Feedback Season

Feedback Season

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

Those rocks are smaller than you think

Those rocks are smaller than you think

Coming to the end of The Obstacle is the Way I was surprised when the author announced that I was now a philosopher in Stoicism. Although the title of the book is perhaps an obvious clue as to what follows, I hadn’t framed my approach this way. But I found much of the book confirmatory of the usefulness of the concepts of stoicism – especially in a world of disruption (i.e. always!).

The challenging client? Covid anxiety? A war? The intractable work issue? Passive behaviour that feels aggressive? Too many life admins outstanding? All of the above all at once? I try to monitor and notice my own reactions to life’s obstacles – does my heart rate increase, am I irritable, do I start doing detailed work and planning? To notice is to be present in the here and now.

I remember many moons ago working in the Auckland Central police watchhouse – where people who had been arrested were “processed” – until they were bailed or taken to court. As you might imagine, not all customers were particularly happy – many drunk, aggressive and abusive. But you had to search, photograph and fingerprint them, whether they liked it or not. In some respects, achieving the outcomes required behaviour that was the antithesis of the macho, forceful imagine of a uniform cop tackling an alcohol-infused melee. It required the ability to depersonalise the anger directed at you. It’s surprisingly difficult to fingerprint someone – hold their fingers over an inkpad, and roll each finger on the paper – all ten of them – if they don’t want it! I must have achieved a modicum of success as the senior sergeant asked me to stay on for a second six month tour because he said, I had the temperament. I declined, patrols were far more exciting.

But it must have been part of my journey of stoicism, which has really come to the fore these last couple of years, although I’ve never really framed it for myself that way. Perception, Action and Will make up the three disciplines of this book and underpinning it is turning every obstacle into an advantage. In business we might say “turning lemon into lemonade”, or “pivoting now”, but what we’re doing is turning the challenge, the obstacle or disadvantage into an opportunity.

Put another way, declining to be a victim despite the circumstances of apparent unfairness, avoiding catastrophising a situation – living in the present – the book says that unfortunately “We have to dive endlessly into what everything “means”, whether something is “fair” or not, whats “behind” this or that..”. Actually most of the time when something isn’t going our way, the person, or people that might be the perceived cause, are more than likely not particularly interested in us. Sad, but good too! It can put perspective into our lives.

Been “disrespected” at work? Who hasn’t been? (who hasn’t done it too?). Was the other person acting with intention? Possibly, but more than likely it was just a moment. So don’t worry. Feed off what they said and come back more powerful appearing more considered and patient as a result.

It’s a perfect day for stoicism. Rain is here after what feels like months of fine weather (unconscious bias of course – there’s been some!), and it’s got that cosy, rain on the roof feeling.

An opportunity to catch up on life admin, and even restart a blog!

Stephen

Headline Photograph: Stonehenge from a visit in 2015. The rocks were quite a bit smaller than I had imagined.