You know that conversation you avoided because you would be giving tough feedback? You carried it around like a chain around your neck with you for hours, maybe even days, because you did not want to go through with it. And then when it came time, it went far better than you expected.
Humans are funny animals. I am sometimes suspicious of calling ourselves an evolved species. Most of us would rather burden ourselves with stress by avoiding what we perceive to be a difficult conversation rather than having that conversation and releasing ourselves.
So what are we to do?
At institute B, as it was at lululemon, we have a defined communication style we like to call ‘high integrity conversation’. Our corporate culture is a social contract to speak our mind, provide feedback (good and bad), and avoid the passive aggressive burden described above.
This may sound callous to some; it may seem to be an excuse to dump on co-workers. The opposite is true. If you have an inherent permission to call it like you see it, there is no room for doubt. Opinions and feedback are simply words we speak. They are not right, wrong, good or bad. Of course there will be defensiveness and they may even be temporary hurt feelings. I can promise you that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
We believe our group of companies perform better because nobody worries about politics, complaining, blaming or power hoarding. Feedback comes hard and fast and employees are in execution mode, not ‘avoiding conversation’ mode. Our team members walk around lighter and less burdened because they are free to think and feel what they like with an understanding if someone disagrees, they will be told as much.
Every management textbook will tell you that spontaneous feedback is more effective than annual reviews. It’s just a rule that seems to be harder to do than to say.
Some hints in making this effective at your company.
- Enroll your team in the new social contract
- Have people practice understanding that it is better to try but get it wrong than to not try
- Have your team use ‘set-up’ phrases like “I’d like to have a high-integrity conversation with you” to prepare people for the onset of defensiveness
- Positively reinforce people for their feedback, effort, and even their mistakes
One last thing: when you receive your first bit of feedback. Take a breath, smile, and thank them.
Written by: Darrell Kopke, Skool Principal