July 2016


Get a 360 Perspective on Yourself

We have the possibility of getting feedback about ourselves—how we show up, how we execute, what people think and feel about us—whenever we want. However, few of us avail ourselves of these opportunities. Why would we do that? Why would we cheat ourselves from hearing others' perceptions of us?

The answer is rather simple. We are afraid to hear what we don't want to hear. We think it will be something horrible, akin to how we criticize ourselves. We fear the worst. We want the best. Few of us look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Most of us grit our teeth and can't wait for it to be over.

Imagine flipping that on its head and looking forward to, even seeking out, feedback. Imagine wanting it so you can tweak how you express something and be better able to influence the people and situations you are deeply about. Imagine that instead of using the feedback to beat yourself up, you use it to support yourself in being who you want to be.

How to receive feedback well, and how to provide useful feedback, is our focus this month. Given that I'm only doing one entry per month right now, this is a topic we'll return to later in the fall or in 2017.

Now, let's return to Sally and Donna with an eye on how each of them receives and uses feedback...

We last witnessed Sally speaking with her sister, Louise, whom she called to get support and advice regarding her current situation. Louise, who has known Sally her entire life and has known Larry almost as long as Sally, is quite clear and adamant about her point of view. She directs rather than suggests that Sally apologize to Larry and give him the opportunity to support her. Sally is struggling to shift her perspective about Larry, whom she still sees as being unsupportive because he doesn't want to move to another city. Let's look in on Sally now to find out how she integrates her sister's feedback and advice:

Sally sees Larry sitting on the living room sofa with a drink in his hand. He's watching TV but he hears the bedroom door open and looks up. Their eyes meet. Larry's eyebrows are raised in a quizzical look, wanting to see if Sally is still on a rampage or if she's come to her senses. Sally is looking to find out if Larry has softened and will be 'nice' to her. There is a hung silence while each waits for the other to make the first move.

Finally, Larry breaks the silence.

“Well?” Larry prompts. “You must have come out here for a reason. I'd love to hear what it is. I hope you're ready to have a peace treaty.”

“Larry, be nice or I'll go back in my room,” Sally says. “I really can't deal with your being nasty to me now. Too much is at stake.”

“To my knowledge, I have not been nasty to you,” Larry states. “It is the reverse as far as I can tell.”

“My sister thinks that you want to be supportive but I certainly don't see it,” Sally retorts. “So am I right or is she right?”

“Louise knows me better than my own wife,” Larry responds. “Go figure. How you can think that I don't want to support you is beyond me. I've had your back for years. Just because I don't want to move to another city at the drop of a pin BEFORE you've really mined your options, well, I...I just don't know what to say.”

“Well, I think you're being selfish,” Sally spits out. “How you wouldn't be willing to do whatever it takes to support me is beyond me.”

Sally turns around and starts heading back into the bedroom.

“Sally, hold on,” Larry replies calmly. “Let's work this out. Tell me what your sister suggested.”

“Louise said that you loved me and that you did want to help me,” Sally hesitates. “That's all.”

“C'mon Sally,” Larry says. “She must have said something else.”

“Well, she said that your not wanting to move was not being mean,” Sally hurries on. “But I still think it is. She said that I should go back to the Perfect Position and give them a chance. Just like you said.”

“Finally, I get some validation!” Larry exclaims, laughing.

“Larry! I can't believe you!” Sally yells. “And at a time like this!”

“Now chill, Sally. I'm just playing with you,” Larry says through his laughter. “Ya gotta laugh a little. How about you and I go to dinner, have a nice glass of wine, and relax? Doesn't that sound good?”

“Okay, okay. Let's go to dinner,” Sally responds. “You win.”

Let's leave Sally and Larry as they go to dinner and check in on Donna who had a surprise visit from Emily, the project manager of WING.

After Emily told Donna that she wanted to quit due to the stress of the new job and her fears that she would not be able to do the job adequately, she was amazed at how supportive Donna was. She decided that she would reconsider her decision.

The two women part, and Donna emails her onboarding coach, Elayne, to find out if she has time to work with Emily.

Then Donna stands at her office window to look out at the fountain and reflect. Donna wonders if she threw Emily into the fire too soon. She wonders what she could have done to prepare her for being a project manager more than she did. She knows that Emily took the requisite courses so she wonders what might have prepared her adequately. She decides to visit some of the other junior project managers to find out how they experienced their first project manager job.

Donna goes to her computer and emails a few people to find out when they can meet with her. Then she sees that Elayne already responded positively to Donna's inquiry. She does have time to work with Emily. Donna responds immediately. Then she writes an email introducing the two women to each other, requesting that they begin their coaching engagement as soon as possible.

With that done, Donna emails procurement to get a contract in place for Emily's coaching engagement with Elayne. Donna breaths a sigh of relief. She knows that Emily will be in good hands and hopes that Emily will make the decision to stay on for a long time. She hopes that Emily will get 360 feedback so she realizes that her fears are unfounded and that others think highly of her. However, she doesn't act on that since she is relatively certain that Elayne will suggest it. She'll wait and see.

Content that Emily will be on a positive trajectory, Donna turns to her inbox and starts addressing other issues on her plate.

If we look through the lens of feedback, we see that Donna and Sally relate to feedback very differently.

Out of desperation, Sally calls her sister, Louise, for help. She gets feedback that is unexpected. Surprisingly, Sally listens and takes in what her sister is saying. The support from her sister helps her lower her defenses enough that she initiates contact with her husband. Then, with difficulty, she uses her sister's feedback to connect with Larry. Though it isn't a stellar performance, it is enough to interest Larry in connecting and, with Larry's help, they find each other again.

Donna, on the other hand, is very responsive to feedback, seeks it out, and utilizes it well. She is already coaching Emily to do the same. In her career and her life, Donna has found that feedback has been invaluable for her in her quest for excellence, satisfaction, and joy. Hopefully, Emily will have a similar experience with Elayne and learn that her fears and negative perception of herself are unfounded.

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