 2020.)

Other notes:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management and ‘soft’ skills, especially associated with change, and with Neurodiversity.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Working in “far flung” or global teams – revisited


By Elisabeth Goodman, 13th January 2020

Working in geographically dispersed teams is a challenge for line and project managers

The issue of how to best to manage geographically dispersed, remote or virtual teams was a hot topic at our recent Introduction to Management course.

It seems that all the challenges of how to properly support, involve and engage team members become even more acute if you are not able to see and work with people on a day-to-day basis.

A few years ago, I facilitated a seminar for the APM (Association for Project Management) on “Working in far flung teams” (You can read my write-up of it here: https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/working-in-far-flung-teams-notes-from-an-apm-east-of-england-apmeoe-event/).

I included an illustration inspired by the HBR article “10 Rules for managing global innovation” (October 2012) which I updated for our Introduction to Management course.

Good practices for virtual team

Key points from an HBR article from October 2012, as shared at a 2013 APM meeting and in RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management course

Global teams bring cultural challenges too

The Winter issue of Project (the APM’s journal) carries a very good article by Alexander Garrett on this same topic, entitled “Working beyond borders”.  The article has some great tips on avoiding “cultural gaffes” and “unconscious expectations”.

As the author points out, behavioural norms can differ significantly from one country to another.  They can affect expectations for how people participate in team meetings in such ways as:

  • How much material should be prepared for review and reflection in advance vs. more open-ended approaches to discussion
  • How much people put themselves forward and are comfortable about expressing their ideas and opinions vs. waiting to be asked or preferring to do so in private
  • How comfortable people are about making decisions without consulting others outside the meeting

Global team meetings are generally conducted by phone or video conferences which bring added challenges, assuming the technology is working correctly, for:

  • Ensuring that everyone is engaged
  • Picking up cues for when people want to say something
  • Interpreting tone and body language and any associated emotions

Additional tips to bear in mind

So the additional tips from this latest article include:

  • Learn as much as you can about the cultural norms for the countries that your team members come from
  • Take time to build an understanding of each team member on a one-to-one basis (they won’t necessarily conform to their country’s norms)
  • Establish team working practices that will optimise the ability of each member of the team to fully participate outside and within team meetings, such as:
    • Varying meeting times to fit in with different time zones
    • Agreeing norms to ensure everyone can have their say during meetings
  • Make these as explicit as necessary – either individually, or with the team as a whole.
  • Find other ways to facilitate informal communication if face-to-face meetings are really not an option.  The author suggests Google Hangouts or Slack and the use of emojis.

Conclusion

There’s a very apt closing comment to the Project article:

“Only when you understand your team members as individuals, create the structure to facilitate communication and decision-making, and build a genuine sense of team spirit will you be ready to surmount the challenges ahead.”

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

Listening, self-expression, flexibility – three keys to effective interaction with others


By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th January 2020

Quote from: Francesca Gino’s “Cracking the code of sustained collaboration”, Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 2019, p.72-81

As we begin a new year, and a new decade, finding ways that we can get on better  with each other at work, in our families, and in all spheres of life has got to be a good thing!

Francesca Gino’s article with her great tips for effective collaboration came out just at the end of last year.  For me they come down to three key concepts:

  1. Listen to really understand the other person’s perspective
  2. Clearly express your own needs and intentions to help others understand what they are
  3. Be prepared to be flexible and adapt to achieve an outcome that works as well as possible for others as well as yourself

Listen to really understand the other person’s perspective

As Francesca Gino points out, there is a lot of emphasis in academia and in business on being able to talk: to make a good impression, to get our points across in meetings, to give effective presentations.

But listening is what makes all the difference to having effective discussions with others.  If we take the time to listen, ask open questions, allow the other person the space and time for reflection, we will better understand their perspective.  The quality of discussion will be some much better.

We can learn to listen empathetically: picking up on their tone and body language for underlying emotions, and communicating our understanding of the other’s perspective and situation.  (This is different from sympathy – we are not required to enter into the same emotional state!)

clearly express your own needs and intentions

A lot of tension, misunderstanding and conflict comes from not wanting to say what we really think or feel. Or we expect others to guess what might be going on with us and then get frustrated or annoyed when they don’t.

So we can develop our skills in expressing what we think and feel, and what outcomes we want, in a way that is respectful of the other person.

Likewise, we can learn to provide feedback, positive and constructive, in a way that is objective, specific and focuses on the other person’s behaviour rather than their personality.

be prepared to be flexible and adapt..

This is all about seeking ‘win-win’ outcomes as opposed to being in a competitive mindset.

We can work on the basis that the other person’s ideas and perspectives will always have some value, and we can look at ways of building on them.

Saying ‘and’ rather than ‘but’ is a very simple although sometimes surprisingly difficult small step towards this mindset.

Francesca Gina also suggests that leaders and managers can learn to follow as well as to lead as another way to cultivate flexibility.  This requires humility for instance in recognising that others might sometimes have better information or insights for making decisions. It also requires trust for instance in being able to delegate rather than seeking to keep control.

conclusion

This is, for me, an excellent collection of tips that leaders and managers can explore as they develop their own, and their team members’ skills in 2020 and beyond.

The tips resonate well with the coaching skills that we share on RiverRhee’s management and leadership courses, and with previous blogs on dealing with difficult situations, people and conflict.

See for example:

Conflict is the “lifeblood of high performing organisations”

Re-building working relationships with emotional intelligence

The manager as coach: creating an environment that is conducive to thinking

What to do when the difficult person is your boss?

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.