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leader

When we seek reviews and feedback on our performance and productivity it can feel like we are leaving ourselves open to whatever comes our way. It can make anyone nervous. We work hard and we strive to achieve goals. We want to be recognised for our hard work, but we often forget that feedback isn’t just about praise. We need to remember that feedback is a stepping stone. To lead us towards our future because we need direction, counselling and encouragement to grow.

Personally I am not one who likes to be told what I can improve on. I find it hard emotionally and I don’t think that I am the only one. When constructive feedback is given it can lead to any of the following reactions:

• Self-defeat
• Lack of motivation
• Defensive/Argumentative Behaviour – ‘It isn’t my fault, these other factors got in the way…
• Low Morale
• Stress or Anxiety

Luckily, as I have gained more experience at receiving feedback, I am now more aware that the initial feeling is only temporary. In the long term I gain so much more from valuable feedback. This is what I have learned from my experience:

The value in seeing another perspective

Sometimes I can be so focused on a task that it can be hard for me to broaden my mindset and approach it in a different way. I find it valuable to seek feedback, if I am struggling to reach my desired outcome I can gain alternate ways to find a solution. Asking for feedback is NOT a weakness!

We all have different talents and areas of expertise, so if you are asked to approach a task in a different way don’t take it to mean ‘your way isn’t good enough’. Take it as an opportunity to challenge yourself to try something new.  In turn, you can provide feedback on whether or not it worked for you.

Setbacks don’t mean you have failed, it just means you’re not there yet

For example, you may have been in a role for a while and want the opportunity for a promotion. You go through the whole process of presenting it to management feeling 100% confident to only find the feedback to be ‘We don’t have anything suitable for you to step up into at this time.’ You may also be told that you require more training before moving ahead into a role of greater responsibility.

Remember, this does not mean that you have failed. Be aware of your workplace environment. If your manager turns down the opportunity at that time, ask for some specific feedback on why and then ask if you can approach the conversation at a later time. There could be structural changes, budget cuts and a variety of other issues that you are not aware of that could be influencing that decision. It doesn’t mean another door will not open later on.

Don’t dwell on what you can’t control and focus on what you can 

As addressed previously I can find it difficult to accept constructive feedback. I can take it personally. Based on experience I can only recommend that you do not dwell on the feedback as a negative and have it replay in your head again and again as a sense of defeat. This will only increase stress levels and anxiety and further distract your productivity levels.

It is important to ask the person providing feedback for specific examples, show accountability for any issues (after all, any role of leadership requires someone to take responsibility), and brainstorm solutions for the future.

Any great leader will have a story about something they didn’t succeed at. It’s human nature to make mistakes. But it is what we do once we are made aware of this that will define our future endeavors.

Lastly, make sure you request feedback on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be a one off request. We are constantly learning new skills, approaches to work and experience. Not to mention the more experience we gain through feedback, the more confident we will become to pass on our feedback and experience to others.

What feedback have you received that has lead you to where you are today? What did you learn from the experience?

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Personally speaking, having worked four metres away from my manager for the last eleven years has meant that she has little choice but to care about what I think, because I certainly tell her! A lot. About everything. Like recipes, movies, novels … and work-related issues, too. Sometimes. The other day I started to talk to her about a family member and promptly burst into tears. Very professional … 

Being physically the closest team member to her also means that I am usually, alas, the first to hear uttered those dread words: “I’ve been thinking …” 

I was really heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response to our latest online poll: Does your manager really care what you think, and is their door really ‘open’? Almost 92% of respondents said “YES”. 

If you’re a manager reading this, you might like to refer to the article featured in this week’s edition of The Challenge Consulting News, Articulate and Inspiring Managers Motivate Employees, in which the report cited states that “nearly half of Australian employees (48%) rate the ability to motivate and inspire as the single most important attribute of a successful leader … Often executives and managers do not realise the profound effect their words and actions have on their employees … Leaders who are able to effectively communicate their organisation’s strategic direction can have a massive influence on employee engagement levels.” 

Two poll respondents had some very striking feedback regarding the open style of their management team:

– “I feel confident speaking on everyone’s behalf by saying that no one team member feels intimidated or out of place by wandering (or Moonwalking) in to her office to discuss anything. Big, small, personal or business.”

– “Our managers have a ‘Know Your People’ workbook. My manager knows that I love pugs and chocolate. Likewise, I know she hates dirty shoes but loves rom-coms and Max Brenner’s hot chocolates.” 

Lots of studies have been conducted on why people stay with and leave companies. A quality that organisations who do manage to retain employees seem to share is really caring about the wellbeing of their employees. From the top of the company structure all the way down, there is a genuine sense of caring, listening, involvement. Employee engagement is strong, retention is high, productivity is excellent and people get along. 

The other quality these organisation seem to share is that they are careful about who they hire to lead employees.

They understand that the managers have to be compassionate, caring, and nurturing while still having the ability to hold employees responsible for high levels of performance. These managers aren’t afraid of developing relationships with employees. Those relationships sustain employee satisfaction even when difficult issues have to be addressed. 

Think about it. Are you more likely to give your best to a manager and an organisation who just wants to extract as much out of you as possible in the short-term, or one who invests in your professional development, allows you to grow into your role, and gives you time to learn so you can perform at your best and give your all?

This week’s online poll is now LIVE and wonders: Where do you go first when you’re looking for a job?

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Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …______________________________

So, you’re a company. 

You want the best people to work for you. Really talented people, unique even, with experience and skills and personalities that will bring even greater success to you. 

But why on earth would they want to work for you? 

Do you know why? Can you articulate it? Does your company have a strong brand, an attractive brand? Do people perceive you as a leader in your industry? Are your existing teams filled with people who actively share their skills and knowledge and expertise for the betterment of the whole? 

Understanding a candidate’s expectations of your company and its culture is critical from the very start. If a disconnect exists between a candidate’s expectations and the reality of the situation, it can quickly lead to problems with engagement, performance, and business productivity. The candidate needs to know what is expected of them as well as feel a sense of strong company culture that is not only clear but inviting. 

So, how do you go about building and leveraging a positive talent brand? 

Brands are a powerful combination of symbols, messages and beliefs about a product or employer. You need to think about your potential candidates like a marketer would think about their potential customers. Take a look at the current advertising your company conducts. How does it come across? What are the key messages being put out? Who are you trying to attract? 

The objectives that a good brand will achieve include:

– Delivering the message clearly

– Confirming your credibility

– Connecting with your target prospects emotionally

– Motivating the buyer

– Concreting loyalty

In terms of attracting the best performing people to work for your company, your branding is about getting them to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem, ie, working for an exceptional company, and industry leader, that satisfies their professional needs and provides an arena in which they can contribute their skills and talents, make an impact, and continue to learn and grow. 

To succeed in branding you must understand the needs and wants of your customers and prospects. As the thrust of this blog entry is about attracting high performing candidates to your company, our most recent online poll asked: “High Performance Employees: what is the #1 thing your organisation offers to attract them that works?” 

The results were:

#1 – Providing opportunities for continued learning, both formal and informal – 25.0%

#2 – Having a confidence-inspiring company “brand” that ensures high-performing people want to work for you – 16.6%

– Providing a leadership and mentoring program – 16.6%

– Paying above-market rate salaries – 8.3%

– Having a defined career progression plan in place – 6.2%

– Being decisive and quick to make job offers so the high performers don’t go elsewhere – 4.1% 

It is interesting that money was fourth in our respondents’ list of priorities. Perhaps this reflects the fact that it is a given that high performing people will be appropriately compensated for their contributions and competencies anyway, and that exceptional people are seeking more than just monetary reward? 

Clearly working somewhere that has a gold-standard reputation as a top employer is very important, but a culture of continued learning is number one in people’s list of priorities when seeking employment opportunities, something for all organisations to bear in mind when formulating brand strategies and during recruitment exercises. 

This week’s Challenge Consulting News features two articles on this topic – for your free subscription, click here

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This week’s blog post is by guest blogger Narelle Hess.

“The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’” Lao Tzu

 I recently attended the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA)’s leadership forum in Canberra for current and emerging leaders. During the course of the forum we examined the characteristics of leaders that had influenced our career. Our latest online poll ranked these characteristics very similarly to our group at the forum:

#1 = Empathetic, engaging and empowering of people – 38%

– Honest, clear and transparent communication – 31%

– Intelligent, confident decision-making – 13%

– Forward-thinking, proactive, innovative style – 10%

– Dynamic, charismatic, confident demeanour – 8%

So what does “empowering of people” actually mean?

During the leadership forum we had the pleasure of watching Benjamin Zander’s video ‘the art of possibility’* where, on leadership, Benjamin noted that after 20 years of being a world-class conductor of an orchestra he realised he is the only the person in the orchestra who doesn’t make a sound – his power depends on his ability to make other people powerful.

During the course of the forum, I was struck by a reflection by one of the participants which demonstrated her empowerment – “I never knew I could be a leader until I was invited to this forum”. Empowerment is about helping individuals realise a potential they didn’t even know was possible.

Once empowered, individuals need honest, clear, and transparent communication. Employee’s capabilities often live up to a supervisor’s expectations. But did you know that this has more to do with a Supervisor’s behaviour based on these expectations, rather than an employee’s actual capabilities? When a supervisor has high expectations they are more likely to assign difficult and specific goals to employees and also provide these employees with more learning opportunities, which results in employees being more engaged in the learning opportunities and improved performance accordingly**. What expectations of performance are you communicating to your team members, what self-fulfilling prophecy are you creating? Benjamin Zander began the term by assigning each class member an A, rather than a standard to live up to, the ‘A’ became a possibility to live into.

I have had the very good fortune of working with leaders that both empower and lead me with expectations of success. How do you ensure you are a leader who empowers – making other people powerful with expectations of success?

* Zander, B. (2009). Classical music with shining eyes. Retrieved July 25, 2010, from www.ted.com/index.php/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html

 ** Bezuijen, X.M., van den Berg, P.T., van Dam, K. & Thierry, H. (2009).Pygmalion and employee learning: The role of leader behaviors. Journal of Management, 35, 1248-1267.