Feedback Can Be Fun. Really.

30 Sep

The sentiment behind performance feedback is not supposed to be all about cutting you up, shining a light on a big problem, or providing all the answers to the next big promotion.  

And your response to performance feedback doesn’t just have to be about viewing others’ opinions (and their imperfections) as obstacles to get around.  Or things that are incorrect and must be proven to be so.

Very few of us eagerly await the “performance review.”  Yet people giving us feedback can be valuable partners, if (and only if) we view them as such.  That’s a big “if.”

We all have what psychologists call cognitive dissonance – when we believe we’re doing great, yet the data shows we could do better.  A “blind spot,” particularly when multiple facts sourced from multiple opinions have a common denominator (you!).  It’s part of the “Johari House” – a matrix representing whether feedback is known or unknown, and whether that’s known by yourself or by others:

  • Open (everyone sees it)
  • Blind (others see it, but you don’t see it)
  • Façade (you see it, but others don’t)
  • Unknown (no one sees it)

Take a moment to reflect on your Johari House based on your feedback.  Pay close attention to both the Blind spots, and the hidden Façades.  This can actually be fun!  Really.  It’s interesting because it’s about ourselves.  And as obvious as it sounds, it’s ok to say “I didn’t know that.”  And not view something as a “weakness” or an untruth but view it as an opportunity to consider exploring (and not by simply concluding “it must be wrong!”).

Many of us aim for outstanding personal and professional goals (aspirational!) … but we’re not perfect human beings, and we shouldn’t expect to be so. 

  • Perfectionism is not good for you. There’s plenty of research tying perfectionist tendencies to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicide.
  • Perfectionism impedes growth as it makes us afraid to fail.
  • Personal innovation requires experimentation.  Experiments by definition include failures, because if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.
  • Choose the areas to focus on and work on.  View them as an experiment.
  • Be honest with yourself, be open to ideas, and have fun!

Oh, and don’t forget, that if you are giving someone performance feedback, you cannot support and help others grow if you can’t first accept that you too are imperfect and vulnerable.  

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

www.annaminto.com

Leading in the New Hybrid World

20 Sep

It’s tough out there.  We’ve made it through our first global exposure to Covid, and new experiences of quarantining and working from home.  Now the next new challenge is emerging.  We’re not moving “back to the office.” Instead we’re now learning how to “embrace hybrid.” We are seeking that balance between “in person” (and it’s social, creative, technological and team building merits) and “remote” (and the associated benefits we’ve exposed around flexibility and productivity).  

There are many great examples of companies doing great things and experimenting with new ideas.  To me, it all boils down to 6 anchors that underpin actions: 

  1. Lead with PURPOSE.  First off, HAVE a Purpose.  For your company, your team, yourself.  Set all strategies, plans and actions in the context of this Purpose.  
  • FOSTER your environment.  Nurture a culture that’s open, psychologically safe, and endorses vulnerability.  Be engaged and be responsive.  Surface the unspoken and invite discussion.  Let people be heard and valued.
  • Value DIVERSITY … really value it.  I don’t mean visible differences like gender or race.  I’m talking about differences in thought and approach.  Organizations and teams get better results with differences, even though it can take more initial effort to do so, and it can be frustrating.
  • Appreciate CIRCUMSTANCES.  We are all at different stages in our lives (and those stages create different work-life balance needs). We are also a multi-generational workforce (with different expectations and outlooks).  Add on to that that we all have personal preferences and desires.  Understand these and work together to find mutually beneficial solutions for affinity groups.  Be flexible. 
  • Embody LEADERSHIP.  Particularly in rapidly changing, uncertain times.  Leadership takes self-awareness, curiosity, vulnerability, and empathy.  And most importantly, courage.  Examine yourself and your motives.
  • Keep LEARNING.  Adapting to something new takes practice and challenges old models.  Failed experiments are part of the process.  Don’t bury them, own them.  And do something about it.

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Contact, Context, Content

7 Aug

All conversations are really about:

  • (how I feel inside)
  • We (how you and I relate)
  • It (the results we want, or the problem to solve)

(anyone wanting to think about that more can go to Ken Wilber’s book, “A Brief History of Everything” – an oldie but goodie, published over 20 years ago)

A lot of debate is spent on “where we are going” and thinking about “what we want to get (out of it).”  And when someone pushes, we push back.  Conflict and tension. “You are wrong,” we think (or, even worse, say). If “I” only see what I see, it’s impossible to explore the possibilities.   

You can’t micro-manage a two-way conversation, but you can control the process and therefore improve the outcome.  Here’s how to think about Contact, Context and Content:

  1. Listen.  Listen well.  It’s hard to listen to the other person fully, and not interrupt.  Really hard. Especially if they are interrupting you.  Shut up, and really listen.
  2. Enquire.  Ask questions: “What do you think?” “Why do you think that?” and “What would you like the result to be?”  Remember that others usually don’t say “stupid” things; there’s a reason behind it and you should know why.
  3. Summarize.  “Did I get what you’re saying correctly?” and “I think I heard you say…”
  4. Validate.  Acknowledge that what they say is reasonable.  “I can understand why you think …” and “That makes sense and …”
  5. Express your views.  Use safety in the “I.” It’s hard to argue with how you feel, or how you think.  It’s your opinion alone.
  6. Negotiate.  Explore the possible.  Look for the common ground.  Look for the trade-offs.
  7. Formalize.  Get specific about what is agreed.  Who, what, how and when.  Never end with a vague, hanging “I’m so happy we’re in agreement!” (about what?).
  8. Learn.  Think about where we ended up, and how we got there.  Try it differently next time.

So:  first make contact with yourself and with the other (what is wanted, and WHY), then explore the context(why), and then (finally) get to the content.  

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” — Teddy Roosevelt

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annamintowww.annaminto.com

Gender Expectations Live On …

4 Jul

Gender Expectations Live On …

When it comes to gender bias, we’ve come a long way in the last few decades.  Take a look at the following list of commonly held beliefs from the late 1900s (yep, that was only 2 decades ago). 

I know of few people who would broadly agree with this list, though some might (in their inner thoughts!) hold a couple of these ideas.  Some statements have been debunked by fact and science; others have been muted by experience.  But I think it’s safe to say that for the most-part, these don’t hold true today. 

Now, take a look at this list:

Perhaps a few more that still linger?  Depends on the facts, the culture and the individual.  But they’re still out there.  And some lie not too deep below the surface.

What’s still on your list?  What’s still on this list of those around you and on your team? It’s time to start talking about it and being actively aware of our biases.  Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Stereotyping Good, Gender Bias Bad

26 Jun

Let me start with an important distinction between “sex” and “gender.”

Haven’t we all heard the rebuke “You shouldn’t stereotype!”?  Well actually it’s not such a bad thing.  What is not a good thing is gender bias … and we all exhibit it.  Seriously, “it’s in our genes.”  What is key though, is to be aware that we have it and then to make choices about what to do with it.

Sex is a biological difference.  It is:

  • Determined by nature
  • Universal
  • Not easily changeable

Gender is socially and culturally constructed:

  • Grounded in traditional male and female roles and responsibilities
  • Changes over time
  • Varies between communities

Males and females are treated differently from birth not only because of their physical differences (with unique challenges at different life-stages) … but also because of the different socio-cultural values associated with gender.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at stereotyping and gender bias.

Stereotyping is “A widely held but firmly fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Oxford Dictionaries).  It’s based on both:

  • Physical attributes (e.g., age, sex, race)
  • Intangible aspects (e.g., religion, culture)

And actually, it’s critical to our evolutionary survival.  It:

  • Helps us sort and categorize people, places and things
  • Is often evaluated based on “additional associations” (usually negative)
  • Defines social interactions and permeates learning and decision-making processes

The problem occurs when stereotypes introduce Bias.  Bias is when we start viewing the stereotype as true and definitive, without pausing to consider whether we are making a fair judgment.  Gender bias is persistently found in global cultures, including Western countries.  It challenges gender equality and women’s empowerment by systematically excluding and discriminating against women and girls simply for being born female.

So, look again at the spa picture at the top of the article.  Why did it look “odd”?  Was it Stereotype … or Bias? And what does it reveal about your underlying beliefs and thoughts? 

Something worth thinking about.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing and talking about it?  Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

http://www.annaminto.com

Investment Banking Riddle

19 Jun

As I said last week, I’m going out on a limb on some sensitive topics in the next couple of weekly posts, and I don’t want to offend anyone in any way.  My intent here is to share some observations and ideas and spark some collaboration and discussion, rather than make statements about any gender identity, race, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical attributes, political belief, national origin, religious or other groups.  There’s the caveat, and please read along with an open mind.

First, stop.  Let me implore you to check out “Can You Solve the Riddle?” – a great short-clip on YouTube, created by Mindspace – Investment Banking Riddle.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kFC7669quE if my newly found blogging skills don’t translate).  It’s worth the 3 minutes if you haven’t seen it before … and “then we shall proceed” (Did your parents ever say “Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we shall proceed” before reading stories to you?  Anyway, I digress). 

… … … … … … … … … … …

Go to the link … it’s only 3 minutes … it’s worth it.  Really!  “Just Do It” as Nike would say.

… … … … … … … … … … …

“And NOW we shall proceed.”  

We all have hidden biases.  OK, I’ll own up to it.  I didn’t figure out the answer to that enlightening Mindspace video immediately.  Actually, I crafted a convoluted wrong answer.  And my Mum was a high-powered executive in the business world … and I know a few female CEOs … and I too consider myself a smart, senior leader.  Who happens to be female.  Who blogs about gender issues.  But I fell for it. So did my girlfriends.  Hidden bias.  It’s real.

Gender bias occurs when views and attitudes assign a greater importance to one (gender) over the other.   Here are a few snippets from studies in the world of recruiting, development and retention:

  • A resume with a female-associated name is perceived as “less competent” than a male-associated one (and in the US, a “foreign” name has similar perception differences as “American” one)
  • Recruiters view men who have only part-time work experience as less hirable than women with the same part-time work experience
  • Managers are more hesitant to overtly criticize women, even when needed
  • Men are more cautious about being seen to be “unsupportive” of female employees (especially in today’s environment)
  • Managers couch written criticism more vaguely than they do for males with the same quantitative performance ratings
  • Managers often couch development areas for women with light praise (to “soften the blow”), but then go on to give the same women lower ratings that don’t correspond with the remarks on the evaluation
  • Supervisors do notice when women behave in ways that conform to gender conventions (e.g., being “likable” and demonstrating “communal” behavior), but those characteristics do not meaningfully contribute to career advancement
  • Relative to men, feedback for women has a higher judgement-to-fact ratio, which makes it more subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions)
  • Women are more likely than men to under-emphasize their own strengths and over-emphasize their skill-gaps in self-evaluations
  •  And … as we’ve just seen, we can believe that men are more likely than women to be the CEO of an Investment bank.

Our biases and gender expectations are rooted in evolutionary genetics and learned behaviors (as I discussed in a blog earlier this month “What We Can Learn From The Savanna”).  Our instincts take less than 1/20th of a second from stimulus-to-reaction, and we are often not even aware of them.   

So, what’s the problem with a bias driven by instinct?  The definition of “bias” sounds harmless enough (“prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another”).  The problem is that word “prejudice”: “injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights.”  Hmm… not so good.

Are you brave enough to explore that you’re biased?  We all harbor gut-reaction instincts that are biased.  Isn’t it time to start recognizing, admitting, and talking about it?  Then we might be better able to do something about it.  

Curious to know what you think …

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

www.LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

www.annaminto.com

D&I is Dead

12 Jun

I’m going out on a limb on some important but sensitive topics in the next couple of weekly posts, and I don’t want to offend anyone in anyway.  My intent here is to share some ideas and spark reflection; not to make statements about any gender identity, race, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical attributes, political belief, national origin, religious or other group.  So, please read along with an open mind, and an appreciation for the attempt to raise such topics.

Years (OK, decades) ago, I used to commiserate with a fellow Consultant at a Big 3 strategy consulting firm about our substantial requests to attend recruiting events.  Not only were we asked to participate in the “everyone B-School” events, but also to participate in anything “women” anything “working Mom” and anything “international.”  We were in high demand given the low representation for each of these groups in our company.  My friend also happened to be in a racial minority, so she lamented that she had even more marketing commitments than me. We used to joke that it’s a good thing that we were heterosexual, or we would have another “minority” event that we were asked (actually, expected) to attend.  Those were the days of “Diversity.”  Have someone from as many “minority” groups as possible.

The original focus of these efforts was on visible minorities – “women” and “people of color.”  Which then expanded to more specific sub-groups such as “working Moms,” “Black,” “Asian” and “Hispanic.”  Also, other minority groups such as “Gay and Lesbian” and “Disabled.”  This recognition of “minorities” evolved with the surfacing our isms –   sexism, racism, agism, nationalism and the like.

As our “minority” numbers began to slowly creep up, and as we began speaking about our “isms,” some progress was made toward better recognition of “diversity” through “special interest groups.” However, it became apparent that the next challenge was not just about having diversity, but also about embracing “Inclusion.”  Merna Myers clarified it well when she stated that “diversity is about being asked to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.”  We began looking at our biases in thought and in action, such as the words we used, the office social activities we hosted … and the behaviors around those company functions.  So, there you had it, D&I.  Diversity & Inclusion.  That was the thinking for about a decade, and it was a great start for the times.

More recently, the terminology is shifting towards DEI.  When it first surfaced, it was defined as “Diversity, EQUALITY and Inclusion.”  Equality means dividing resources evenly – “everyone being treated the same.”  That was a good start.  Recently though, it has shifted to “Diversity, EQUITY and Inclusion.”   In a business sense, “Equity” means that the opportunities (to be promoted, for example) are the same for underrepresented groups as they are for the majority group …. and that might mean providing different kinds of support for different groups, in order to provide equal opportunities.  For example, inclusion councils, ambassadors, employee resource groups, etc.  

And that IS “fair.”  A fair way to provide equal opportunity for all.

Are you fostering DEI for all … and how?  What interesting equity initiatives have you seen?  I’m curious to hear what’s working (or not) for you and your team!

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

What we can Learn from the Savanna

4 Jun

Let’s go back over 2 million years of evolution to life on the Savanna – where humans were living on open grasslands in Africa, making stone tools and using them to butcher wild animals.  We lived in nomadic tribes of a few hundred members, with practically non-existent racial diversity, in a 100% natural environment.  

What was MOST important to our ancestors then?  Seriously, what’s your answer?  Think for a moment … …. … 

My answer was that we needed to hunt lions (men) and gather food (women).  It turns out though, that food was actually plentiful and that what we most needed was to avoid being eaten.

If we had to rely on original thinking for the complex mechanics of not being eaten, our brains would be totally overwhelmed.  Because our thinking (prefrontal) brain had an extremely limited capacity (and still has — estimated at less than 1% of our total brain capacity).   Instead, we evolved to rely on:

  • Instinctual behavior (encoded in our DNA); and
  • Learned behavior (acquired from a lifetime of experiences).

We also had to rely on each other to avoid being eaten, as isolation meant almost certain death.   So, our brain developed to attend to our social environment.  We became very socially aware:  

  • We rely on non-verbal body position and gestures – both at a macro-level (we all know about slouching and arm folding), and at a micro-level (body twitches, breathing patterns, eye flickers, skin color, etc.).
  • We migrate towards conformity to the behavioral standards of the group.  Need I say more than the 1970s trend for puke-green appliances, or the 1980s love of big hair?
  • We practice congruence (of body and mind).  Our bodies reflect our internal emotions and thoughts.  It’s hard to be convincing in sharing an inspiring story while curled up in a ball, and we are extremely good at detecting incongruence.
  • We mimic.  A lot. And with all our senses.  Neuroscience even recently discovered specialized neurons known as “mirror neurons.”
  • We adhere to status hierarchies.  All social animals do.
  • We value relatedness over difference.  More alike is more familiar, more known and more predictable.  It’s safer that way.
  • We react to stress.  Cortisol and adrenaline were designed to manage episodic and rapid physical threat.  And it was usually better to over-react than to under-react (and be eaten!).  But perhaps that’s not the kind of stress we encounter today.  Though we certainly experience (or imagine) a lot of stress today.

Although we like to think of ourselves as being rationally in “control,” we’re not.   We are pre-wired and diverted by these instinctual and learned behaviors.  Sometimes the way in which they were evolutionarily designed no longer serve us well.

Maybe it’s time to start paying more thoughtful attention to our innate and learned social awareness behaviors:  non-verbals, conformity, congruence, mimicking, status hierarchy, relatedness over difference and reaction to stress.  

How are you unconsciously living and leading your life?  

It’s worth some thought, and I’m curious to know…

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Zoom Zoops!

28 May

Zoom Zoops

Zoop.  The “oops” moment on Zoom.  When something you wish hadn’t happened, happened.  We’ve all become used to the everyone-on-video meetings during the pandemic, and now we’re adapting to the “hybrid zoom” meeting.  Here’s a quick checklist of almost 20 things for you to (re)consider about how you show up on Zoom.

  • You’ve got eyes.  Actually look at the camera.  It’s interpreted as paying attention.  Beware of the camera height:  too high, and we’ll think you’re looking to the skies; too low, and we get to see exactly what shade of eye make-up you wear.  And we can usually tell when you’re actually reading email.
  • Show your hands.  Especially if you’re a gesturer.  The “you” in real life encompasses more than just your chin to your hairline.  Sometimes hands are our primary point of expression.
  • Don’t be a speck in the dark.  Yes, I just said to zoom out a bit in the point above; but don’t do it so much so that we’re actually looking at your entire home office, which you just happen to be in.
  • Invest in a good one.  Camera that is.  A $200 investment is not a lot for your image … plus you’ve saved more than that on suits and shoes last year.
  • Get lit.  Consider a (built in) light.  You don’t want to be the villain in the shadow in the dark.
  • Jumbotron it.  Consider a big display monitor so you can actually see life-sized faces, even in gallery mode.
  • Lift your buns.  Consider a standing desk option – which can even just sit on top of your worktop.  Our backs don’t appreciate marathon Zoom days and standing is supposedly better for your health anyway.  Plus, you’ll get a more grounded and assertive presence.  And maybe buns of steel.
  • Think like Alex.  We’ve likely grown up with “in person meeting” styles and white boards but we likely haven’t had training in on-screen presentation.  Think about how Alex Tribek, the Jeopardy game show host presented for 37 seasons.  He doesn’t look like a stiff news cast reader.  Plus, he was Canadian-American like me.
  • Beware the background.  Depending on how much you move, background filters can make you look like a magician cutting their hands or head off and magically putting them back on.
  • Trespassers will be shot.  Chair climbing cats, face licking dogs, and the occasional undressed housemate may be cute, but they can be distracting (either good or bad).  Or, just plain embarrassing.
  • Catch the clutter.  While many of us use home offices for other things like gyms, bedrooms and even laundry rooms, some people really don’t want to know so much about your personal life (or maybe you don’t want them to).  I seriously had a client who forgot their ironing board & lingerie were drying in the background.
  • Know on from off.  Check the mute and video buttons.  Sometimes gremlins (well, fingers) accidentally change them.  We all have a funny story about that.  Hopefully not our own story.
  • Consider reacting.  Those little hearts and waves, if culturally appropriate, stand out more than raised hands, nods and smiles. 
  • Beware the share.  Unanticipated “can you share your screen?” moments reveal what else is also on your computer desktop.  And that includes incoming messages if you aren’t careful.  Lots of potential for embarrassment with that one.
  • You’ve got the look.  Sometimes the look of spinach stuck in your teeth after lunch.  It may not be noticeable live, but it sure is on up close and personal “speaker view.”
  • Screen-shot-not.  Remember that anything … yes, anything, can be screen shot with a com-shift-4 (at least on a Mac).  It’s silent, and you never know where preliminary finances and juicy performance reviews might end up.
  • Are you out there?  Know the protocols for turning videos off (temporarily) in meetings.  It might mean you just didn’t need to be seen and are saving bandwidth, or it might mean you’ve left for lunch.
  • What’s the attire?  In general, we’ve become more casual over zoom in the last several months.  But as many return to the office and “office casual,” your jammies and unwashed face may not send the message that you’re “just working from home.”

Just some things to think about.  Any good ones I’ve missed (like #19 and #20)?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto

Indulge your self-Ish self

23 May

For your sake AND for the sake of those around you.

Selfish: “(adjective) Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure or well-being without regard for others.”  Selfish = undesirable, implying “at the expense of others.”  Like a finite number of coconuts on a dessert island … if I take one extra, someone else gets one less.   We live in a world of finite.  Finite energy, water, food, and covid vaccines.  Being selfish lives in the finite world. 

Sometimes we can convince ourselves that taking time for our own selfcare is being a bit selfish.  That making time to boost ourselves “up” robs time from others and makes them go “down.”  But selfcare lives in the infinite world … along with things like love, creativity and passion.  Selfcare is not selfish.  It’s self-ish.

Separate the word selfish into its two parts – Self-Ish:

  • Self: “(as noun) A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.”
  • Ish: (yes, it’s in the dictionary): “(adverb):  To some extent.”

Being self-ish is a good thing.  A really good thing.  It’s about caring about “me.”  Which is also good for “them.”  It lifts us up and helps us be better leaders in our personal and professional lives … and that makes the world a better place for those around us.

Have you considered scheduling an exquisite weekly self-care “hour of indulgence” with your self-ish self?  To do the things that bring you joy.  Take that luxurious bubble bath.  Sing in the shower.  Dance in the rain.  Dig your hands in the garden.  Just sit and be.  Do whatever it is that does it for you — the things you love that bring you joy. 

I welcome your thoughts … and what did you schedule?

Anna Minto

Founder & CEO, Transformational Change

AMinto@trchange.com

LinkedIn.com/in/annaminto