Want to Increase Your Self-Awareness? Ask for Feedback.

In our earlier articles this month, the focus has been on ways to increase self-awareness through considering how your ways of thinking and responding to situations aligns with the big picture of who you are at your best, as defined by your identified values and principles and who you are in the activities of each day, a.k.a your big and little “who”. However, as Tasha Eurich, an executive coach and organizational psychologist reminds us in her book, Insight: Why We Are Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life (2017), “To be truly self-aware, we must also build on that to understand our impact: that is, how our behavior affects others.”

How does your behavior affect others? In many places, organizations turn to the 360 Assessment to compare how you see you to how others see you. One challenge with this is when it happens in a confidential manner, without revealing who is providing the feedback. We believe that feedback is critical and is best provided in open conversations where others give honest feedback, with the desire to support the person asking, in order to advance and enrich performance.

Here are four easy steps for getting feedback on how your behaviors are affecting others.

  1. Ask for feedback. You don’t have to go out and ask every person you work with to give you feedback. Rather, solicit feedback from 3 to 5 (or more) people who have your best interest at heart, have a good understanding of your current behaviors, and will be completely honest with you because they want to see you continue to grow and develop. And, if you’re wondering why three to five people, consider what Tasha Eurich in Insight (2017) says. “Feedback from one person is a perspective; feedback from two people is a pattern; but feedback from three or more people is likely to be as close to a fact as you can get.” So, let’s gather some facts. And all you have to do with the facts is think about them, not necessarily act on them. Which takes us to point #2.
  2. Set the stage and be ready to receive, reflect and respond to the feedback given. Begin with some information about your honest desire to continue to grow as a leader. Share some of your personal successes and one or two areas that are currently offering you challenges. Tell those participating that you are asking for their feedback, because you believe that they will be honest with you and because you know that they have your best interest at heart.
  3. Ask three questions and give people time to think before they respond. Ask for specifics and remember that it’s best to focus on a few things at a time, rather than asking for feedback on everything you do at work.
    1. What am I currently doing that demonstrates my skills as a leader?
    2. What are examples of growth that you observed in me since we began working together?
    3. What is one thing, if I did it at an improved level, that would have a positive impact on my work and my performance?

    As people share, remember to listen with the intent to understand. Take notes. There is no need to defend yourself, or to interrupt as they are talking. Just presume positive intent on the part of each person giving feedback and stay neutral as you gather the feedback.

  4. Thank the participants and share how the feedback has been helpful. Share some first steps that you plan to take. If you are not ready to share specific steps, be sure to get back to the individuals at a later time to share how you are using the feedback.

Gathering feedback from others on an ongoing basis indicates your complete desire to increase your levels of self-awareness as does your ongoing reflections about your big and little “who”. And, remember what Emerson said, “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

Ways to Blab Less

Summer Reading Connections – Part III

The last author, Dan, from Saturday Solutions offered a catchy title: Clarity without Blabbing. It caught my eye for the very reason that a reflective leader was working on self-assessment and decided he wanted to blab less and so he wrote Dan requesting some strategies. He was very wise in recognizing that he had a great team and that his over communicating must be very frustrating. The column author, Dan, responded with some very insightful information. What follows is an authentic response to what may seem humorous, and yet very important for a very unproductive pattern of communication.

First, Dan commended the leader for being self-aware and desiring to explore the power of piping down. Then he offered three reasons leaders become blabbers.

  1. Position, authority, and responsibility loosen lips. The person with the highest job title usually talks the most.
  2. Concern about unnecessary mistakes makes leaders jaw-flappers. It feels safer to say too much than too little. Talkative leaders are protecting people from wasting time and resources.
  3. Experience with people who nod in agreement, even when they’re confused, invites windy leaders to talk more.

As we read the above, no doubt a person or two may come to mind – even ourselves. Ouch!

And here are the recommendations made for us – “sometime blabbers.” 😊

1 – Set a positive goal: (for example) “I will be an effective concise communicator, not simply talking less. I will seek clarity and brevity.”

2 – Prepare: Leaders with the gift of gab need to prepare more than quiet introverts. It takes more preparation to speak effectively for a short time than for a long time.

  • With a project in mind, make a complete list of every topic you want to address.
  • Rank the items on your list in order of importance. Which items could be eliminated or combined? Start with big stuff.
  • Craft one or two sentences for each important item. Don’t begin with ad

3 – Leverage Relationships:

  • Include others in your development. Be transparent with your goal. It will set an example and strengthen connections.
    • Ask team members, “What suggestions do you have that might help me communicate with brevity and clarity?”
      • Explain the goal
      • Ask for suggestions
      • Dig into their ideas
      • Put one idea into practice during the next meeting.
    • Give a project to your team members. Explain your goal. Ask them to give you a knowing nod when they feel you’ve provided enough clarity. If you want to have fun, let them create the signal to you.
    • Seek feedback from team members regularly. (especially after meetings). Ask three questions:
      • What did I do that provided enough clarity?
      • What was I doing when I talked too long?
      • How might I communicate with brevity and clarity?

What a cool way for a leader to model self-awareness and self-assessment. Great leaders know that talking too long invites confusion, not clarity. Another reminder of how important it is to be authentic and always desire to “be” our best self.

We Did It! – Measuring Impact

Congratulations! This month’s three-part focus has been on celebrating the impact of coaching from one district’s perspective. Now, we will celebrate one school’s success in a year’s time.

Jackson Middle School is a technology magnet school in Garland ISD. In 2014, the school was struggling with Index 2 on the state accountability system. This index is the Student Growth index and Jackson was at 29; one point from the minimum of 28. While other accountability indexes were okay, the team knew that Index 2 was a predictor for future problems in the other indexes if no action was taken.

In a data analysis session, the team realized that honor students were not growing; thus finding themselves at a critical disadvantage when compared with students in other schools. By the next testing year (2015), Jackson’s Index 2 went from 29 to 38 which was one of the highest in the district among middle schools. Jackson staff and students had reversed the trend and were showing the greatest growth among the district Middle Schools. In Math alone, students went from 44% to 82% meeting or exceeding expectations. In addition, Index 1 went from 79 to 82, Index 3 from 42 to 50, and Index 4 from 51 to 59.

According to David Dunphy, Jackson Principal, “There were a lot of factors that resulted in our improvement. We did intensive interventions and ensured all of our students had a 30 minute intervention/growth period, instituted the “Jackson Essential 6” – strategies and practices that all teachers were expected to implement, and initiated the coaching model with our core teaching staff.” For 2014, Jackson’s Essential 6 were Framing the Lesson, Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk, Recognition and Reinforcement, Critical Writing, Philosophical Chairs, Socratic Seminar.

There was also an effort to separate coaching from evaluation; a concept from Bambrick-Santoyo’s Leverage Leadership. All core teachers were coached by the three administrators and the two counselors on our campus. Mr. Dunphy received the Results Coaching training in the summer of 2014 after which he requested his Assistant Principals and counselors attend the training as the school year started.

These five members of the leadership team then divided up the core tested subject area teachers and established coaching relationships with them. This included all math teachers, all reading teachers, 7th grade English, 8th grade science, and 8th grade social studies teachers. Each leader had about 5 teachers they coached each week. The coaching model was implemented with observations and coaching conversations held each week as much as possible. The administrators were careful to coach only those teachers they did not appraise with the official evaluation system (PDAS). This ensured trust was built so teachers could be vulnerable and really work on their craft without worry that it would be reflected in their appraisal.

There was emphasis on and statistics kept on the Jackson essential 6 strategies with the teachers, especially when they were at a loss for what to be coached on. For the most part, teachers were able to articulate their area for coaching each week. Some stayed with the same topic as they were improving and others went from one area to another as they saw growth and accomplishment. Videotaping of the observations and coaching sessions were also used to help the coaches improve their own coaching.

The Administrative team including the Area Director held standing meetings every Thursday where they followed a protocol for holding themselves accountable for progress. Each week’s Agenda included:

  • Reporting on the previous week’s commitments
  • Updating the Scoreboard to ensure sustained progress toward the established goals
  • Creating the next step in the plan – to clear the path for new commitments
  • Practicing coaching in a coaching lab format to review and offer feedback on a coaching video. Responsibility for the video rotated each week and was available to the team for preparation on Tuesday before meeting on Thursday.

So, that brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this month’s series. “Does coaching make a difference?” Well, as you know from our seminars, that is a “yes/no” question that does not presume positive intent. Instead, we ask, “In what ways is coaching making a difference where you work?”

How are you measuring your impact with coaching? Stop, reflect, and celebrate your success. And, as a footnote, share your successes with us!  (*_*)

“Thanks, My Instructional Targets are Crystal Clear” – Clearly Articulated Standards and Expectations

Earlier this month we shared how a change in mindset from “gotcha” to growth, along with reflective feedback that’s focused on what’s working, can change the results one gets. This conversation is about how adding clear standards and expectations can magnify the impact of coaching. This continues one district’s story . . .

In Garland ISD in Texas, Area 3 set out to define a set of instructional targets so that it was clear what was expected in the teaching and learning cycle. Teacher focus groups were formed to create a framework or rubric of what observers would “see” when looking for the key strategies in instructional rounds – what teachers would be saying and doing AND what students would be saying and doing. Descriptors were developed along a continuum from beginning to developing to ideal with a spotlight on any “missed opportunities”.

I know the BIG question in your mind is, “What were the 5-6 key strategies of focus?” And you know, the magic comes less from naming the strategies to the process used to determine the answer to this question, “What key strategies, if we did them with fidelity and rigor, would give our students the success they deserve?” For Area 3, sample strategies included Fundamental Five, Critical Writing, Power Zone, Recognize and Reinforce, Framing the Lesson, and Frequent Small Group Purposeful Talk. Schools could customize their focus based on student needs so additional strategies may or may not have been included.

While the effort to create clarity was critical to the change process, it was not enough! The real impact appeared when it came time for administrator conversations with teachers, conversations among teachers, and conversations in PLCs about student performance. Without any language of judgment, “missed opportunities” became genuine conversations about how a teacher was working to become better. Using the framework, teachers were clear about where they were and how they wanted to advance to the next level.

Sherri Skelton, our district contact, sees this as direct transfer of the skillset from the training when she says, “It is critical that our leadership is skilled in developing relationships built on trust and respect so that the skills and strategies of coaching become an integral part of each conversation. We continue to hear examples of meaningful coaching conversations that have impacted both teachers and students.”

For this story, evidence that coaching is making a difference includes:

  • A focus on what is expected – explicitly and articulated.
  • A belief that growth will be magnified when teachers are partners in the process of improvement.
  • An understanding that judgment undermines the growth process and that trust and respect support it.
  • A belief that coaching conversations are the way to see deep and lasting change.

What difference are you seeing in your conversations as a result of clearly articulating the standards and expectations?

From “I Don’t Want Your Feedback” to “Please Give Me Feedback” – A Shift in Mindset

Let’s begin with a recent conversation with Jasper ISD Superintendent, Gerald Hudson. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, long after the work day is over and the phone rings. Gerald, who has been in his position less than 6 months, says, “My folks want coaching!” Having known Gerald for many years, I respond with surprise, “Really. You haven’t been in your district that long. What specifically did you do to convince them that they want coaching?”  He says, “Nothing!” I’m surprised again. Then he says, I took them to my “people” in Garland ISD (Gerald’s former district where he served as an Area Director.) AND they sold them on the idea.

So . . . what did they say?

One thing they said was, “In a year’s time, teachers went from being reluctant to receiving feedback to asking their administrators to come into their classrooms to give them feedback.” Well, that’s a switch. To what did they attribute this significant shift in mindset? Several things were noted as contributing to this change – training in the language of coaching, a new appraisal process that focused on a growth mindset, and clear standards and expectations for teaching. Supporting these changes was considerable professional learning for teachers that included them as partners in the improvement process. Springing from the expectations for teaching, teachers set their own improvement goal which was a new element. As a result, this focused the observation and thus the feedback on what the teacher wanted rather than what was missing or absent in the lesson. The language changed from what was wrong to what was “seen” as well as any “missed opportunities” which created curiosity and motivation for possibilities for growth.

This sounds exactly like the feedback we teach – value/value potential statements and reflective questions for possibilities – both generated from the strength of what a teacher is doing well and what he/she wants to do next.

This is just one of the things the Garland people shared with Gerald’s team. In the blog, we’ll hear about what they said about the importance of creating clarity around the standards and expectations for the work.

In summary, here is the evidence-based data that coaching is making a difference.

  • A shift in mindset from compliance to growth.
  • A goal-driven process leading to focused observation and feedback.
  • The intentional language of coaching that looks for strength and what’s working.
  • Presumption that the teacher is a professional who wants to improve and grow. (Status and autonomy of SCARF)

What is the mindset about feedback where you work? How is coaching supporting the change in mindset that you want?

YET—The Magic Word

As we continue to explore our positivity mindset and genuine, authentic, heartfelt positivity, adding the concepts of possibility and potential and the word “yet”, broadens and builds on our own self-talk and the words we offer to others. People often tell us that they have the most difficulty believing in others and offering value statements and questions that presume positive intent when their history with that person leads them to expect less than standards met or exceptional behavior. When we truly believe that people can and will grow and want to contribute, the word “yet” helps us form a positive approach.

  • Self-defeating self-talk: “It’s just impossible to find time in my busy schedule to exercise on a regular basis.”
  • More empowering: “I haven’t found the best way to make regular exercise part of my weekly habit…YET! I will continue searching for something that works for me.”
  • Mental talk regarding others: “She just needs to get her act together. I am tired of the same old unwillingness to make the changes required to meet our goals.”
  • More empowering: “She hasn’t YET realized the importance of making the changes. Or maybe she really doesn’t understand how important her actions are in making them happen. Perhaps I can coach her toward deeper understanding and positive movement if I truly believe she is capable and willing and just hasn’t found a way to begin…YET.”

The word “yet” holds potential for future change as well as movement toward the desired result. It is deeply connected to the positive emotion of hope, which is sparked within the moments when despair is most likely. It contains the belief that things can and will change. It sustains us when circumstances are dire. Hope energizes us to do as much as we can to make life good for ourselves and for others.

As is often quoted, “Hope is not a strategy.” Hope IS the emotion that pulls us out of the mire into a place of developing strategies and designing actions to move us forward. Hope lifts us out of our past, our negative presuppositions and toward resourcefulness. Hope energizes us to continue forward movement.

  • How will you reframe your own negative self-talk by adding the magic word, YET?
  • How will you reframe your lack of belief in someone based on past behavior by adding the magic word, YET?
  • What is one thing you will commit to take action on that you haven’t done YET?

Positivity: Don’t Just Put a Happy Face On It

The concept of positivity has nothing to do with putting a happy face on something! This seems a bit counterintuitive, as we hear messages through songs, poetry, literature and other popular culture venues that encourage such behavior. Simply putting a happy face on something is a way of temporarily dealing with sadness or disappointment or even masking a deeper emotion or truth.

If positivity isn’t putting a happy face on something, then what is it?

Positivity has to do with a mindset that is pervasive. Positivity has long-lasting benefits that permeate day-to-day thinking and behaviors. It is a way of broadening one’s mindset. “Because open mindsets produce exploration and experiential learning, they also produce more accurate mental maps of the world.” (Fredrickson, 2009) Now there’s a concept to consider! Fredrickson claims that negativity and neutrality hold us back, constraining our knowledge and therefore our experience of the world. Heartfelt positivity has the power to contribute to moving one to higher levels of mental complexity—the self-transforming mind–open, flexible and curious.

Fredrickson describes 10 positive emotions that are present most frequently in people’s day-to-day lives. These are:

Joy: Things are going your way or even better than expected. Little effort on your part is required.

Gratitude: Gratitude comes when we appreciate something that has come our way as a gift to be treasured. It opens your heart and carries the urge to give back.

Serenity: Like joy, it requires little effort on your part. It is more low-key than joy. It is a mindful state. Fredrickson calls it the afterglow emotion.

Interest: You are pulled to explore something new or different that draws your attention. You are filled with a sense of possibility. Interest requires effort and attention on your part.

Hope: Hope is sparked within the moments when despair is most likely. It contains the belief that things can and will change. It sustains you when circumstances are dire. Hope energizes us to do as much as we can to make life good for ourselves and for others.

Pride: Pride is a self-conscious emotion. If gone to far it can become negative. Pride is positive when tempered with humility. Pride fosters the motivation to achieve.

Amusement: True amusement spurs the urge to share laughter with others, signaling that you find your current situation a safe place to share lightheartedness and build connections with others. It is a social emotion.

Inspiration: Inspiration creates the desire to be at your highest and best. Along with gratitude and awe, inspiration is one of the self-transcendent emotions, pulling us out of ourselves into a broader world.

Awe: Awe is closely related to inspiration. We are compelled to see ourselves as a part of something larger than ourselves. When in awe, we feel literally overwhelmed by greatness.

Love: Love encompasses all the positive emotions listed above. It is the most common positive emotion that people feel and has many facets. Feeling recurrent surges of love actually changes the inner chemistry of our bodies, creating biological responses linked with lifelong bonds, trust, and intimacy.

Authenticity is the bedrock of heartfelt positivity. Expressions or words that are positive without authenticity as a base do more harm than good. Such expressions are perceived as empty at best and manipulative at worst. True belief in others is the mindset that underpins the positive statements we offer in coaching and feedback. So, don’t just put a happy face on something! Reach for a genuine feeling of a positive emotion. Buoy yourself and others up in an authentic way with heartfelt positivity.

Focused Practice Feedback – a Kick Starter!

How do we grow people? How do we build and grow their talent, their knowledge and skills? Use those wonderful conversation skills and ask about the goals they have set, the vision for their work, when it all is celebrated, what will they be celebrating? With highly committed employees they just usually need to reconnect to their vision, their passion, and get into a new skill or tool.

With those few who are less than highly committed, there is the opportunity to support their thinking in determining the three most important areas for their focus that will increase the performance desired. Hopefully the data they have gotten from colleagues, students, data, will speak to the direction required. Focus tightly on these folks with frequent conversations to celebrate what they are seeing and learning. Your conversations will result in strong insights about data and narratives. Offer simple options for action that they might use immediately. Short, frequent and focused conversations that celebrate the small steps and the small changes ultimately builds confidence and motivation.

Consider letting all meetings focus on practices that are working and letting employees learn from each other as they – under your leadership – keep the eye on the prize; ensuring all kids and staff are learning and growing at high levels. How do you know? What evidence are you seeing that is working? You will see it and hear it and watch as the learning environment begins to grow from its own enhanced energy and motivation to simply be better and better at what they do!

Stop Giving Feedback – Start Asking for Feedback

Continuing with what the Neuroleadership Institute found in their research on FEEDBACK, here are a lot of common misperceptions:

  1. We think we hate feedback. When someone asks if they can give us feedback, we hear, “Can I criticize your work so I can feel good about myself?”
  2. It’s best to focus on errors. The brain is built to detect errors, so that’s how we focus. The belief is that poor performance is from not knowing one’s errors and that people will change once they know what the error is. You have learned in Results Coaching training that what the brain focuses on – gets stronger. So when we focus on errors you never know what to do more of.
  3. Feedback must be giver driven. Up until the 20th century the view was that supervisors knew more. It really felt good to be helpful to others. The giver had a nice boost to their status and autonomy.

The new approach is to STOP GIVING FEEDBACK and to START ASKING FOR FEEDBACK! When we do, both sides feel less threatened; people get feedback more quickly and regularly; you can ask many people, and you can get the specific feedback you need.

So how do we teach and support our teachers and employees to ask for and share feedback?

  • Explicitly – what to build on and where to focus.
  • Broadly – ask and share with many – it lessens bias.
  • Often – get feedback close to the source and make it a habit.
  • Start from the top – what are the standards/expectations for the work; not just what someone says, what does the standard say? Provide examples of top performers in what they do, not who they are. What does the standard look like?

It’s Time For A Feedback Revolution

In February, Karen Anderson shared the opportunity to review and reconnect to the most essential and required skill in your everyday use. The ability to give skillful reflective feedback influences others to:

  • keep working,
  • reconsider,
  • reflect, see possibilities,
  • study more,
  • give more effort,
  • think about another point of view,
  • desire more learning,
  • be affirmed,
  • get motivated,
  • and so many more behaviors and thoughts that inspire and energize their commitment to the work in schools.

Recently I had the opportunity to think about FEEDBACK with the Neuroleadership Institute. Their leadership is on a focused path to support leadership in the use of effective and powerful FEEDBACK that will accomplish the change and growth needed in all people. Here are the main points they offered after researching 30+ models and interviewing over 10 neuroscience, psychology, creativity, and business researchers:

  • People need to grow and learn more and faster.
  • They need frequent, targeted input from many sources.
  • Yet feedback is broken, despite decades of effort.

The Neuroleadership Institute determined that it was time for a FEEDBACK revolution. Some reasons include:

  • The research taught them that engagement is highest with weekly feedback, yet fewer than 20% of employees get feedback weekly and of those, 27% say the feedback is useful. When asked, employees believe feedback does nothing or it make things worse.
  • Supervisors need to be reminded, encouraged, cajoled into giving more feedback and trained to do so.  Yet, after 40 years of training programs of all kinds, this skill is still a huge problem globally.