LIL #1: Lessons I Learnt This Week

I have a habit of writing daily journal where in I go over my day and write any life lessons I learnt (LIL) that day. This helps me build useful mental models on how to better handle specific situations in future. From this week, I plan to document and share these learning on my blog. I hope others will also find them useful.

This week I learnt following three lessons.

Lesson 1: Give people time to prepare feedback

One of the things that I have done multiple times in the last few months is asking people for feedback on certain initiatives without giving them enough time to think. So, when you ask for feedback to the unprepared people then you get either of the two responses:

  1. You get resounding approval that you are doing great. This is what most of us want to hear when we ask for feedback. We are not seeking for honest and harsh feedback but we are seeking for approval. It satisfy our two fundamental psychological needs: safety (perceived physical, social, material security) and worth (a sense of self-respect, self-regard, or self-confidence). We come out of the meeting or interaction feeling great about ourself.
  2. You get feedsmacked. This is a feedback like your work is having no impact on the organization. This kind of feedback can either shock and stun us or make us feel worthless and sad. It might take us a couple of days to recover from this feedback and get back to our usual self.

Most of us would have experienced both kinds of feedback. The problem with the first feedback is that it is shallow and does not give us any insight on how to improve or do better. The problem with the second feedback is that it hurts our self-worth.

One way I have realised we can achieve best of both the worlds is by giving people time to prepare about the feedback. It also helps if you can share with them a structure in which you are expecting feedback. There is a risk that people might sugarcoat the feedback or they still don’t prepare it.

It is difficult to not take feedback personally especially when it in someway criticise you. But, I think it is better for both parties if we are a little better prepared to give and receive feedback.

Lesson 2: Ask for participation repeatedly

It is common that when we take an organisational level initiative we expect that certain people will not participate. This usually means we don’t care to ask them for participation or we don’t push them enough to participate. I have realised that people change over time so it is never a bad idea to ask people for participation repeatedly even when you know answer is going to be no. You never know who might be willing to help take your initiative to the next level. Most of the time our preconceived notions about people do not help.

Lesson 3: Asking right questions is a key leadership skill

As a leader/manager you should know that you will not have all the answers. You will depend on others to provide you the missing information.

Thomas S. Kuhn once said,

The answers you get depend on the questions you ask.

Asking good questions is a key skill that every leader need to build. Without this skill you can never become a good leader. Asking good questions is important because:

  1. It shows to your team that you are thinking.
  2. It makes your team accountable
  3. It builds a culture of open discussion
  4. It shows to your team that you don’t have all the answers
  5. You add value to the discussion

It takes time to get better at asking good open questions. But, over time we can learn this skill.

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