Disagreeable Feedback

It is a simple fact that in order to improve in any skill, whether it be management, communication, or computers, feedback is needed. Great feedback happens when it is very specific, given timely, and in a way that is supportive of the recipient. However, we have all experienced feedback that doesn’t work for us. In fact, some feedback may simply be inappropriate or wrong. What is the best way to respond?

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is one of the leading experts on effective workplace communication. In a post on her blog, 5 Tips for When You Disagree with Feedback, Kim is very straightforward with the notion that you do not have to agree with feedback.

You can and should tell the person that you disagree. If you just say, “Thank you for the feedback” through gritted teeth, you seem Manipulatively Insincere. Better to take the time to explain why you disagree. Once, a CEO to whom I’d offered criticism told me the next day, “I reject that feedback — but I love that you told me what you think! Do you want to hear why I disagree?” Of course I did — and I actually felt better about my coaching of him after that because he’d been so totally open to criticism before that moment that I wondered if he was really hearing it.

Kim Scott

Kim wants to ensure that the person providing the feedback is honored for doing so. That way they understand you appreciated the effort even if you disagreed with their assessment. She then provides five tips on how to deal with feedback. The first is to check your understanding.

Repeat back what you think you heard, and say, “Did I understand correctly?” or “Did I get that right?” This is a good opportunity to show you care about the person, and what they think.

Learn more tips about how to respectful respond to disagreeable feedback on the Radical Candor web site.

Forget about the 5%

As a senior public official for one of the big six Florida Library Systems, I sometimes receive complaints and criticism about my decisions. Even through it is part of the job it is never fun nor easy to endure. Sometimes when my decisions are seen as controversial the feedback can be fierce. Instead of thoughtful communication on their point of view, some people quickly devolve their message into an angry personal attack. For example, someone once accused me of sponsoring terrorism because I issued a statement supporting racial equity which included the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Recently my friend Shola Richards wrote about his own experience facing unjustifiably angry people in his Monday morning newsletter. For someone who has had to endure far more vitriol than I will ever see his perspective on the subject was inspiring.

As a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), it took me a while to get to a place of acceptance when dealing with trolls and haters. After seven years in this game, here is one thing that I know for sure: whether it’s my books, my speeches, my social media content, or the emails that I write to you each Monday, there will always be a percentage of people out there who won’t like me or my content. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call them the “5%”.

Later in the newsletter, he shares insight on why it is so important not to give into this toxic group.

The key is remembering that the 5% do not deserve the power to stop us from making the world a kinder and more compassionate place. More importantly, we should focus our energy on the 95% of the people who, at least, are willing to give us a chance to connect in a meaningful way.  Of course, when you get constructive feedback, make sure to listen to it and adjust accordingly whenever appropriate. But the destructive and hateful feedback from the 5%? Yeah, feel free to brush that nonsense aside and keep it moving. As I said in a recent Go Together Movement email–if what you’re doing is not hurting you or anyone else, and it’s bringing you joy, then please keep doing it

To learn more about Shola and to subscribe to his newsletter, please visit his official web site.

Encouraging Reluctant Leaders

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. However, that does not mean it is only limited to a few brave souls born with the ability. Anyone can learn to lead. However, it is important to recognize that some potential leaders are reluctant to take on the responsibility. Yet with the right encouragement and situation they will step up to the challenge.

In an article from the Harvard Business Review titled Why Capable People are Reluctant to Lead, authors Chen Zhang, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Susan J. Ashford,and D. Scott DeRue identify three reasons why some people avoid leadership roles. The first has to do with Interpersonal Risk.

Interpersonal Risk: The first concern people mentioned over and over again was that acts of leadership might hurt their relationships with their colleagues. For example, when asked why they were hesitant to step up to lead, one respondent explained that “sometimes you don’t want to risk that friendship and hurt other people’s feelings.” Another said they were afraid that if they stepped up, other people could “start to dislike you and talk about you behind your back.” The fear of leadership harming interpersonal relationships was one of the most consistent themes we found throughout our interviews and surveys.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

The authors proceed to share strategies designed to overcome the concerns, such as this one for risk sensitive colleagues.

Go the extra mile to support your more risk-sensitive colleagues. Our interviews suggest that employees who are earlier in their careers, newer to their teams, and/or of lower rank in the organization’s structure may be particularly sensitive to leadership risks. In addition, prior research has shown that minority gender or ethnic groups are also likely to be more risk-sensitive in many professional leadership contexts. To encourage these employees to push past the additional challenges they face, managers can proactively reach out to them when opportunities arise, explicitly seek their input in key meetings and projects, and publicly praise their leadership contributions in front of senior colleagues.

Read the rest of the article at the Harvard Business Review.

Leadership Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

This past year has been a trying time for everyone including those in leadership positions. Many leaders had to make health and safety decisions for the staff and the public they serve in the face of a threat that no one had any experience dealing with before now. For me this past year was a tremendous challenged but it provided many deep insights into how to guide an organization through a crisis.

My thoughts on leading through a pandemic were summarized in an article published in the Learning Exchange newsletter this past quarter. One of my first observations was that to be successful in their job leaders would be wise to over-communicate.

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Over-Communicate – In times of crisis constant communication is vital.  However, it is easy for leaders to fall quiet in the face of uncertainty or be too limited in their sharing.  The stress of a crisis prompts fear.  One underappreciated fact about fear is the creativity it spawns.  This creativity can be directed towards solving problems or it can be used to fuel angst and discord.  I have found that in the absence of effective communication, people fill the space with negativity and worse case scenarios.  To avoid this trap, leaders must over communicate.

The rest of the article is available to view right here on the Efficient Librarian.

The Ripple Effect

How do we make Work work for everyone?

By that I mean how can we create physical or virtual workplaces where teams come together in the spirit of friendship, respect, and trust? One person who has thought deeply about this is Shola Richards. I would like to share a portion of one of his teachings about kindness from a post on his web site titled: Make Someone’s Day, Every Day:

The Ripple Effect

You likely know how deeply I believe in the power of kindness, so I won’t rehash that here. Here’s what I will say, though:

Kindness is the fastest, most effective, and easiest way to positively change the world. Just the simple act of making someone’s day can positively affect three (or more) people:

  • The person delivering the act of kindness
  • The person receiving the act of kindness
  • The person (or people) witnessing the act of kindness

Can you imagine if everyone reading this blog post committed to making someone’s day, every day? Can you imagine the positive impact that could have on literally millions of people? You (yes, you!) could literally be the person who restores someone’s faith in the goodness of humanity.

I believe that this “ripple effect” (one that we are responsible for starting, by the way) could be the key to healing the world.

And yes, the world needs healing.

Read the rest of his blog post at his web site.

The Power of Appreciation

“Why should I thank them?  It’s their job.”

Many years ago I heard a supervisor say those words about her staff and to this day it still makes me cringe.  This person assumed that merely paying people for their work was thanks enough.  After all, to her mind it was not as if they rescued someone from a burning building or something else extraordinary!

I hope that you agree with me that people deserve to be appreciated beyond financial compensation.  Gratitude is not only reserved for big things that happen, but the little daily actions that contribute to workplace success.  In fact, this is an argument that appreciation for small actions has an out-sized effect.  According to the O.C. Tanner Global Culture Report, an employee’s satisfaction with their job is directly related to the amount of positive micro-experiences they have.

What are micro-experiences?  They are the tiny things that happen every day that together shape our overall impression of a workplace.  For example, do your colleagues say good morning every day; is the work evenly shared; is there laughter and fun in the workplace;  and does the team stick up for its members in a crisis.  Positive micro-experiences connect to a sense of purpose, success, and well-being, while negative ones do the opposite.

To my mind the most powerful micro-experiences come from genuine appreciation.  The most basic form of which is the simple, “thank you.”  Those two words have done more to improve employee morale and team connection than any other reward system or program.  I’ll ask you this question: How often do you thank your colleagues for helping out, completing tasks, or simply listening to your concerns? 

On my Library Management Team we started a practice to open every meeting with a round of appreciation.  Each team member offers gratitude to another team member for something specific they have done.  They can even offer appreciation to staff from that person’s division.  Opening the meeting this way creates a subtle but significant impact on the quality of the meeting.  It gets everyone into a team mode and demonstrates how simple appreciation quickly lifts the mood.

To that end, I challenge you all to make appreciation for your colleagues a more deliberate part of your day.  One habit is to thank at least five people every day for something specific they did at work.  Write kudos to them for an extra surprise.  Then watch how the power of appreciation creates an amazing work experience.  Thank you all for reading these thoughts!  It is appreciated.

Is Leadership Right for You?

“Leadership has long-since subscribed to the belief that the best way to reward and keep the keepers is to give them other people to keep watch over. It’s just the way the weird world of work works.”
– Jodi Wellman, Forbes Article, What If You Don’t Want To Be A Leader

This past week I presented the first in a three webinar series on Leadership in libraries for the Panhandle Library Access Network. The opening webinar was titled: Leadership – Challenges and Rewards. In the early part of the webinar, I took aim at the idea that everyone can or should be a leader. In fact, leadership has some serious downsides for anyone aspiring it and I listed five downsides of leadership. Here is one for example:

1/ Leaders are Exposed

A leader assumes responsibility for the team’s actions and accomplishments, but there are many factors they have no control over.  Often, leaders have to make decisions in the face of limited information.  Whether it is bad luck, environmental conditions, mistakes by team members, or just simply running into more talented and eager competition, the leader often gets more of the blame for their decisions than is warranted by the actual circumstances.  A leader’s mistakes are often out there for the whole organization to see.

Although it is challenging, leadership does have many upsides. So the webinar also presented six simple steps for those at the start of their leadership journey.

The text for the webinar is available right here at the Efficient Librarian. The recording of the webinar is available on the PLAN web site.

Join myself and Adam Davis, PBCLS Director of System Services, for the second webinar, Leading Diverse Groups and People this Wednesday March 11, 3 pm EST, 2 pm CST. The webinar is free, so go ahead and register today.

The Zen of Bridgewater

“The traditional relationship between “leaders” and “followers” is the opposite of what I believe is needed to be most effective, and being maximally effective is the most important thing a “leader” must do.” – Ray Dalio

Although I have been a librarian for over twenty-two years, it still amazes me that certain books can have a deep impact on our view of the world and ourselves.  This is happening to me right now with a remarkable book called Principles by Ray Dalio.  

Ray Dalio founder, co-chairman and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, has written a book that seeks to encapsulate the amazing culture that he built in his company.  Bridgewater is designed as an idea meritocracy, where seeking the truth is paramount to all else. It is believed that a culture which prizes openness and vigorous debate above authoritarian structures is the key to success.

Dalio’s views on leadership were so intriguing to me that I wrote an article to explore them deeper. The excerpt below discusses why Dalio believes that leaders should not be afraid to ask questions.

Dalio places a high premium on asking questions.  While some leaders may hesitate to ask questions out of concern that they may look ignorant or uninformed, Dalio believes that asking questions is, “necessary in order to become wise and it is a prerequisite for being strong and decisive.”  Taking it even a step further, he believes that leaders should not hesitate to seek out those who are smarter and wiser then themselves, and even let staff who are better equipped in an area take the lead.  Ego and self promotion have no place in a true meritocracy.  As Dalio states, “The objective is to have the best understanding to make the best possible leadership decisions.”

Read the entire article and let me know your thoughts on this challenging approach to leadership.

Moments of Kindness

For my staff newsletter this week I tried something different. In addition to the usual updates about system-wide projects and County Commission items, I included a short piece on kindness. The feedback was strong, so I thought it would be worthwhile to share it here.

In this day and age, it seems like our society is more politically divided than ever. Thankfully, libraries remain one of the few non-partisan institutions supported across our communities. I believe part of that reason is that we are an organization built on kindness. This kindness is expressed by our willingness to help anyone who walks in our doors and by providing our residents with books and other items for their educational and entertainment needs. While we demonstrate kindness every day to our members, it is equally important to share this kindness with our colleagues. Kindness is free to give and its benefits outlast the moment in which it happens.

Yet, as we move through our day, kindness can seem elusive. When things go wrong, it is easy to point fingers and criticize others. In times when our emotions are raw, the temptation to say or write hurtful things can be tempting. In those times it is important to press pause and take a breath. If we remember that our colleagues are human and trying their best, our response can be more measured. At that point we can offer a helping hand and an encouraging word instead. Our strength comes from the bonds of teamwork and trust. Kindness is the glue that holds all this together.

So I invite you to spend a few moments writing a kudos to your colleagues. Thank them for their hard work and support. You may even want to nominate someone or a team for an ERA to recognize their outstanding work. Small moments of kindness create peak experiences that truly make someone’s day.

To that end, I thank you all for the work you do every day to connect communities, inspire thought, and enrich lives. Your combined efforts help make our library system the best place to work.

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