For many organisations including mine, it’s “year end” at 30 June, meaning lots of work to close out financial performance measures and work out how well we did as humans. Assessments are made against goals – how did you get away with that for an objective?! – and we try as best as we can to assess behaviours on leadership and teaming for the year just past.

It’s serious business. Countless research and anecdotes tell us people are more likely to leave their workplace because of their boss, not the work, or even the rewards. Leadership has a massive impact on performance, wellbeing, and the one measure most precious to me, happiness.

I don’t recall anyone saying to me – hate work, the boss is a prick, but I’m as happy as can be. Of course, happiness must just be my thing and satisfaction, professional reward, or contentment might be better descriptors for you. In fact I’ve had my happiness both challenged (it’s potentially superficial) – and reaffirmed (deeper happiness), at the same time by some recent reading on Stoicism. Stoicism considers that happiness can be found through virtue, the four main types of which are wisdom, justice, courage and moderation.

Using the Stoics virtues can guide us in feedback.

I think if we could try to give feedback that followed these Stoic principles, it would be a fairly good start for all of us. We could try giving feedback that is:

  • Given in the exercise of good judgment, experience, as a wise person would do – wisdom. Serious feedback needs serious work and is not for the faint-hearted and requires experience. It’s grown up’s work.
  • Fair and equitable according to the receiver’s experience – progressive justice. The platinum rule – treating others as they wish to be treated, not just how you think you might like to be treated.
  • Given honestly and accurately, regardless of the giver’s feeling – courage. Buckle up, this isn’t easy and it takes courage to do it, and do it right. That’s not just “telling the truth” as they can sound blunt, uncaring or abrupt.
  • Given with a sense of reason, balanced against the receiver’s overall performance and the team’s too – moderated. Moderated feedback is kind, generous and fair all at once.

Of course all is this is about supporting the giver. The receiver needs to be equally as prepared, and a wise receiver of feedback will be noticing the care and attention of the giver and playing their part – like an encouraging, nodding member of an audience – to encourage and help the giver too.

Go for it!

Stephen

ps Stoicism developed in the 3rd Century BCE and flourished in the Roman Empire

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