Sunday, February 20, 2011

Did Your Parents Praise You?

Sub-Title: The Power of Feedback!

In an earlier posting I wrote about “Who Should I Be.”  That article outlined a process of thinking, planning and executing your career aspirations.  Now, I like to talk about how I got to know myself better.   For me, an effective way to get to know me better is through good feedback.  Unfortunately, getting good feedback is difficult.  There is a tendency for the people I know not to give me the “real thing.”  Their feedbacks are mostly very general and tended to be statements that didn’t hurt me.  I, too, had the same difficulty of giving accurate feedback to others.

Culturally or maybe by superstitious practices, Chinese parents in particular do not praise the children. Some even give their children nicknames after animals.  There is Ah Kow (dog), Ah Too (pig), or Ah Goo (cow).  This is to ensure that the bad spirits will mistake them for the animals and not harm the children.  When others praise their kids, the praises are quickly dismissed.  The parents may be proud of their children but they will not say it out.  It becomes very difficult to know if your parents are proud of you.  I learn to identify certain behaviors of my parents that indicated good and not so good feedback.  My mother cooking my favorite dish when I visited her could be positive feedback.  Then it could just be love.  Mom doesn’t have to be proud of me to love me.  Her love is unconditional.

Great Speech! I am so proud of you.
Getting accurate feedback at work is just as difficult.  It is our tendency not to hurt another person’s feeling.  So feedbacks are softened with non-specific statements.  I know that those bitter “pills” will make me better in the future.  Unfortunately many of us are not good at giving effective feedback.  So should I disregard them even when they are non-specific?  Of course not!  I learn to ask questions to clarify them and to try to understand what the person really meant.  My questions are to clarify my behaviors or actions – what did I do on that situation and whether it positively affected them.

There are also tools and instruments that can provide information about one's behaviors, characteristics and traits.  These instruments help me understand my tendencies, my motivation and what “turns me” on.  They are not a one-time snapshot of me but more so, given a particular situation, how would I act or react.  It is interesting to complete these assessments and to see how well one correlates to the findings.  I have used a number of instruments.  Some are quite specific while others generally describe my characteristics.  I have used Myers-Brigg’s Type Indicator (MBTI), StrengthsFinder from Gallup, Caliper Profile from Caliper, Life Style Inventory (LSI) from Human Synergistics and others.  Whatever the instruments used are, they will be useful if it can be interpreted well, plans made and actions taken to improve oneself.  So to know more about your inner self, get yourself profiled with an instrument that is validated.  Get a knowledgeable person to interpret the findings.  Use the results to develop a plan to become better.  Then constantly ask for feedback to understand the effect your actions have on people and results.

Despite growing up in a culture that does not give good feedback, I have learned to “find” myself.  I get effective feedback by asking clarifying questions and using the information to continue to improve myself.   Remember that a good feedback will contain 3 important elements.  These are the situation that necessitates actions, the actions you took and the impact or result of those actions.  When receiving feedback or giving feedback make sure those three elements are there.  I wish you well in your endeavor to give and get good feedbacks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Goofed You Shouldn’t

Sub-Title: Your Network is your Networth.

When I was the head of training, I had developed a good external professional network.  Each week I would get a call from them asking me if I could speak or present at their workshop or conference.  With each request I became increasingly arrogant with the value to my network.  If I agreed to the speaking requests, I could have one each week.  So I began to be very selective.  Not only was I sought after, but also I could call on my network to seek an opinion or to get help.  I had a very good network – or so I thought.

My career responsibility increased when I became a senior HR executive. With each passing moment I got more immersed in my work dealing with the internal issues of the organization and region I was responsible for.  Alas! I started neglecting my network.  I didn’t contact them as much and likewise they didn’t contact me too. Being a strategic HR partner took a heavy toll of my time.  In any case, I told myself that I have a good network.  Even when there is much lesser contact, I pride myself that I could refresh it when needed.

Over time I lost contact with many of my external network.  I made a major mistake of neglecting my network and I didn’t figure this step in planning for my next lap.  I realized my folly too late as I have already left the corporate world and into my next journey.  Letters and emails sent to the addresses I had were returned.  It was a very frightening time for me.

I spend the greater part of the first year of my active retirement re-establishing my contacts.  I am fortunate that I had a few people I could still call on.  They helped me re-connect with those that I was looking for.  I learned about on-line professional networks like LinkedIn and Plaxo.  I joined these and started rebuilding and re-establishing my network.  I wasn’t an easy task.  I had planned to be coaching and facilitating workshops during this time instead of rebuilding my network.  

After a year of rebuilding the network, my coaching and facilitating activities increased.  Now I can say that my network is my NETWORTH.  They have kept me active with challenging assignments.  I am so thankful for them.  Today, I have added another goal to my other three.  (See previous article, “Planning My Next Lap”).  My goal is to have a minimum of one contact – be it an email, a phone call or a text message – to every member of my network each year.  I am glad to say that I have achieved it and will continue to work on improving it every year.  Right now, I am averaging 1.5 contacts per person per year.

I goofed and you shouldn’t!  Never neglect your network.  You could just send them your personalize New Year greeting not just those forwarded ones.  Personalized messages, no matter how simple, are more sincere.  It shows that you have taken the time to craft a message to connect with them.  When time comes to seek help from your network, they will be there for you.  I know that my network came through for me.  I am blessed and grateful to have such wonderful people in my network!