Category Archives: Relationships

Benign Neutrality: Breaking the Cycle of Rude Behavior

More often than not, leaders will encounter rude behavior in the workplace. This behavior can quickly escalate into a cycle of negative behavior that is difficult to break using traditional approaches.

If you practice benign neutrality, Then you will break the cycle of rude behavior so that you can interact in a civil way.

Rude Behavior

Everyone experiences or witnesses rude behavior on a weekly basis. It may be as simple as person ignoring another’s opinion or as nasty as undermining someone’s efforts. If you respond or react to the behavior, you run the risk of escalating it. If you don’t deal with it, it becomes a self-maintaining cycle. Not only will it thwart your effort to get the job done, you may become burnt out as a result. It will also impact others around you, at work and at home.

Cycle of Behavior

When in a cycle of rude behavior, you may lose focus on what is important and the behavior may become toxic. Do not take it on. Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel safe talking with this person?
  • Was the behavior unintentional?
  • Was it an isolated incident?

If you answer no to any of the questions then do not discuss it with the offender. Once the behavior has continued for an extended period, being nice, giving feedback, practicing ongoing regard, and apologizing can actually make things worse. Conversely, if you over react and try too obviously to “distance” yourself, or report the problem, you may also cause harm. Instead, manage yourself using benign neutrality.

What is Benign Neutrality?

The mindset of Benign Neutrality is to remain interactive and civil with a rude person so that you can work together. Be professional, polite, non-threatening, impartial, and free of emotion. Do not shut down, avoid, display indifference, or ignore the other person completely. Act with humility and respect. This will not weaken your position but instead, it redirects the conversation to a position of: “We need to work together. What do we need to do to move this forward?”

Use the lowest level on the ladder of inference to describe: “This is what I observe; this is the data we have.” Don’t attempt to validate assumptions. Listen. Think before you speak. Ask yourself:

“Is what I am about to say: …brief? …on topic? …useful and accurate?             Does it need to be said?”

Stand firm with your statements. Don’t ask a question unless you are genuinely interested in the other person’s response. If the other person is unreasonable, use these questions:

  • I’m feeling stuck. Do you have any ideas?
  • What data or logic will change your mind?
  • How can we get more information?
  • If you were in my place how would you proceed?
  • Can you tell me how your idea impacts this situation?
  • How can I express this in a way that respects your views?
  • What is it about this situation (or me) that is making this difficult?
  • How can we work together to get this done?

Questions to Deepen Thinking

How is your approach to dealing with rude people working?
What are the consequences of shutting down and evading people with rude behavior?
If you treat people who exhibit rude behavior with humility and respect, what will that get you?

 Credits
Argyris, C. (1982). Reasoning, learning, and action: Individual and organizational. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc. Pub.
Porath, C. (2016, April). Managing Yourself: An Antidote to Incivility. Harvard Business Review, pp. 108-111.
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Coaching Moments: Creating Opportunities to Motivate

Becoming a coaching manager doesn’t happen by proclamation or all at once. It takes an incredible amount of work, effort, and time. It also requires positive long-term commitment.

If you create frequent, brief, mostly positive, coaching opportunities, then your employees are more likely to be highly motivated.

Psychological Safety

It is important for managers to be in touch with their direct reports as individuals and as employees. A coaching relationship allows for this. To be successful, the employee needs to feel psychologically safe when talking with their manager. According to David Rock’s SCARF model for collaborating with & influencing others, managers need to be mindful of these 5 domains: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness .

The following table summarizes the SCARF Model:

Coaching Moments

While keeping SCARF in the forefront of your mind, coaching moments are focused on what a manager needs from their employee AND what the employee needs from their manager. Sessions should be structured weekly; scheduled in advance; and limited to 15 minutes. It can be done in person or by phone. These can be done separately or as part of other one-to-one meetings – as long as a portion of the time is devoted to what employees need. Additionally, both parties should be accountable for holding these meetings: employees should be encouraged to confirm and remind the manager of coaching moments. They should also be encouraged to schedule additional coaching moments when needed.

Motivation Mindset

For the coaching moments to truly motivate your employees, use the following approach:

  • It’s not about who is right; it is about making a difference
  • It is a 2-way dialogue, not a dictate
  • Focus on future, not the past
  • Ask for and listen to the other person’s ideas
  • Try not to prove the other wrong
Process

Follow this structure at every coaching moments session:

Questions to Deepen Thinking

Do you consider yourself a coaching manager?
What will happen if you make an effort to cultivate psychologically safety for your employees?
Can you use 1:1 your time with employees differently?

Credit
Rock, D. (2008). SCARF: A brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others. Neuroleadership.org
Goldsmith, M. (2015). Six Questions for Better Coaching. Talent Quarterly (#5, The Feedback issue), pp. 8-12, 29-30.
Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2005) Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and
Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion.
Harvard Business School Press.

 

Related Posts

Leadership Revolution: The Coaches Are Coming!
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You
The DOs & DON’Ts of Curious Listening: Tell Me More
Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference
Accountability Leads to Innovation: 5 Requirements for Setting Clear Expectations
Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations
The Two Faces of Feedback: Reinforcing & Corrective
Want Better Feedback Conversations? Prepare the Receiver

Want Better Feedback Conversations? Prepare the Receiver

Third in a 3-Part Series on Feedback

Giving feedback is not a technical solution. Simply following the steps for delivering feedback will not suffice. One must also employ an adaptive process to manage emotions and behaviors.

The unusual approach for training around delivering feedback is focused on the giver – even though it is the receiver who determines the outcome. If the receiver is unable or unwilling to absorb the feedback it matters little how technically skilled the giver is. Data shows that reducing the fear and stress for the receiver has nearly three times more impact than improving the skills of the giver. How can you help the receiver? By creating a feedback-friendly environment and providing training for the receiver.

If feedback is delivered in a comfortable environment and at a pace the receiver is comfortable with
then the receiver is more likely to absorb the message and understand why it is beneficial.

BF_PreparingtheReceiverforFeedback_Infographic
 .
Creating a Feedback Friendly Environment

Given that feedback is inherently uncomfortable and emotional, it makes sense that an environment where people feel safe to talk about emotions will alleviate some of that stress. Also, when feedback interactions happen often, they become less of a big, scary monster.

Steps for Creating Feedback Environment
  1. Be aware of positive and negative emotion attractors and the impact of both.
  2. Deliver reinforcing feedback at least 7 times more often than corrective feedback.
  3. In reinforcing feedback conversations, focus on a specific action, event, or behavior. Praising talent and ability in general terms can result in risk aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.
  4. Get to know each other as individuals. Build relationships.
  5. Occasionally talk about your own experience with negative emotions, embarrassments, disappointments, anger. Doing so will make others feel it is safe for them to feel those emotions.
  6. Have shorter, more frequent conversations. Several small conversations have a bigger impact than one big feedback session.
  7. Have informal conversations through weekly check-ins.
  8. Don’t call the conversation FEEDBACK. Never say I want to give you some feedback. Instead choose words that describe your intent; for example: I want to discuss progress or performance, describe the impact of your behavior, share positives, or open a dialogue.
  9. Institute the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (below).
Training for the Receiver of Feedback

The main objective of the receiver is to manage emotions and social threats so that they can hear what is being said. The adaptive process of giving good feedback involves allowing the receiver to control the pace of the feedback. Much like health professionals delivering stressful information, leaders should only give feedback as fast as the receiver can absorb it. Instituting the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights will help with this process.

Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (with sample script)
  1. You have a choice whether to receive the feedback at this time. “Now is not a good time. Can we do this later?”
  2. You can choose to suspend the feedback conversation if you are unable to continue. “I can’t hear any more right now. Can we finish this later?”
  3. You should restate and validate the reason for the conversation. “So the reason you are sharing this is because…?”
  4. You should test the giver’s assumptions“This is what I am hearing… Is this what you are getting at?”
  5. You have the right to request some time to reflect and schedule a follow-up conversation before any decisions are made. “I need some time to think about this before I respond. Can we finish this conversation later?”
  6. You should reflect back on the conversation when your emotions have subsided. “Ok. (Deep breath.) What does this information mean for me… Can I use it to help me…?”
  7. You should share your insights when you reconvene, without being defensive. “I thought about what you said… It made me feel… This is what I think…”
Questions to Deepen Thinking

What is keeping you from changing your work environment to make it more feedback friendly?
What might happen if you allow a person to postpone or suspend a feedback conversation?
What are the consequences if you don’t allow the receiver to step away from the conversation until emotions subside?

Credits
Batista, E. (2013, December). Building a feedback-rich culture.
Batista, E. (2015, February). Make getting feedback less stressful. Harvard Business Review.
Beatty, R. (2015). Feedback: Navigating for individual and organizational effectiveness. Talent Quarterly(5), 51-56.
Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2005) Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion. Harvard Business School Press.
DiNisi, A. S. (2015). Does feedback really work? Talent Quarterly(5), 45-49.
Heen, S. &. (2015). Don’t blame HR if your performance evaluation system doesn’t work. Talent Quarterly(5), 21-24.
Rock, D. (2015). Time to rethink the concept of ‘feedback’. Talent Quarterly(5), 41-44.
Zenger, J. &. (2015). Feedback: The leadership conundrum. Talent Quarterly(5), 31-38.

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Related Posts

Feedback: A Dirty Word?
The Two faces of Feedback: Reinforcing and Corrective
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations

Feedback: A Dirty Word?

First in a 3-Part Series on Feedback

In simple terms, feedback is information that one person believes will be helpful to another person. The way we approach feedback has changed in recent years. Not only is the term “feedback” now discouraged, the concept has changed from a technical solution to an adaptive, ongoing process.

What We Know

1. Employees fear, yet want and need feedback.
2. Most training is focused on the giver of feedback, not the receiver.
3. No matter how skilled a feedback giver is, the receiver determines the outcome.

What we know about feedback: Employees fear, yet they want and need feedback. Most training is focused on the giver of feedback, not on the receiver.

Although feedback is crucial for people to grow, be successful, and manage their working relationships, it is inherently stressful for both the giver and receiver. Feedback conversations provoke strong emotions and trigger defensiveness. Our brains are not wired for it – especially receiving feedback. Data shows that the stress involved in receiving feedback can make the situation counterproductive and may even cause a decrease in performance.

“Six of the scariest words in the English language are:
‘Can I give you some feedback?’” – Ed Batista

We Can’t Ignore Emotions

The prescribed steps in the classic model of feedback no longer suffice. We need to go on the assumption there is fear built in and we need to practice an adaptive process that manages those emotions. Even if the giver focuses on the other person’s behavior instead of the person or the attitude, the receiver still experiences psychological triggers that cause them to feel threatened. Giving feedback is also challenging and uncomfortable. As a result, there is a tendency to avoid feedback.

Be Mindful of the Social Threat

The name you give this practice is critical. A quick google search for synonyms of the word feedback yields strong negative words like criticism, rebuttal, retaliation, and accusation. Instead of using the word ‘feedback’ when naming the conversation or meeting, choose words that describe your intent; for example: discuss progress or open a dialogue.

Let go of the old terms ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ feedback. Those terms came from the original scientific theory of feedback and do not translate well to management theory. Think of feedback as either reinforcing or corrective. Both are beneficial and both are necessary. Research shows that a person should receive 7 reinforcing conversations for every corrective conversation. (Read our next post to learn more about reinforcing and corrective feedback.)

If feedback conversations are frequent, informal, and nonthreatening, and the receiver is receptive, then the feedback is more likely to be mutually beneficial.

Make Giving and Receiving Feedback a Required Skill

There are things that can be done individually and throughout your organization to make feedback conversations less stressful and more effective. Designate ‘giving and receiving feedback’ as a required skill. Encourage leaders to have regular, routine conversations where they give and receive feedback. Train all managers and supervisors how to communicate feedback effectively. In addition, educate all employees how to receive feedback 

Questions to Deepen Thinking?

What are the consequences when feedback doesn’t go well?
What will changing your approach to feedback get you?
If you don’t develop your feedback skills, what could happen?

Credits

Batista, E. (2013, December). Building a feedback-rich culture.
Batista, E. (2015, February). Make getting feedback less stressful. Harvard Business Review.
Beatty, R. (2015). Feedback: Navigating for individual and organizational effectiveness. Talent Quarterly(5), 51-56.
Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2005) Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion. Harvard Business School Press.
DiNisi, A. S. (2015). Does feedback really work? Talent Quarterly(5), 45-49.
Heen, S. &. (2015). Don’t blame HR if your performance evaluation system doesn’t work. Talent Quarterly(5), 21-24.
Rock, D. (2015). Time to rethink the concept of ‘feedback’. Talent Quarterly(5), 41-44.
Zenger, J. &. (2015). Feedback: The leadership conundrum. Talent Quarterly(5), 31-38.

Related Posts

The Two Faces of Feedback: Reinforcing & Corrective
Want Better Feedback Conversations? Prepare the Receiver

Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations

In our last 2 posts we explored the concept of empathy, why it is important for leaders, and how to invite empathy into your interactions. In part 3 of our empathy series, we will describe how to practice empathy on the back end of interactions by deconstructing your conversations.

Even if you are intentional about building empathy into your interactions, it may not truly blossom in the moment. Critical conversations need to be deconstructed. Once you step aside and ask yourself deconstructive questions, you may uncover more feelings and perspectives from the other person that need to be acknowledged. Deconstructing goes beyond ‘reflecting on’ or ‘evaluating’ a conversation: it provides you with rich data and direction on how to proceed in your follow-up conversation. For example, you can say, “I heard where you are coming from… I appreciate… I see an opportunity to…”

If you deconstruct your conversations, then you will deepen your relationships.

Use the following deconstructive questions to ask yourself, “Did I practice empathy? Did others understand me?”

Did I set the stage for the person to reflect?
Did we schedule a follow-up conversation?
Did I seek to understand the other person’s perspective?
Did I understand what the other person was feeling?
Did the other person understand my perspective and feelings?
What opportunities became apparent?

Write your answers to each of the deconstructive questions. Have new perspectives or insights emerged? Share a summary of your answers with the other person then inquire about their thoughts:

“How do you feel about the previous conversation?”
“Do you have a different view than before?”
“What is your conclusion?”

If you deconstruct your conversations, then you will deepen your relationships.

 Questions to Deepen Thinking

What would listening deeply to others get you?
How is sharing your perspective with others working for you?
What could happen if you don’t deconstruct your conversations?

Credits

Kegan, R., & Lahey, L.  (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kofman, F. (2010). Advocacy and Inquiry: Combining the basic steps of the dance of communication. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from Axialent.com.

Related Posts

Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 1
Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference