A-Head for Success

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Why is Feedback so Stressful?

It is Ken Blanchard who said that feedback is the breakfast of champions.  But it always seems so stressful.  Whether you’re giving it or receiving it, few people are comfortable around it.  It has got to the point where organisations are questioning the validity of appraisals and one company, GE, are calling feedback Insights so people feel less antsy about it.  Why?

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The Problem with Black and White Thinking (2 minutes to read)

Black and white thinkingBlack and white thinking (also known as all or nothing thinking) can be really useful when you need a quick decision which has an absolute answer:  something is right or wrong, good or bad.  A decimal point in the wrong place can have a huge impact, even though the mistake itself is small.  “I nearly got it right” won’t hack it with the bank manager.  Someone coming at you with a knife?  Bad, and a clear signal to cut and run – no time to wonder at their intentions.  So, black and white thinking can be helpful.

But not often.  What it doesn’t allow for are the shades of grey in between.  It polarises thinking and is often a factor in depression, anxiety and stress.

I was coaching a client who had a problem with one of her team who had started to undermine her in meetings.  Her response?  To put her in her place.  The result?  A battle of wills in front of the team which neither resolved anything nor placed either in a good light.

We looked at why she took this stance and she said that she was either being honest or pathetic.  Being ‘pathetic’ as she called it was no solution.  But her honesty was such that it simply inflamed the situation.  So, we looked at all the shades of grey and came up with the following hierarchy of possible responses to her situation starting with a more accurate reflection of her actual response:

  1. Brutally honest
  2. Blunt
  3. Honest
  4. Diplomatic
  5. Economical with the truth
  6. Weak
  7. Pathetic

People rarely behave negatively for no reason at all.  Those reasons might be personal (it is hard to separate home problems from work), or they may be down to frustrations at work.  Either way, a brutally honest approach will be as effective as a pathetic one in many cases.  However, it may be something to build up to.

So we worked on why the employee might have been behaving the way she was (she was under pressure at home and at work and concerned about doing her job well as she realised she was making mistakes).  This needed a diplomatic response which honoured her work ethic but explored the reasons for the change.  This set the tone for a more collaborative way of dealing with her frustrations and performance.

In summary, if you feel you tend to polarise between black and white thinking, ask yourself what impact this is having on the quality of your decisions, your stress levels and your relationships.  Then ask yourself what are other ways of looking at the same situation.  This gives you flexibility of response and potentially, much better outcomes.

If you would like to receive 1:1 coaching on getting your thinking working for you rather than against you, why not call for an initial chat to see if I can help you?  I can be reached on 0845 130 0854.


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Emotional Intelligence – Your Secret Weapon

Emotional IntelligenceI was interviewed for a leadership program on the subject of emotional intelligence this week.  I call it your secret weapon because it is said to account for 80% of your success.  You might be surprised to learn that intellect, though important too, actually only accounts for 20%.  It is your ability to handle yourself which is what makes the biggest difference and this is what emotional intelligence is about.  And the good news is that it helps you in your work and in your personal life too.

The downside of it is that you need to have it to know whether you have it!

There are four main elements to emotional intelligence (or EQ as it is also known):

1.  Self-awareness

This is about really knowing yourself - your strengths and your weaknesses too.  For a lot of people their blind spot is what holds them back so self-awareness is really important.

2.  Self-management

Self-management has a number of components, the most important of which is self-control.  Not in a controlling way (which implies a lack of flexibility), but rather that you are in charge of your responses.   This is what I like to call 'response-ability'.  It implies flexibility and choice - an awareness of options and an ability to see the bigger picture about which is the right option in the context you find yourself in.  It isn't about denial, or suppression but about always being at choice and to motivate yourself through times of challenge and when the initial shine of an idea has worn off.

3.  Social awareness

The most important component of social awareness is empathy - the ability to understand how someone feels.  It is not to be confused with sympathy, though often is.  Some research was conducted in the US with physicians.  Those who lacked empathy got sued more often than anyone else.  Empathy can get you very far, and the lack of it can impede your success, as well as affect your relationships.

4.  Social skills

The final, though no less important skill of EQ, is the ability to build relationships, to influence, to inspire, to deal with conflict.  All (and more) come under the umbrella of social skills.  And they require the other three to function well.

To understand the degree to which you are emotionally intelligent is really difficult on your own.  As I mentioned, you need to have a high degree of EQ to know if you have it.  It is easier to know your strengths and weaknesses if you have a profile done.  This takes off the blinkers, removes the blind spots and helps you understand yourself in more depth so you know what skills you can leverage, and where you need to improve.

EQ is a fascinating and complex area.

If you are a woman in a leadership position, you may want to sign up to "Unlock Your Leadership Potential Summit" hosted by a colleague of mine, Jill Furby at Limitless Women Leaders.  Alternatively, I will have the recording available for my clients so you won't miss out.  Keep posted and I will let you know as soon as it becomes available.

In the next article, I will talk about how to deal with overwhelm - a leading cause of stress.  Stay tuned!

To your success.



PS  Want to know how I can take your performance to the next level?  Contact me at tricia@triciawoolfrey.com to arrange a no-obligation chat.

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