Want Feedback? Ask for it!

June 20, 2017 admin

Leaders frequently lament that, “I just can’t get real feedback from my team”. If this speaks to you, let me ask, “what have you done to solicit feedback?” In my Executive Coaching practice, too often this question is followed by a long pause and then a response like: “when I ask for feedback during team meetings, the room becomes quiet!”

Let’s unpack this dilemma – how many leaders ask for feedback in a way that feels genuine to his or her team? All too often, team members feel the question may be a perfunctory request, or the leader really wants to get on with business. Team members may be uncomfortable giving spontaneous feedback because of observed or feared leader defensiveness. People don’t want to take risks that may jeopardize their jobs.

As a leader, do you really want feedback? If so, try coming from a place of curiosity and express authentic interest in each team member’s perspective. To break through the team meeting impasse, try meeting individually with each team member. Let them know why you’re requesting a meeting, and genuinely express your interest in their perspective. Remember- it’s not all about you! Be curious. Ask about your leadership style and the team’s functionality. Then listen, and don’t interrupt! Receiving feedback requires creating a comfortable, trusting and secure setting. Once your peers and/or direct reports trust your intentions, they will personally disclose.

Requests for feedback may also be specific and substantive, targeting current concerns, decisions and/or recent events. To grow as a leader, broaden the discussion and give team members the opportunity to share their concerns- what is working, and what is not. Solicit their ideas on business challenges and always use the foundation skills of effective listening and communication:

  • Be positive and attentive
  • Be empathic and reflective
  • Seek clarification and understanding
  • Express appreciation
  • Value their opinion- this fosters loyalty and creates a positive culture

Finally, here are three tips that will help you successfully engage and ensure a positive outcome:

  • 80/20 Rule – Leaders using a coaching managerial style spend 80% of their time listening and 20% of their time talking
  • 5 Second Rule – Wait 5 seconds before responding. Often there is no need to provide a response
  • WAIT – Why Am I Talking?
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Leadership Development Case Study

May 26, 2017 admin

Client: Global manufacturing company

Client Type: Corporate

Exec Summary: Developed and implemented a leadership development training program for middle and upper managers from across the global footprint. The program was designed to extend and integrate corporate culture in a decentralized environment, develop effective leadership and communications skills and identify “rising stars.”

Clear to the bottom line:  Managers who experienced the leadership curriculum were more responsive to customers and effective with direct reports. They forged new connections across business units and geographical locations, reported higher job satisfaction, and shared best practices and tacit knowledge. Not only were “rising stars” identified, but also a new framework was developed for identifying and mentoring leaders.

Services: Leadership Training, Communication and Presentation Skills Training, Executive Coaching, Outdoor Learning Experience

Assignment: The client is a global manufacturing company. Each region is run by a cross-functional team responsible for local manufacturing, marketing, recruiting, and staff supervision while concurrently reporting to corporate. The managers enjoyed considerable autonomy, but felt disconnected from the organization as a whole, and from their peer group.

The company’s leadership wanted their managers to effectively develop, lead, manage, and maintain cross-functional teams. However, the leadership group also recognized that the individual managers’ team-building skills varied widely. Senior management hoped to develop these leadership skills while simultaneously achieving a well-defined set of business objectives. In addition, the firm’s leadership wished to identify “rising stars” who might be groomed for senior management positions.

Richard Dana Associates was hired to help the various managers develop a common leadership skill set. We built a team of trainers to help develop and implement a broad-based leadership development curriculum — with an emphasis on developing interpersonal skills.

Construct the Picture: We began by conducting interviews with key members of the   senior management team, as well as a sampling of the managers and their direct reports.

Convert the Picture to High Definition: During the interviews, we were able identify skill gaps and organizational challenges and then provide some immediate, pragmatic feedback to the senior management team. Subsequently we developed a series of leadership training programs tailored to our client’s critical needs.

Execute Action Plan: Following an initial kick-off introducing the leadership training model to the managers, Richard Dana Associates delivered a curriculum consisting of:

  •  Outdoor Learning Experience. We facilitated a management-oriented Outward Bound-like experience to demonstrate different teaching and learning styles and generate a bond and enthusiasm that carried into the subsequent skills training. We applied the outdoor experience to “real-life” day to day experiences.
  • Management Skills training. A one-day session focusing on fundamental skills: listening and communication, conflict resolution, giving and receiving feedback , meeting management  , and building High Performance Teams. Throughout the session we emphasized understanding and valuing differences. ability to understand communication style differences.
  • Presentation Skills training. A one-day session combining instruction, videotaped skill practice, individual coaching, and direct feedback sessions focused on rapidly and tangibly improving presentation skills.
  • Leadership training. Each participant completed self-report assessment profiles, used during the two-day session to help managers recognize their leadership style, identify competencies and skills gaps, create personal action plans and begin implementation. The training sessions each began with brief presentations/workshops followed by a combination of group discussion, breakout sessions and skill practice. On a daily basis, each individual identified key learnings which were incorporated into their personal action plan.

Results: After completing the program, the managers were able to apply a range of new skills to effectively respond to both customers and employees. By building leadership capacity, our client saw increased productivity, and stronger financial performance.

The company was able to see the clear value of bringing cross-cultural and cross-business unit managers together. The client subsequently extended the leadership development program through three levels of leadership in the organization. The connections forged during these programs contributed to building a global identity that in turn delivers value to the employees and customers with greater consistency. Through our interactions with the managers, we were able to identify several rising stars.”  As importantly, we were able to help senior management expand the way they thought about leadership development and succession planning. We sharpened the framework for identifying and developing potential senior managers, incorporating an understanding of personality types, core competencies and skills gaps (technical, human relations, and conceptual).

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Coaching in High Definition Case Study


Client:  Technical Professional Employee of a mid-sized High-Technology Firm

Client Type: Individual

Exec Summary:  A previously marginal performer known to be technically talented shifted from “probation” status to productive team member, while reducing stress and achieving greater work/life balance. Communication and social deficiencies were identified and corrected. Additionally, the Supervisor adapted new information about learning styles to the entire team, enhancing team effectiveness.

Clear to the bottom line:  Directly impacted timeliness and cost of product launches.

Services: Executive Coaching, Business Consulting, Supervisory Training

Assignment: John was a thirty-eight year old computer programmer working in a high-tech communications company with one hundred and fifty employees. He had been working at his current job for six months at the time he was referred for coaching.

John was having difficulty understanding his direct supervisor’s fast-paced instructions and felt his supervisor showed little patience for addressing his questions and confusion. John was also intimidated in team meetings and found that he was frequently still processing a question while co-workers were formulating their answers. John did not want to set himself apart from his peers and was therefore reluctant to seek clarification regarding directions and responsibilities. Consequently, although technically very capable, John sometimes did not deliver on his professional commitments, resulting in a poor performance review placing him on conditional status without a sixth month salary increase.

Fortunately, the Human Resource Director in John’s company recognized that John’s difficulties might be due to a learning style difference and referred John to Richard Dana Associates for evaluation and consultation. The company valued John’s contributions, and ultimately wanted to him to resolve his learning and behavioral issues so that he might be a more consistent, effective member of their organization.

Construct a Picture: In his initial intake appointment, John reported a job history characterized by multiple job changes and several “lay-offs,” which he speculated were really firings. He understood that the company had introduced Richard Dana Associates to help him retain his job, and was both receptive and relieved to identify and address the root causes of his troubles.

Following a series of interviews with John and his supervisor, as well as direct observation of interactions amongst John’s department, it became apparent that John struggled with expressive language, and utilized a slower language processing speed than many of his co-workers.

Convert the Picture to High Definition: Richard Dana Associates helped John to identify and implement several Smart Goals — specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely steps — to help him identify problematic situations, and to implement pre-emptive changes including:

  • Setting reasonable goals and expectations.
  • Developing positive thinking and build self-confidence
  • Participating in informal work gatherings and eating in the cafeteria to increase social interaction with co-workers and decrease isolation
  • Asking questions and seeking written directions or specific assignments; confirming assignments before pursuing action
  • Drawing attention to his accomplishments when appropriate to effectively serve as his own advocate
  • Working on verbal delivery (including voice quality, word selection, and content), facial expression and body language, and group presentation skills

Execute the Action Plan: A variety of tools were used to help John execute on his action plan, including role plays, discussion, and behavioral/cognitive exercises.

Supervisor Training: Richard Dana Associates also worked closely with John’s supervisor to develop some accommodations to help John succeed, which had the side benefit of improving the supervisor’s managerial style and methods, including:

  • Following up on informal conversations with written emails detailing specific requests
  • Providing advanced agendas for meetings
  • Summarizing meeting outcomes, action items and assignments in a formal memo
  • Modifying his presentation style to include multiple channels of communication (auditory, visual, written), and respond to audience feedback (e.g., attention span, body language)
  • Educating him on various learning styles and helping him make accommodations to get the best from all his employees

Results: By the end of the engagement, John had implemented many of the specific concrete techniques, interventions and strategies. Because of his ability to deliver more accurately on assignments, John’s work quality and consistency improved and he was taken off conditional status. At the same time, he became much more comfortable socially in the office, and felt a great improvement in both self-esteem and confidence.

With his greater job security, John’s work-related stress was dramatically reduced, allowing him to sleep better. Coaching continued for several months until John had made sufficient changes to feel better about his work / life balance.

The client firm retained a good employee, and the supervisor developed practices to help all of his employees work more effectively and consistently as a team, improving the company’s ability to launch products on time, in a cost-effective manner.

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