Feedback on Feedback


If I ask you what giving feedback is about, you will probably answer that:
- It is a way of telling people what they did well or failed to do well.
- It’s also a way to guide them to perform better by filling their competencies or skill gaps.
- In order to improve and reach Excellence.
By saying that, we take 3 theories for granted:
- Theory of Source of Truth: Others are far more reliable raters of my behaviour than me, because I cannot see myself performing, I have to rely on others’ feedback.
- Theory of Learning: Thanks to the feedback, I know what competencies and skills I miss and so by learning them, I can fill the gaps to become a better version of myself.
- Theory of Excellence: Excellence is a universal concept that, if defined and communicated clearly, should be understood and in reach of anyone. In essence saying that my way of reaching excellence is also yours. It’s universal.

Surprise! none of these 3 theories are true.

Why? Let’s review each of them again:
- Our so-called capacity to rate people is actually a projection of our own characteristics and bias. In one word, we are not reliable when we give feedback as the best we can offer is not an objective rating but more a distorted truth influenced by our own opinions, experiences and education. Ask a few people to rate you on one occasion and you will probably end up with as many different feedbacks as there are people observing your performance.
- Research shows that learning happens best when we focus on our strengths rather than on our weaknesses. Our brain will grow more in areas where it is already strong. It also means that to reach excellence, we need to know where to focus our learning, hence what strengths to optimize. This positive feedback will trigger the brain “rest and
digest” system; it will allow more understanding of the situation and will give a better basis for learning and then achieving excellence.

On the opposite side of the feedback spectrum, pointing out people’s weaknesses will impeach learning. Negative feedback will turn the brain into “flight, fight or freeze” survival mode as it will be processed as a threat. Obviously, not the best time to learn anything.
- “Let me explain what I mean by Excellence so that you can get there easily”. The only one who could reach the Excellence I describe is ME as it is a concept belonging to me, shaped by my individuality, consciously or not. I am the only one who can truly understand the concept I want to demonstrate. I can try to guide people where I think excellence lies, but it can never be fully reached as my vision of it is not anyone else.

So rather than trying to get people move towards something that is nothing else than your own vision of excellence, why not simply and modestly try to support them into “being” better?

Luckily some easy techniques can be used:

- When someone in your team does something that works well, “grab” this moment: tell that person and the team “Yes!! That!” or “here, well done!”. You will create a time capsule that everyone will remember. Research has shown how powerful praising people is. Turning minds onto something positive is the beginning of a virtuous circle that supports people’s growth fast.
- Moreover, by holding the space when you notice something that worked well, you allow people to gain an insight that might have not been visible otherwise. It might also be a pattern and in such cases, it can be recalled, reused and redefined depending on the situations. This is when learning happens…
- Instead of telling someone “You should have done this, you could have said that…”, highlight what impact it had on you: “when you did this, I felt… or it made me think at….” Or use questions like “did you see what you did/said here?”. Anchor your reflection in time.
- Don’t try to tell people how they should do something and even less to judge or criticize.
Remember that expressing our opinions when they are negative will trigger the “flight,
fight, freeze” system will inhibit learning.
- Make sure to use “what” questions which triggers more concrete actions rather than “why”, more emotional and which might make people think they have to justify their actions.
- You can also (kindly) challenge people: what did you see that worked well? What did
you do to make it work? What part (of your work, project, etc) worked well?

You can also explore the past, present and future when people ask for feedback:

o Start in the present as this is a current situation, challenge or a problem happening in the moment that brings someone to ask for your feedback.
o Then, focus on the past and what people did that already worked and could be duplicated or adjusted to turn this issue/challenge into a positive experience.
o Lastly, focus on the future, eventually share some of your own experiences if you think it can help. Most of the time, people already know or “feel” what needs to be done so ask for their opinion and ideas: “what do you know you need to do, what do you think would work in this situation, what do you need to address here?”
o Ask questions instead of trying to solve the problem immediately, it will trigger the release of oxytocin in the brain, also called “creativity drug” and will direct the person’s attention towards thinking outside the box.

If you are familiar with coaching, you have probably recognised some of the techniques we, coaches, use during our sessions. Listening rather than talking, asking questions rather than answering them, supporting people’s development by allowing them to understand where and when they did something that makes a difference, praising them for their efforts, all of these are part of how to practice.

If this article resonates with you and if you want to know more about it or if you want to develop these skills that will enable you to support your team, then let me know so that we can have a chat and see how we can work together.

Learn to Say No! 

One of my biggest challenges when I was a manager was to say “NO”. Not only to my boss,but also to my colleagues and collaborators. It was not really that I feared saying No, it’s more that I liked (too much) being at the centre of the organizations I was working for.

Multitasking was my everyday life and I thought I was strong and organised enough to decide what to do, when and who for.
I can now see how much prioritizing and firefighting had become my routine, bringing an unnecessary mental “load” that could have been avoided had I realized that earlier.

As I was preparing this post, I came through a lot of articles explaining how not so difficult it is to say “No”. Technically, it is not, I agree. Open your mouth and simply say “No”.

So why are we so reluctant to use that powerful word?

- Do we feel intimidated or scared by our boss/colleagues?
- Do we fear being seen as the “No” person, the one who doesn’t want to be the team-player or doesn’t support the company?
- Are we not simply being impolite? Inconsiderate?
- Do we want to be helping people so much that we cannot even consider refusing another extra task, even if it is not really part of our responsibilities?
- Do we think that saying “Yes” all the time will lead us to be promoted or rewarded faster and better? Are we scared of missing an opportunity?
- Does saying “Yes” makes us feel socially accepted?
- And thinking about China where I live, would saying “no” make us lose face?

For sure, you must have recognised yourself in at least one of these statements! We all have good reasons not to use “No”. However, instead let us put in the balance the benefits of being a bit more selective in what we want to be achieving at work:

- Saying “No” sets healthy boundaries when it is used in a conscious and measured manner and when clearly communicated to others.
- By doing so, we become less people pleasers and instead empower ourselves: less urgencies means less prioritizing and more time to handle our core tasks more efficiently.
- Saving our time and energy for what really matters to us is positive. Sticking to our values rather than others’ is too. Knowing it and applying it will systematically trigger a liberating feeling to us.
- Also, having more quality time to achieve our core tasks will enhance our confidence and self-esteem.

All in all, learning how to use no will improve our ability to care for ourselves and what truly matters to us. Studies show that self-care has visible and positive effects on our mental health. And we all know that being happier at work can only have positive impacts not only
for us, but also for the organization.

This being said, I can already hear you saying that it is easily said but that in real life, it is often very touchy to say No to our managers or whoever asks for help and advice.

This is a fair point and agreeing to do something we don’t want to do is sometimes not an option. However, between Yes and NO, there is a spectrum of solutions that you might want to consider using to make a No more acceptable.

The thing is that there is no right way to say No, so you will need to try and see what works best for you. Simply remember that the way you say it matters. A lot. 

Here are a few ideas:

- Ask for a deadline, don’t impose unnecessary pressure on you. The no could become “Not now”.
- Choose when to say “No” otherwise you will indeed be seen as the one who is not a team-player; declare your intentions to be a “yes person” and prove it regularly.
- Hence, having the reputation of being helpful, hardworking, flexible and committed will make your life easier when you choose to say No.
- Learn to use delegation efficiently. The No could become “not me”.
- As mentioned earlier, stick to your values firmly and in a consistent way. People will bit by bit adapt to the way you work.
- Reassess your boundaries regularly so your No today could turn into a Yes next time and vice-versa.

As a conclusion, the power of No is real and should be acknowledged more widely by all of us. It could create that virtuous circle that we really need to be more efficient at work. It supposes that we fight what we have been taught since we have been kids, that saying no makes us impolite, inconsiderate and somewhat would prevent us from belonging to a
place.

This is not true in most cases if we know where and when we can prioritize our tasks and values over others’.

The good news is that if we consider that saying no is a skill, then it can be trained.

So get set, ready, go! Try it and let me know how it goes.
 

 


 

AI And Coaching: Would You Be Ready To Be Coached By Artificial Intelligence?

 | “Hello, my name is Eugene. I am your coach; how can I help you?”Does it sound funny? Scary? Weird? Fascinating? A bit of each?

Have you already heard of Eugene Goostman? It is a “chatbot”, a robot that is programmed to be able to have a simple discussion with you. It won the “Turing Test’, a contest created by Alan Turing, this famous English mathematician and logician who invented the first code-breaking machine able to decrypt Enigma.

What is the Turing Test, or as initially called, the Imitation Game?Basically, a judge interacting with 2 partners, one known as being a machine, hidden from him. The judge would write questions on a computer and if the answers on his screen are good enough not to guess which one is the machine, then the machine is said to have passed the test.

Back to Eugene, it was developed in the early 2000’s in Russia and has participated in several Turing Tests and even won it in 2012. In order to make it easier for him (shall I say “it”?), the judges were told that he was a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy as the organisers thought that would make the judges more tolerant to grammatical errors or lack of general knowledge. As a result, less than 30% of them assumed Eugene was really the character they were told he was. 

I have read a lot of his discussions with the judges and I have to say, I have been impressed. Eugene did really well. However, a lot of small but repetitive errors gave most of these discussions a funny turn and I am really not sure that Eugene could have tricked his evaluators for long if the test had been extended.

This being said, Artificial Intelligence is integrating into our lives more and more. How many times have you had a chat with “Julia” or “John”, the customer service “chatbot” of your telephone, electricity or gas provider? Like it or not, use it or not, AI tends to become a standard way of communicating. 

I have been through coaching platforms using “chatbots”, or as I call them, “coachbots”. At first, I was really surprised to see them advertised, apparently in order to help you reach your work or life goals. Really? How could a machine understand, analyse and reflect on emotions, feelings, behaviours? It can to a certain extent. However, a machine, whatever powerful it is, is only a sum of programs created by human beings. It is using what has been loaded inside it to analyse situations and answer questions.

To be honest though, I reckon there are a few things that coachbots could do better than human beings:Be available 24/7 without an appointment;Never lose focus during a conversation as it cannot be disturbed or interrupted;Always keep a better distance with emotions as it cannot feel any;Let’s go even further and imagine that a coachbot, with the authorization of the coachees, could analyse their physical behaviours, it could tell a lot:Heart rate, how much dilated pupils are, body shaking, voice unsteady, gestures, count of keywords, length of a hesitation, etc.It could bring a lot of attention to the non-verbal behaviour, which represents 70% of communication and emphasize moments when the coachees feels deeper emotions or thoughts and reacts more to the situation.

However, to my mind, coachbots should not be available to people on platforms. They give a “cheap” image to a futuristic way of coaching where people would hire a coachbot more because they have the impression they are living a kind of science-fiction life than because they really need to talk to a robot. They should only be used to support coaches by analysing sessions once they are finished in order not to “short-circuit” the coach. I fear that coachbots, not knowing what feeling means, would offer cold and too rational, factual questions or reflections to coachees. To my mind, coaching is a process using soft skills, experience, imagination. It also means looking after coachees, offering them a safe space, a cocoon where they would feel listened to, understood and valued. They cannot be a number amongst others. So far, I haven’t heard that robots could offer that special space to their coachees.

Another important question should be answered by these companies which are promoting coachbots: what ethics and deontology do these coachbots follow? How are the coachees protected?
That will be another discussion for another article as there are real questions to be raised and answered. | ReplyForward | 


 


 

Thank You   

When was the last time you received a genuine compliment at work? 

And first of all, what is a compliment? According to the Collins Dictionary, a compliment is a polite remark that you say to someone to show that you like their appearance, appreciate their qualities or approve of what they have done.


A very recent study done by Erica Boothby and Vanessa K. Bohns has revealed very interesting facts about the value of compliments and their impacts on people.


  • First, it seems that when we give compliments, we systematically think they won’t be well received. Giving a compliment, whatever it is, makes us feel uncomfortable and anxious as we believe it will annoy the person who will receive it.
  • Even if we see the people we approached and complimented happily, we have difficulties in adjusting our belief that we have made them feel valued. We still think we were not good enough.


Why?

  • We think that this anxiety and discomfort come from our supposed inability to “perform” a compliment. In essence, we think that we are not good, almost incompetent, at expressing the right words to make the compliment receiver feel genuinely valued. 
  • We might also be put off by cultural norms. Being kind could be interpreted as requesting a favour in return. And we are not sure that the compliment receivers are truly happy about the compliment, maybe they are just being polite.
  • We fear social judgement. We believe that our compliments are awkward, so people are obviously noticing their flaws and judge us poorly.


For all these reasons, this underestimation of the value of our compliments decreased the likelihood of giving them. We are our harshest critics.


But:

  • The good news here is that with a bit of training, we are quickly growing more confident and feeling more competent, so delivering a compliment becomes each time easier. 
  • When we are resisting pressure, anxiety and insecurity, we are able to anticipate the positive impact of a compliment.
  • Truly, when receiving a compliment, people see us through positive eyes and won’t notice all these awkward and/or details that we overestimate. 
  • Giving compliments is making us happier than receiving them. It creates that nice feeling of connecting with people, especially with strangers. 
  • And as the study perfectly says: “Expressions of admiration, endorsement and general positive regards are an important component of social life, in large part because they satisfy people’s fundamental need to belong”.



In short:

  • The more we compliment people, the easier it becomes.
  • We always underestimate the impact of giving a compliment. 
  • Giving a compliment is an easy way to break the ice and it makes an easy start to any discussion.
  • Stop believing we know how people see and judge us.
  • But make sure that your compliment is appropriate (differences of cultures, genders, traditions might make a compliment acceptable here but not there)
  • A compliment is free of charge so let’s enjoy giving them more often.



In what way coaching could help you?


As I mentioned earlier in this article, even if we can see how happy people are once we have given them a nice and genuine compliment, we still believe we are not good enough and we underestimate the value and impact of our compliments on them.


I can help you feel more confident and comfortable giving compliments, reduce your anxiety and nervousness. By going through one or a few sessions of coaching, you can develop that positive behaviour that will make you be looked at in a better way by your peers and managers. Coaching will support you in differentiating yourself from most people in your organization and that’s the kind of positive difference you need to be more visible.


 

Eureka! I Have Found It  

You've had THE idea of the year in the middle of the night and worried your partner because you're dancing around the bed and can't contain your excitement so now you want to promote it to your boss. But, the next day as they look at you, straight in the chair in a very bossy attitude, you feel it might not be as easy as it seemed during the night.


Each of us indeed has strengths and shortcomings. We know some of them, suspect we have a few others, ignoring most of them. This is where coaching can help you to uncover your potential.


I have never been a great fan of categorising people but let’s do this so to make it clearer:

  • Would you describe yourself as an introvert? Happy in your own space at work, mastering your very specific work language, not the best at socialising if it is not behind your screen? 
  • Or are you rather a creative, a dreamer? The one that has 1000 ideas per minute, some crazier than others? You are never so happy than with new projects, concepts and able to brainstorm for hours.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, you could be the factual one, the results-driven manager or employee, never happier than when the target is hit.
  • Or you could see yourself as shy, not confident, impressionable, hesitant, or even anxious. The idea of meeting your boss and talking to them puts you in a transcendent state of panic.
  • You could also be the opposite: ambitious (too much in your boss’ mind), too confident, too brilliant. 


I am not saying these are right or wrong behaviours, I am only using my experience to describe real characters and attitudes. And for each of them, we know that there is a need for adjustment if we want to be convincing and listened to.


Through the session, you will change the lenses you've seen yourself through in order to overcome the challenges you may face in the future each time you need to convince your boss. 



Help your ideas to become reality!

The Broken Rung

“The Broken Rung”… doesn’t it sound like the title of a bad horror movie?

But before going any further, let’s understand this concept. I haven’t found one official definition but if I try to make a summary of what I have read so far, let’s say that the Broken Rung is a phenomenon where women won't get promoted as often as men when they start working. In recent research led by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, it has been found out that women would miss the initial promotion to management more than men would and hence, would struggle all along their career to catch up. I don’t think there is a real need to detail the reasons. 

Every one of us knows that changing work mentality is slow and difficult and even if things are moving a bit more every day, men are still more likely to be hired for a similar job even if the skills, experience, motivation etc are the same. So now that we know what the problem is, what solutions do we, female leaders, have to overcome this situation? What can we influence to succeed?It seems that women are less likely to make themselves visible in their company, especially when they are recently hired. They are extremely engaged in their job but will keep efforts and results to their close circle of colleagues and to their manager.

 Remember you are facing tough competition. If you want to be promoted, you need to be visible to your leaders. Don’t wait for them to notice your work. It will take too long and it might never happen. Moreover, you don’t want them to notice your work only. They need to remember YOU, the person behind the job. So act! Be present at company functions, network, take the leadership role in organising or help to organise events within your company, find a mentor to help you to navigate where you want to go. 

The more present you are, then the more people will hear your voice, the more they will remember you.Yes, it requires a big dose of patience and motivation, it might even mean going outside your comfort zone but keep in mind that the 1st step is the most difficult and although intimidating at first, you can do it!Coaching is a good way of finding your true self. It will offer you clarity and visibility about yourself, allowing you to quickly change what needs to be changed to jump higher than this Broken Rung that may be stopping you from progressing up the ladder. 



 

All Different? Absolutely! All Essential? Obviously! 

Have a look at this picture and tell me what you see? Different shapes, colours, sizes, more or less straight? You are right. Also, they are all stones. 


All along my professional life, I worked for companies with strong corporate culture and I liked being part of it. I really did. But it was not always easy. My personality had sometimes to tune down to adopt the behaviour the company was expecting from their managers.

I have no regrets at all but I reckon now that companies face a challenge; they know that they should value more what make people different from each other. More and more companies accept these differences but a lot still don’t either. 


This is why sometimes you lose yourself; not suddenly, not brutally but bit by bit, quite willingly because you like belonging to a culture that supports you, promotes you, lets you travel, makes you meet brilliant people, gets you trained to improve your skills and competencies…you feel valued so you want to embrace that culture and give as much as you are being offered. 


But remember that you are one of these stones. It’s because they are shaped differently that it gives this sculpture its design, its strength, its uniqueness. Each stone has a role to play, all are essential.

If you are lucky to work for a company that lets you use your differences and/or promote them, then you know how lucky you are. Acknowledging them is what will make the company strive and develop.


And if you are working in a place where employees are required to keep a low profile and stay within a strongly defined frame and if you feel this is nurturing frustrations, anxiety, depression, disengagement and demotivation, then you might want to rethink your working life. 


Let’s talk about it together in a chemistry call of 15-20mn (free of charge) after which you can decide to let me coach you if you feel that could support you in making a change into your worklife.



Know Yourself, Push Yourself, Be The First To Sparkle

Let’s play a game together. Imagine you are going to a job interview tomorrow. Not any job interview though. This is THE one for your dream job. 


You know there will be serious competitors there and you also know that the interviewers are brilliant and won’t take things for granted. 


So play with me and answer these questions that are often on the table: 

  • how would you describe yourself in 3 adjectives?
  • What do you consider your biggest achievement?
  • What successful projects have you lead until now?


There are plenty of other questions of course, but these 3 are the basis of the discussion you are going to have. So better be ready for them.


Now, these questions are not that difficult, especially when you know you can google “top keywords for job interview” and get a list as long as your arm that you think best describes you and your responsibilities. But do you REALLY think these professionals in front of you will fall for it? How many times do you think they have listened to “energetic, reliable, passionate” or “enthusiastic, team player, results driven” candidates? If you stand in front of them, it’s because they went through your resume and they already know all this. 


So the question you must ask yourself is HOW DO I MAKE A DIFFERENCE? How do I sparkle better and shinier than the others?

Forget about the obvious and brainstorm about yourself, about your successes at work, about what have made you proud, happy, passionate. Push yourself!!


And now, you feel this is not going to be so easy. Why? Because seeing inside our true self is almost impossible as we all wear lenses in order to get through a life we want to be as close as possible to what we believe in. Even coaches have to be coached to be able to move forward.


So don’t waste time. Coaching can help you. Tell me what you would like to achieve in your job interview and we will start from there to help you find what makes you a better candidate than anyone else.







 

Who's Robot Are You? 

Are you surprised by my question? 


Is it something you have never thought about or heard before? If so, you are probably amongst the lucky ones who are happy with their job. I wish we were all as lucky.


Our world has entered its 4th industrial revolution, a technological one. The speed and dematerialisation of transactions, the pressure it creates is pushing us to the limits of our endurance. 


It reminds me of Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, repeating the same task over and over again, trying to catch up the pace and failing as the conveyor belt kept moving. 


Taylorism and scientific management have certainly improved efficiency and supported faster globalization but today, as the process has largely matured, has it also not brought dehumanization too? 


No matter if you are a basic middle manager or a top executive, in a small or global company, this question “whose robot am I’ is and will still be valid for a long time. 


When companies are led by KPI, procedures and processes, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the human beings behind the figures. Each day, month, year the same reports, files, analysis…that are sometimes not even read by anyone!


This being said, I can see more and more top managers who want to bring something else to their companies, something that makes what I would call a “positive difference”. 


These managers have understood that a happy team will be more efficient, less likely to leave and spread a nicer company culture and therefore must be valued. 


Salaries are no longer the number 1 factor that people look for in a job. Managers and employees now desire a fulfilling job that would bring more joy and inspiration. 


So if you feel that you are not there yet and you want to reflect on what kind of manager you are/want to become or what direction you want your company or department to follow, contact me and let’s discuss it together."







 

Is Today The Day You Upgrade Yourself? 

Many of us wake up every morning curious as to what the day ahead has in store. 


What emotions we'll feel, what skills will we implement, what knowledge we'll acquire, and hopefully share with others. All these things, no matter their size, influence the way we will experience our day.

If you feel that these questions pop into your mind more and more, if you feel that you have to push yourself to find enough motivation to go through your day, if you think you could do better, then it's time to upgrade yourself.

What does "upgrade" mean at Sparkle? It means transforming yourself into the best version of yourself. 


If necessary, you're willing to taking action to move to a new place both mentally and physically. This new place could be a new company, a new job, a new city or country, It could also be a new behaviour, a change in mindset where you let go of negative emotions and promote positive ones instead.


You are the leading actor and director of the feature film that is your career, it is only you who can decide what you want to become. 


As a coach, I can support you in your process of upgrading yourself. Together we can discover your potential and create the strategy to reach that goal. Each journey begins with the first step. 


Let me know how I can partner with you to help you find your true self!"