A Coaching Power Tool created by Dhruva Sen
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
All of us struggle to maintain alignment with our core values, ethics and principles. Despite all our stated beliefs, we face opposition and restraining forces and these sometimes makes us do things that are contrary to our missions and intentions. There are deeply embedded habits and changing them requires a high degree of self awareness and regular feedback to our performance. Feedback helps us to overcome the pulls of the past-habits formed etc. These pulls also create a delusion of our own selves which feedback helps to overcome.
In the corporate context, the two most common methodologies adopted for eliciting and sharing feedback are the 360 degree feedback system and assessment/development centre.
Both the systems focuses on behaviours demonstrated around defined competencies (which provides the relevance) and the behaviour indicators, which defines the behaviours wrt a specific competency. The other part which is common is that both are multi-raters and use multiple sources of data(tools/role set touch points). This increases their objectivity. Both the methods assess the extent of demonstration of competency on a scale of rating where the extremities are defined as not demonstrated to extremely well demonstrated.
The differences lies in the fact that 360 degree sources data from multiple stakeholders which could be internal or external. Internal stakeholders are typically the role set members i.e subordinates, peers and bosses.(singular or plural) and the external stakeholders are the customers and the vendors. The participant normally chooses who would give the feedback. The assessment/development centre method on the other hand looks at the behaviours demonstrated during a simulated activity like group exercise, role play etc.
Once the data is obtained, the feedback process sets in. The service of a trained external consultant is sought as the employee would then be more forthcoming in his interaction. Feedback follows a structured methodology and the objective is to facilitate development of the individual around the behaviours specific to a Competency. The behaviours in 360 degree are per se work contextual while for assessment/development centre it is around the behaviours observed by trained assessors through the activities chosen. (Assumption is that the activities chosen would mirror the work context and makes it knowledge agnostic).
Aiding the process is a psychometric instrument which is the individual’s preferred response to a variety of situations which again demonstrates the demonstration of competency. Feedback process is meant to be 2 way and is exploratory. The trained feedback provider would not only look at what is evident and but also the not so evident. Sharp Observation is the key. The model which is normally deployed is the Johari window named after Joe and Harry. A pictorial depiction of the window is as follows: http://media.ove.cybermage.se/2010/01/johari-window.jpg Public Knowledge is the open arena and also the blind spot while Private knowledge is the hidden or facade area and the dark area which is unknown to both.
The feedback process while primarily focussing on the blind spots also touches upon the facade arena. Data for blind spots is obtained from observations of various stakeholders(360 degree) in work context and observational data of assessors (assessment/development centre) and for the facade area it is normally from the Psychometric tool.
An interesting insight from this process is that a bye product of feedback is that the magnitude of the arenas alter-Open arena increases in size while the rest decrease. Development initiatives become more meaningful and as Marshall Goldsmith calls it “the road to Damascus” moments or aha moments create the shifts. These are invaluable and rare moments which make us aware of deep rooted beliefs and blocks.
Types of feedback
Solicited feedback –seeking views, opinions and critique. The challenge lies in that we may get what we ask , depending on the way we seek feedback. Eg. If a boss asks his team, tell me how am I doing? It is quite possible that all will say positive things. But, if the question is flipped and we ask “how can I do better “or “ What can I do different?”.
The chances of securing authentic data increases when instead of asking value laden and close ended questions, we ask more open ended questions and with greater focus on improvement. How can I do better? This demonstrates commitment towards improvement and the power relationships do not interfere.
Unsolicited feedback –described above through assessment/development Centre or 360 degree feedback. The challenge lies in our self awareness and also in the way feedback is shared. Getting defensive or lowering self esteem will only adversely impact the feedback giving/sharing process. Also, the feedback provider has to completely trust us and be certain that there will be no adverse consequences of sharing the feedback.
During meetings, we pick up a lot of data points if we are observant of the messages conveyed through the subtle shifts in body language. This can also be during our normal one to one interaction process. This kind of feedback is very objective and at times much richer in content compared to feedback being shared on one to one etc. We can pick up signals from eye contact i.e whether the other person is looking into the eye or not, intensity brought in during handshake, positions we take while talking (often it is leaning forward towards authority),awareness of the attention people bestow when we are speaking ,how we are greeted etc.
Marshall Goldsmith calls the process “observing with judgement” when a pattern emerges. We can do this only when we are in the silent mode i.e. we are not absorbed in our own self talk. Road Blocks in feedback process: In real life while we readily accept positive feedback and are more than willing to share more data, it is the negative feedback we often respond with our defense mechanisms. Common responses emanate from Shock (owing to surprise),Anger(owing to disappointment/irritation), Resistance and Acceptance. We tend to accept feedback which reinforces our self image and reject the feedback which is inconsistent. A lot of care has to be taken so that the individual’s self esteem is protected and a positive climate is created for considering areas of change. Focus should also remain on the data and not on “who” has said but “what” has been said. This is especially true in 360 degree feedback. It also helps to focus on patterns rather than isolated observations, which are more of an outlier. “Shoot the messenger” is a common syndrome to negative feedback.