Feedback Audit – Guide to Working with Me

February 18, 2019

11In last week’s blog, we discussed how to receive feedback well by focusing on the types of feedback (ACE – Appreciation/Coaching/Evaluation) you might receive as well as aspects of the feedback which might feel triggering (Truth, Relationship, and Identity Triggers) to you.

The Triad Consulting Group has developed handouts and worksheets that you can access on their website to help guide you through various aspects of difficult conversations and feedback.

When thinking about how to improve how well you receive feedback, it is first important to consider your past experiences taking in feedback. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are your pet peeves about feedback?
  2. How sensitive am I to feedback?
  3. What is my processing time for feedback? Do you need time to reflect or can you discuss and engage in the moment?
  4. How long is my recovery time when receiving critical feedback?
  5. If you are triggered by feedback, how can others tell?
  6. How about email? Is coaching by email and not face-to-face acceptable?
  7. What areas are you particularly sensitive about?
  8. When do I feel appreciated?
  9. What is the best setting and timing for me to effectively hear coaching feedback?
  10. What advice would you give others regarding giving you feedback? How can they interpret your reactions?

It is important to be introspective, thoughtful, and genuine when answering these questions. Perhaps you are very sensitive to feedback and your swing/recovery time is not swift. Take a moment to own up to those characteristics and not feel badly about it. Evaluate what could possibly be triggering for you from different feedback scenarios. The only way to begin receiving feedback well is by gaining these personal insights first and foremost.

Remember that you have the right to choose whether you apply the feedback, but you also are able to coach your coach about the feedback in the first place. Without going overboard, you can tell your coach generally how you receive feedback and ask for their consideration in helping you to hear their insights well. If you get overwhelmed by too much information in a coaching session, try to look for themes to these evaluations. If necessary, ask “What’s one thing you see me doing, or failing to do, that you think is getting in my way?”

For more information, check out the book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well which is available for checkout at the OITE Library.

 

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Thanks for the Feedback – How to Receive Feedback Well

February 11, 2019

10Maybe you are not sure how to process your latest performance review at work, or maybe an offhand critical comment has left you ruminating. In any shape or form, receiving feedback is crucial to one’s personal and professional development; however, it can also be extremely challenging to hear.

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen are the authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (book available for checkout at the OITE Library). They have spent over a decade working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families – all with the purpose of discovering what helps people learn and what gets in the way of a growth mindset.

Within this blog, we have discussed difficult conversations at work and tools to help you structure the feedback you give, but we haven’t focused on a very simple question:

What makes feedback so hard?

Most advice books are focused on instructing you how to give feedback effectively and productively, but fail to focus on the act of receiving feedback. With this in mind, it is important to note two basic human needs: the first of which is that we want to be accepted and loved for how we are now; the second of which is that we also want to learn and grow. In thinking about the first point, it is important to recognize what makes you feel appreciated. For some it might be a public recognition or informal words of affirmation, while for others it could be an act of service and somebody willing to help you out with a favor. If you go into any feedback feeling underappreciated, then it could be a potential obstacle to how effectively you hear any coaching/feedback.

According to the book, there are three types of feedback – ACE.

Appreciation – Feedback focused on giving thanks and encouraging a person to keep up what they are doing.

Coaching – Feedback focused on showing you how you can do something better whether that is improving a skill or fixing an imbalance in a relationship.

Evaluation – Feedback focused on explaining or clarifying how you stand up next to others or against expectations.

Coaching and evaluative feedback can be triggering and Heen/Stone noted three triggers that can be a challenge to receiving feedback well.

Truth Triggers (Challenge to See) – We often view feedback as wrong or unfair, feel defensive, and completely reject the information we are given.

Relationship Triggers (Challenge of We) – We are speculative of the person and/or relationship with the person giving the feedback and view the information as faulty.

Identity Triggers (Challenge of Being Me) – An aspect of the feedback causes us to question ourselves or our abilities and can stifle our growth identity.

Triad Consulting Group has a variety of online resources for improving your conversations. Included in this are preparation worksheets that can help guide you though a feedback audit of yourself. In next week’s blog we will focus on insightful questions to help you understand more clearly how you receive feedback.


Expressing Yourself and Your Ideas as an Introvert in an Extraverted World

January 28, 2019

rawpixel-682403-unsplashIf you are introverted or reserved, you may sometimes feel pressure in an extraverted world to express your thoughts and ideas even though you don’t really feel the need to share them. Each individual has their own preferences for when to engage and communicate with other people professionally and personally.

You may wonder: “Why do I need to do this?” The answer is – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. However, sometimes at work or at home, it will be in your best interest to share your thoughts and ideas verbally (aloud) with others.

Also, there are times that everyone, whether introverted or extraverted, might choose to do something that they don’t prefer to do, or that that don’t feel they excel at, to reach an important goal or to strengthen a relationship.

Even if you don’t feel the need to share your thoughts, developing skills to engage with others and express yourself will enhance your ability to contribute professionally when it will help you to reach your goals.

  • Need help from a colleague or mentor?
    • Mentors are not mind readers. it’s important to let him or her know and ask for their help.
  • Want to express your opinion about a problem or experimental approach?
    • You will be more effective if you can discuss your ideas out loud as well as in writing.
  • Looking to meet new people for social or career purposes?
    • Find a way to reach out. Even extraverts can be shy and will appreciate your taking time to talk with them.

You may be applying for graduate school or medical school after your post-bac or seeking a full-time job after your post-doc at NIH.  Just doing good work or getting good grades is not enough to help people understand your strengths and goals

Developing assertive skills to speak up about your skills and knowledge will enable the faculty/employers evaluating your applications to understand you and the knowledge and commitment you will bring to their organization or university.

The more you develop your skills at reaching out: commenting, talking and engaging with other colleagues and fellow scientists, the more effective you will be in communicating your ideas.

If you prefer introversion you probably have many internal thoughts and ideas about issues and problems/experiments. It will help you and your mentor/colleagues to better understand you if they actually hear your thoughts.

Speaking up and sharing our thoughts is an assertive act and one that is sometimes not as important or preferred by people who are introverted. They simply do not have the need to talk about their thoughts all the time. For extraverts – talking about their thoughts is an important part of the process of thinking through a problem and sorting through the alternatives.

No matter what your preferences, you can be more effective in making requests and expressing your ideas and opinions if you use I-Statements.

Planning an I-Statement can help you to clarify your thoughts and focus on the message you want to express or the request you would like to make.

Using I statements would include a formula something like this:

Use a 3-part statement:

  • Describe a behavior or situation that is going on, or what you want or need
  • The effects are . . . (describe how the behavior or situation concretely affects you or would affect you)
  • I’d prefer, I’d like . . . (describe what you want/need/plan to do)

 For example:

  1. I think I have enough results to present at the ASM meeting in September in Arizona.
  2. I think this would really help me move ahead toward my goal of working in academia.
  3. Do you think the lab would be able to support my attendance at this meeting?

Using I statements doesn’t guarantee that we will always get what we want. However, they can be a great first step in letting other people know about our ideas and goals and also help us to clarify our thoughts.

Remember that it is up to you how you choose to engage and speak up professionally and personally in the world.

Assertive behavior can help you to be more effective when you choose to communicate your ideas and requests. The next assertiveness workshop will take place on be Feb 28, 2019. https://www.training.nih.gov/events/view/_2/2629/Speaking_Up_How_to_Ask_for_What_You_Need_in_the_Lab_and_in_Life

If you aren’t at the NIH, two good resources for follow-up include:

  1. Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking 
  2. Susan Cain’s blog on executive presence for Introverts

https://www.quietrev.com/executive-presence-for-introverts/

 


Advice on Getting Advice

November 13, 2018

clem-onojeghuo-381193-unsplashPeople tend to have a lot of varying opinions — on every topic possible. Just imagine how many different responses you could get when asking what flavor of ice cream you should order or what type of car you should buy. Everyone has their own unique preferences and often their distinct experiences have helped shape their opinions on these topics.

The same is true for advice about career and life choices.

This sounds like common sense, right? However, it is often surprising how many trainees will make major life decisions based on one PI’s opinion or another mentor’s passing advice. At OITE, we often hear trainees say they received conflicting advice/input and need guidance on how to proceed. Here are some basic principles to keep in mind when receiving advice.

Understand that advice should help you to make a decision, not tell you what your decision should be. This is a crucial distinction. Most well-trained career counselors will not share their opinion on what you should do with your life and career; rather, they often ask open-ended questions to help get you thinking about your options and what your preferences might be. The goal in career counseling is to help you develop new ideas and/or to share resources that might eventually help you have that lightbulb moment of clarity.

With that said, advisors, mentors, PIs, parents, partners, and friends all will often share their advice with you. Most are well-meaning and trying to help you. But, just like product reviews on Amazon, you can’t take any one opinion too seriously, unless it really resonates with you. It is important to remember the source for the advice. Often we hear postbacs report advice they received on their medical school application from a PI who never went to medical school nor served on a medical school admission committee. The advice may or may not be sound, so it is important to verify that you are getting accurate advice from a trustworthy person.

Another common mistake alluded to about advice is the tendency to take one opinion as fact. Just like in your experiments, you want to have a broad and diverse sample to pull from as it will only help strengthen you research findings. The same is true with advice. We often recommend doing informational interviews, but are surprised when trainees rule out an entire field because of one bad informational interview. Remember that you might not have the exact same personality or work style as that person and be sure to seek multiple opinions.

Asking for advice and seeking help in making a decision or solving a problem is a great thing to do; just be sure to weigh these opinions properly and don’t let any single advice-giver have more power than you allow yourself.


Negotiating Across Cultures

July 30, 2018

It can be difficult enough to negotiate within your own home culture, but it can become even more trying when cultural differences are factored in. You have probably noticed cultural differences when communicating and collaborating with international labs. Language barriers aside, the way messages are received can vary widely and are often viewed through a cultural lens.

Erin Meyer, Professor at INSEAD, and the author of The Culture Map: Breaking Through Invisible Boundaries of Global Business has been studying this topic for years. You can watch an interesting video on international communication styles at Harvard Business Review entitled “Getting to Yes Across Cultures”.

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She also created a spectrum and sorted nationalities based on how confrontational and emotionally expressive they are. For example, the U.S. is considered mildly emotionally expressive and confrontational. In America, it is quite common to say, “I totally disagree.” This could seem like a banal statement; however, in other cultures, this same sentence could provoke anger and a breakdown within the relationship and the negotiation. It might be better to be less blunt and say things like, “I don’t quite understand your point. Can you explain more?”

Some cultures, like Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, view open disagreement as a positive as long as it is expressed calmly. Whereas in cultures like Japan and Korea, any disagreement could be seen as a failure. So, the next time you are heading into a big meeting or negotiation, take a moment to remember how your own cultural lens might affect your perceptions all the while recognizing how this might be the same or different for your counterpart.


A Tool for Feedback: Situation – Behavior – Impact (SBI)

July 16, 2018

In last week’s blog, we discussed difficult conversations at work. Today, we are going to focus on a tool which helps give you a framework for starting that convo and offering feedback. Created by the Center for Creative Leadership, the SBI Feedback Tool offers a simple structure that you can utilize straightaway.

  1. Situation
    Puts the feedback in context by attaching it to a time, place, or specific circumstance

    For example: “During yesterday’s lab meeting, when you asked me for an update on my project…”

  2. Behavior
    Describe what you observed and clearly state the observable action

    For example: “During yesterday’s lab meeting, when you asked me for an update on my project, you interrupted and contradicted me three times…”

  3. Impact
    Outlines the feeling and thoughts which happened as a result

    For example: “During yesterday’s lab meeting, when you asked me for an update on my project, you interrupted and contradicted me three times. I felt I wasn’t given a chance to properly give an overview of my work and I was embarrassed in front of my lab-mates.”

Once you have given your feedback, be sure to allow the person time to comprehend what you have said. It is important to give the individual a chance to respond and you should check in with them by asking “How do you feel about this feedback? Is there anything you don’t agree with or that I missed?” Be sure to then offer specific suggestions that would help avoid conflict in future scenarios. For example: “Can we meet one-on-one to discuss your concerns with my work? Then, can we find time next week for me to present all of my data to the rest of the lab?” It is not enough to go into a conversation to just complain about what happened. Try to move the conversation into a more action-oriented and solution-focused approach.

The final step in this feedback scaffold is to summarize and express support. An example of how this might look with this particular scenario is: “I appreciate your willingness to review my project on Monday and it sounds like we are going to try again at next Thursday’s lab meeting.”

Conflict can be especially taxing when it is with your boss. Try your best to understand their preferred method in dealing with these issues and approach it in a way that will enhance their openness to hearing your feedback. It can help if you frame the problem in a work productivity way. For example: “I have found that I work best when X and I feel that putting Y system into place will help with my work flow. Would this work with you?”


Difficult Work Conversations

July 9, 2018

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Are you dreading a difficult work conversation? Perhaps you are already anticipating it will result in conflict. At work, conflict typically occurs when there are different perceptions regarding: 1. Tasks/Goals 2. Process – Methods, Quality, Timing, Resources 3. Status/Roles and 4. Relationship – Personalities and Values.

In a survey of scientists, more than two-thirds report having between 1-5 “uncomfortable interactions” with people at work each week. More than 75% report spending about 10-25% of their time on “people problems”. Take a moment and reflect on how you typically respond to conflict? Some people feed off conflict and it energizes them; while others feel extremely drained by conflict and have a strongly avoidant reaction. Conflict is very personal and we all tend to respond in different ways, which can reflect both a mix of our cultural/familial upbringing, our own personality preferences, and our feelings about the issue at hand. Both sides often have strong emotions which leak into the whole situation. Here are some responses you might encounter in yourself or others when giving difficult feedback or having a strained conversation.

  • Avoidance – Not responding and withdrawing either immediately or in days to follow
  • Excess Emotion – Tears, anger, sarcasm
  • Denial – “No, I didn’t…”
  • Generalization – “Everyone else does the same thing…”
  • Over personalization – Feeling unnecessarily called out “Why don’t you like/support/value me?”
  • Rigidity and Focus on Rules – “You said do X and I did X.”
  • Attacking the Source – Yelling, threatening “Who are you to tell me that?”
  • Explaining without owning – Citing personal reasons, stress, deadlines, etc.

It can be easy to identify these responses in others, but not necessarily see it in yourself. Remember to pay attention to what your inner voice is saying; and, if needed, reframe it accordingly. How can you do this though when emotions are running high and your inner tape is on a constant negative loop?

    1. Breathe & Slow Down The calmer and more centered you are, the more likely you will be to handle difficult conversations and/or any negative feedback you could receive. Take regular intervals or breaks on days that are especially stressful, whether that is a walk or an extra coffee break. Try to lower your overall stress level before the conversation begins. Likewise, during a conversation, try to slow the pace. Being mindful of your cadence and pausing every now and then can help defuse the tension.
    2. Be compassionate Try to adopt the other’s point of view for a moment. What frustrations might they be feeling? If you feel your boss is being too hard on you, it might be because they are getting pressured from their boss. Recognize there might be professional or personal pressure points on the other person of which you aren’t fully aware. It can be difficult when negative emotions are running high but try to assume the best instead of the worst.
    3. Change Mindset
      Once you label a conversation as potentially difficult, you are more likely to feel much more nervous about it beforehand. Likewise, this is true if you label a person as trying. Do your best to neutralize the interaction ahead of time and you will likely have a much more positive outcome. 

It can be tempting to avoid the face-to-face confrontation and try to settle conflict by email; however, it is extremely likely that an email communication will only exacerbate the situation. It is hard to read tone and other cues for meaning and usually the content is misinterpreted in a negative way. So, do your best to prepare yourself and go and have the conversation you have been putting off!