3 Tips for Handling Feedback

For many leaders, it can be a challenge not to take feedback personally or view it as criticism. If this is something you experience, your instinct may be to react by becoming self-conscious and defensive or shutting down. These reactions, however, are not serving you. When you shutdown, you may be missing out on the opportunity to learn and improve.

So how do you grow your ability to take criticism in earnest without personalizing it? Here are three tips that might help you to deal with feedback in a less painful way.

Change the mindset from “being criticized” to “receiving feedback.”

What seems like a small change in wording can have an impact on your perception. Webster’s Dictionary defines criticized and feedback as follows:

  • Criticized – to find fault; judge unfavorably or harshly.
  • Feedback – knowledge of the results of any behavior, considered as influencing or modifying further performance

In the definition of feedback is a key point: influencing or modifying further performance. Change your mindset from being criticized – responsible for my faults – to receiving feedback – find nuggets from which to grow.

Externalize the feedback.

The feedback is not direct at you personally, but at the role of the leader to which you have committed. Thus, for purposes of growth, you want to look at it objectively, without a personal connection and emotional response.

Your ability to be objective hinges on disconnecting emotionally from the reaction to what you are taking in. One tool for disconnecting is your breath. This tool allows time for the gut reaction to pass. Rather than becoming immersed in your emotional response of defensiveness, you become occupied by attention on your breath and the emotion you are experiencing.

  • Inhale and visualize the breath moving toward your emotional reaction
  • See in your mind’s eye your breath grabbing on to that defensiveness.
  • Exhale and visualize the defensiveness going out of the body.

As you disconnect, you cultivate an ability to externalize the experience. By externalizing, you are able to take in the feedback objectively. With objectivity, you can begin to make sense of what you are receiving.

Take what you agree with and discard the rest.

Recognize that feedback is intended to improve key areas of your leadership. That being said, not all of it is helpful.

Feedback is delivered from a point of view. In that point of view are judgments, experiences, values, strengths, beliefs and feelings – all wrapped upon into opinions.

Those opinions may or may not be valid from your point of view. With an eye toward objectivity, be curious. Ask questions. Interact with what you are receiving in order to clarify and understand. Hone in on specifics that align with a direction of growth you have already identified yourself.

With knowledge, you can decide what you want to take and what you want to discard. Ask yourself the following five questions:

  • Might there be any truth in this feedback?
  • If yes, what are truths I agree with?
  • How can I use those truths to my benefit as a leader?
  • Do I want to do anything with it right now?
  • If yes, what do I want to do in order to improve, develop and stretch?

Overcoming defensiveness and learning not to shut down don’t happen overnight. Taking feedback in earnest without personalizing it requires courage and practice.

Why not be begin to practice now? Go out there and ask for it.

Listening – A Tip to Enhance that Skill

As a leader, one of the communications skills you must master is listening. Why? Listening is a fundamental building block of success. It is vital to establishing healthy relationships and fostering trust-based leadership. Also, listening is a critical skill to help you uncover and discern information.

Active listening requires you to engage your concentration and deepen your focus. As a result, you become fully present to take note of what’s within and between the words, in the tone and volume and around the pauses. And you are able to appreciate what others are feeling, perceiving and experiencing.

Listening with “The Echo”

As I developed my listening toolkit, I practiced many useful skills. One in particular provided a big step forward. That skill, known as “The Echo,” helped me consciously change how I listen and interact with others.

“The Echo” is the skill of echoing or repeating in your head what is being said. Essentially, your mind is absorbed in what others are saying and how they are saying it. You notice the words, tone,  pauses and fillers. You internalize the communication. In doing so, you receive and interpret with more accuracy.

Concentration is required to employ this technique. And that concentration ensures full presence to the interaction at hand. It is impossible to use this technique while multitasking, interrupting,  or holding on to a point you want to make.

With practice, “The Echo” becomes second nature. When pulled from the toolkit, this technique helps you “experience” others by:

• Acknowledging their points
• Recognizing where they are coming from
• Identifying what they aren’t saying but need

Undoubtedly, you will find yourself going beyond their words to empathize and relate.

You might also find an elevated curiosity. Curiosity is an ideal complement to “The Echo” to gain clarity and avoid misunderstandings. In order to understand more, you will desire to go deeper.

Effective leaders value the act of listening for increasing knowledge, inclusion and connection. How would you rate your listening? Ready to add “The Echo” to your toolkit?


Why Opt-In for Reverse Mentoring?

Back in 2014, I attended a United Way luncheon and listened to a keynote that has stuck with me. This particular keynote, delivered by a partner at PWC, was on the topic of employee development and talent growth strategies.

The strategy that intrigued me most was reverse mentoring. The speaker’s case study for this strategy was his personal experience. As he talked, he painted a picture of a rich practice with many benefits. The way in which he described the concept was persuasive. The benefits he named were powerful.

Definition: Reverse Mentoring was a concept established in the 1990s by Jack Welch. The concept partnered a  younger team member  with someone more senior in experience for a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge. The exchanged was aimed at closing skill gaps. For example, a younger person may be more savvy in social media than an older leader whereas the older leader may be more seasoned in office politics.

At the time, I was intrigued but not in the place where a reverse mentoring program was feasible. Fast forward to 2016 – the time was right.

In February of this year, I opted to participate in the mentoring path to satisfy a particular certification requirement. Much to my surprise, the mentor assigned to me is from a much younger generation.

My mentor is a millennial. Hannah Rose is a bright and enthusiast twenty-five year woman. Just as the speaker highlighted in his case study, I am reaping the rewards of reverse mentoring. The mentoring is rich with learning, teaming, sharing and growing.

In order to reap the intended benefits, Hannah Rose and I entered into the relationship with a full commitment to each other. I engaged with a willingness to learn from her and share what I’ll call “acquired wisdom.” In turn, she came in empowered to teach me new things, use her expertise for my benefit and provide feedback to help me grow.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

What a delightful experience it has been to be “under her wing.” Her fresh eyes, open mind and innovative ideas reflect her generation and background. She has stimulated thinking outside my box. She helps me see things from a different point of view and inspires me to step into new ways of being and doing. Her feedback is spot on, and I appreciate her courage to be direct with me.

4 Keys to our Reverse Mentoring success:

  • Committed to each other’s growth
  • Empowered to teach and learn
  • Open to feedback and reflection
  • Recognize the value in different perspectives and experiences

We are almost seventy-five percent through the four months allotted to this mentoring program. What I know for sure is that the relationship and partnership will not end with the program. It will continue and evolve. And that is exciting.

I now have a cherished and trusted colleague. She will help me close knowledge gaps, show me ways much different from my own and bring the younger generation closer to me. What a gift I was given with reverse mentoring!

There is no doubt that my leadership and coaching has expanded because of Hannah Rose. What might you learn from a reverse mentor relationship? Curious to find out? I highly recommend giving it a try.

Boundaries – 3 Steps to Establish for Effectiveness

As a leader, an important skills to master the art of setting boundaries. Why? Because boundaries enable prioritization on what  matters most and effectiveness to meet commitments on those priorities. They lead to focus and engagement for you and your team.

Years ago as a new leader, I experienced being pulled in a thousand different directions. As a result, I was managing too many priorities. My effectiveness was not what it should have been. And I was overwhelmed and exhausted.

This experience was one I brought on myself. Because I did not want to disappoint, I said yes to everything. At the time, I did not have boundaries. People saw that, so I was “fair game“; the target of “dump it on her and know she’ll do it.”

When things reached the breaking point, I knew it was time to make a conscientious effort to assert myself and take control. I had to let go of the “disease to please” and the myth of “the more I do, the more promotable I will be.” I had to get smart about my effectiveness on the job and re-engage with a life outside of work.

I hired a coach to help me navigate the choppy waters of being a new leader. I loved my work and wanted to ensure I had the energy required for its demands. The first thing we focused on was developing a backbone and establishing boundaries.

The three-step process we developed served me well back then and continued to serve me as I moved up the ranks. It enables greater value to what matters most – customers, employees and stakeholders.

Here are the three steps:

Acknowledge that boundaries are healthy and productive

Established well, boundaries do not conflict with flexibility and adaptability. Nor do they impact the importance of being a team player. Instead they can enable a higher degree of productivity and success. The key is to establish boundaries around the priorities of the organization.

Focus on boundaries for the sake of the organizations’s priorities.

Boundaries help you give your time and attention to what matters most. Questions such as the following can help frame your boundaries, putting context around whether you accept, decline or negotiate what is requested from you.

  • What are the strategic priorities requiring your attention?
  • What are the most pressing needs right now?
  • What are the key projects?
  • What measurements are driving your work?
  • Where do your people need your help?
  • What can you do to make their work more productive?

Recognize that boundaries help with options: yes, no, negotiate.

Boundaries give you options. Is it a fit or not? Or is something, but not everything, about it a fit?

First clarify the request. Get curious about what is being requested and why it is important. That way you are able to map it against your priorities. When you are clear on your priorities, you are able to think rationally about the request. You can frame consideration in terms of how those priorities will be impacted or enhanced. Make your decision relevant to the organization’s objectives – as a whole and to the team you are leading. Once you have decided, be succinct and confident with your response.

As a leader, you have an obligation to lead with boundaries established for the sake of clarity and commitment. Knowing what you need to do for your customers, employees and stakeholders enables you to move your organization forward. With resolve to take on the hard work as long as it is the right work, you will be more deliberate with your time. That leads to a less overwhelming workflow and higher levels of productivity and effectiveness.

How might the lack of boundaries be impacting your leadership? What boundaries based upon priorities do you need to establish?

“It’s All Made Up:” How to Avoid Flawed Assumptions

Poor decisions are often the result of flawed assumptions. Rushing to judgment. Misunderstanding. Equating to a similar situation. These are just a couple of reasons behind erroneous conjectures. What if you had access to five tips that would help you avoid flawed assumptions, thus making more informed decisions?

While in a leadership training program a couple of years ago, I found myself perplexed by something one of the facilitators kept saying: “It’s all made up.” Huh? He said it with conviction and passion as if revealing a leadership-enhancing secret.

But I have to confess. I wasn’t getting it. Each time he spoke those words, I would look at him quizzically. Eventually after hearing it enough times, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized the power in those words.

The Art of Making Assumptions

As humans, one of our jobs is to make things up. It happens moment to moment, often without our awareness, as our minds weave together a version of “rational and logical” conclusions. These conclusions, also known as assumptions, become our perceived truths.

Assume means to take for granted or without proof. – Webster’s Dictionary

These perceived truths are important because they satisfy our need to understand. They help justify or make sense of what is happening within us, to us and around us.

Left unchecked, however, assumptions can cause problems with our leadership, affecting our interpersonal behaviors, work place interactions and ultimately business results. Specifically, our assumptions cause us to

  • Respond with emotions that are unjustified.
  • React in a manner that sabotages the best intentions.
  • Provide direction that delivers less than favorable results.

5 Tips to Avoid Flawed Assumptions

“It’s all made up” can serve as a powerful tool for a new level of awareness. Before behaving or interacting in response to the perceived truth, take a moment for reflection and then get curious.

  • Reflection – Pause and take a deep breath while reminding yourself that the assumptions you are drawing may not fit the situation. Refrain from jumping in until there is more clarity around the situation.

Next run through a quick mental checklist of actions to help you avoid erroneous assumptions. Get curious by checking in to gain clarity and perspective.

  • Check your gut – As the assumptions you are drawing unfold, check your gut. How would you describe the feeling? What comes up for you here? Notice. It could be the feeling has arisen from something the current situation is triggering from the past. That in turn can signal the assumptions may not be based on what is actually occurring but rather influenced by a past experience. This gut check can alter the perspective for another way of viewing the situation.
  • Paraphrase – Sometimes someone will say or write something one-way and we take it another. To ensure you have not misunderstood what was conveyed, paraphrase by repeating back the gist of what you heard or read. Then check-in by asking something as simple as “Did I get that right?” This conversational approach opens up communication and uncovers truths for more grounded behaviors and interactions.
  • Honor perspective – People come from different backgrounds and experiences. As such, we tend to make assumptions based upon our frame of reference. What if there was another frame of reference from which to draw assumptions? Take a checkpoint to assess the ways in which you bias your understand and judgment. Open a dialogue to exchange information from opposing points of view. This exchange can help give new meaning to the situation and create possibilities that defy the assumptions.
  • Validate direction – If you have responded with a direction based upon your assumptions, ask “what do you think?” Then sit back and listen. This question gives people an opportunity to be heard, and the conversation can help validate your direction or redirect actions based on new information.

These five actions to help you avoid flawed conjectures have an underlying commonality. They all involve clarification through powerful questioning techniques. Open-ended questions can get at the heart of the matter, challenge thinking and alter assumptions. Moreover, they engage folks and enable learning, digging deep and discovering more.

Getting curious and asking questions is central for the leader within and to serving others with fitting leadership behaviors and interactions. How will having using “It’s all made up” enhance your leadership capacity?

Energizing – Understanding What You Need and Why

As a leader in today’s complex world, the demands are plentiful. The hours are long. The days and nights run together. The competitive landscape and fast-pace of change require unrelenting focus. With global workforces and round-the-clock production environments, availability 24/7 is the name of the game. Add personal responsibilities and you have a recipe for running on empty or burning-out if you are not pro-active with energizing tactics. How can you be proactive?

Energizing Begins with Identifying Your Needs

Pro-activity begins with knowing what you need and why to maintain your energy reserves day in and day out. To that end, a good use of time is an energy assessment.

The assessment begins by identifying your needs in each of the four sources of being
energized. According to Dr Edy Greenblatt, those four sources include physical (body), cognitive (mind), psychological (emotional) and social (spiritual). Your list does not need to be exhaustive, but it should include at least 2 – 4 needs in each of the four sources.

For example, your “energizing” list may look like this:

  • Physical: sleeping, drinking water, eating healthy food, exercising
  • Cognitive: practicing meditation, reading
  • Psychological: being appreciated, spending time in nature,
    puttering around the house
  • Social: having alone time, engaging with others, attending a concert / theater event

Energizing Comes About By Getting Specific

Once the list is complete, create a table with four rows:

  1. What is my need?
  2. What can’t I be when I don’t get enough of that need?
  3. What is enough of that need?
  4. How long does enough last for?

Answer each of those questions for your needs. This assessment is meant to be a quick check-in, not a laborious effort. It is also intended to be realistic versus optimal. What is the minimum required to keep your energy tanks recharged? Your batteries don’t have to be fully charged (aka optimal or recommended). They simply have to be charged according to your answers to questions 4 and 5.

An illustration might be helpful.

  1. Need = water
  2. Without it, we are not hydrated. Our body fluids are not properly balanced. Our muscles can become fatigued, and our skin is dry.
  3. Minimum of three 8-ounce glasses. In addition, an emphasis is put on fruits and vegetables for their water content as well as any other sources of healthy fluid intake.
  4. One day

Energizing Takes Hold By Acting on What You Need

When this “energizing” assessment is complete, you will have information to prioritize activities and experience that restore your energy levels. Maybe you’ll add a 15-minute walk to your schedule each day, buy a ticket to the theater each quarter or read a book for 30 minutes before bed. Whatever you choose, the point is to be a leader who knows the importance of energy management for strength and resilience.

How a Book Club Helps with Team Building

Leaders read. They read for new insights, latest thinking, creative inspiration and exposure to different perspectives, just to name a few. As such, a book club at work can be a valuable tool. How so?

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” ― Harry Truman

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of being at an event with Madeline Albright, former United States Secretary of State. During her talk, she referenced a book she had read to further her knowledge of the middle east. That book, as she told us, was a recommendation from her boss President Clinton. With humor, she commented about the importance of following through on a reading recommendation from your boss.

She went on to note that reading expands knowledge and offers insights. That comment got me thinking about something I did as a first time manager. I started a book club with my team. It was a way for us to rally around learning, share common experiences and build cohesion.

I will admit to being fearful of this idea. Would they reject it? Would it be too much on top of everything else they had going on? In spite of reservations, I shared the idea and asked for their input. They enthusiastically embraced the book club and carried forth to design an inclusive and engaging structure.

Designing a Book Club

First they established our goals:

  • Bring us together
  • Help us grow professionally

Next they defined three objectives:

  • Enhance our skills
  • Shed light on new methods
  • Open up to new perspectives

Then they outlined the logistics.

  • Held every other month to give plenty of time for reading
  • Book selection and facilitation of the book review rotated from team member to team member, so everyone had a chance to lead
  • 45-minute meetings to discuss the book

Results from the Book Club

The book club was a tremendous success. People embraced it, coming prepared for the discussion and engaging in the shared experiences. The benefits found were many, including team building, improved communication and professional growth. We also learned new things, experimented with new concepts and became thought-provoking agents for new ideas.

Years later one of the leaders who worked for me started a book club with her team. Just as I experienced, her team engaged in the club and enjoyed the benefits.

What might a book club bring to your team?

A Quick and Easy Mindfulness Practice at the Office

No longer considered as “woo-woo” as it once was, mindfulness is now getting the attention it is due. Its benefits are documented and confirmed by empirical research. Well-known and high performing leaders such as Jack Dorsey, Russell Simmons and Tim Ferriss are naming mindfulness practices as part of their daily rituals. Like those leaders, you too can add to your high performance with a daily mindfulness practice. And that practice can be quick and easy – right in your office.

So what exactly is mindfulness? Put simply, it’s being conscious of the present. Mindfulness practices come in a variety of forms such as mediation, yoga and qigong, just to name a few. Even walking, which is easily accessed, can be done with mindfulness. Regardless of format, the practices center around a state where attention is not distracted by anything other than what is happening right now.

An awareness to your energy offers a painless way to be present at and during work. Tapping into the  the present state of your energy involves awareness of the four centers as described below:

  • Physical Energy: awareness of body sensations
  • Mental Energy: awareness of thoughts
  • Emotional Energy: awareness of feelings
  • Spiritual Energy: awareness of breath

By learning to observe these energy centers without passing judgment, you can cultivate the skill of mindfulness. That skill is what helps you manage energy, which as Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz note underlies high performance.

“Managing energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Performance is grounded in the skillful management of energy.” – Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

As a meditator and yogi, I know first-hand that managing energy can be challenging. I also know that with practice, the constant flux of energy between balance and imbalance becomes readily noticed and more easily adjusted. How?

The walking meditation below offers an easygoing way to start. This  meditation can be done in your office, in a hallway or outside. A couple of minutes is all you need to tune-in and recalibrate. Are you ready to give it a try?

Mindfulness – Walking Meditation

Begin by  releasing expectations of what your practice should be and what it should provide. Set an intention to be in the moment as an oberver:

  • Be where you are in the moment. You are not where you were yesterday or where you hope to be tomorrow. You are here in the now.
  • Be an observer, like a fly on the wall, to what is transpiring in the four energy centers. Avoid getting caught up in what you notice.

Next prepare to move into the walking meditation.

  1. Stand and let your feet ground into the earth below.
  2. Close your eyes or gaze softly ahead.
  3. Bring awareness to your four energy centers:
    • Body: notice physical sensations such as hunger, soreness, fatigue as you move your awareness from head to toes. Label what you notice and let the labels go.
    • Mind: notice thoughts coming and going. Are they clear or cloudy? Racing or smooth? Do your thoughts want to stick around? Are they distracting? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
    • Emotions: notice the emotional state you are experiencing. Where are you feeling that state in your body? Are you satisfied with the state? If not, tune into the state you want to experience. Label what you notice and let the label go.
    • Spirit: notice the sensation of your breath. Is the texture smooth and even or jerky and uneven? Is your breath fast, slow, somewhere in between? Does it feel deep or shallow? Label what you notice and let the labels go.
  4. Keep your your eyes closed or maintain the soft gaze. Take two deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale
  5. Begin to walk, taking steps that correspond to inhales and exhales. Inhale while stepping forward with one foot. Exhale while stepping forward with the other foot. Continue this mindful walking pattern of synchronizing the breath with each step you take.
  6. If you find that you have stopped synchronization, that’s ok. Observe without judgment. Turn in the opposite direction and begin again.
  7. After a couple of minutes, return to a standing position and scan your energy centers again.
  8. Make note of any shifts from the first scan to the second. What did you notice about your awareness during the walking meditation?

Try this a couple times a day for a week. See what happens. Breaking in the day for mindfulness is healthy. You may notice you are more attentive, more focused and more vibrant after a break. With practice, you can grow your ability to tune into what is happening within you and around you. In turn, you will be better at using the information you have gathered to recalibrate your energy throughout the day.

With the many benefits of a mindfulness practice, might there be a place for it in your leadership?

3 Principles to Avoid Being an Empty Chair Leader

An empty chair leader does not hold the best interests of the organization to heart. Instead he puts his own interests ahead of all else. And by doing so, he instills a lack of credibility in his leadership and thus operates from a disadvantaged position.

These truths rang loud and clear when I met a senior leader whom I’ll call George. George was an empty chair leader, failing to see a more effective way to lead. With a few changes in approach, he could have filled his seat at the table. Moreover, he could have had an engaged team sitting around the table with him. How?

George was new to the organization, pulled in from the outside by the CEO to lead a business unit that had recently been acquired. While he may have been a fit for past assignments, he did not have skills to engage his new team and the wherewithal to understand a different business model. From day one, George was ineffective.

Behind the scenes, he was known as the empty chair leader. And because he was not equipped to engage, he set himself and the organization back. He was a struggling leader with a frustrated team.

George didn’t get the hard rules and the changing dynamics of leadership today. He had an old playbook. That playbook was not serving him, the team he led or the business for which he had responsibility.

3 Principles to Avoid Being an Empty Chair Leader

Be servant-first instead of leader-first – George valued self-interest above service to others. My first introduction to him was at an off-site meeting. He awkwardly barged into that meeting and hijacked the agenda.

With no regard for the leader facilitating the session or the importance of the topic at hand, he created a new agenda on the fly. This agenda was all about him.

George let the attendees know how important he intended to be at an upcoming event and dominated the day with his desire to shine on stage. This approach may have been sound in meeting his one need, but it was ill conceived for the long-term. In a few short hours, the team uncovered his insecurities and identified his self-interest.

Good leaders put their needs aside in favor of the larger group. They choose to make sure they are meeting the highest priorities of those they are leading. Their focus is on the productivity and health of their organizations. One of their core beliefs is that this focus enables people to perform as highly as possible.

Be knowledgeable about the people – George was uninterested in those he led. He exhibited no curiosity about them and did not asked questions such as:

• Why do you come to work?
• What is your backgrounds?
• What values are at the core of who you are?
• What motivates you?
• What leadership style do you employ?
• What do you do outside of work?

Because he didn’t know answers to those basic questions, he used a “one size fits all” style for leading. And he masked his indifference with tactics such as brushing people aside, leaving active listening skills behind and cutting people off to control the conversation. George had no means to understand what help his leaders needed and how the help could best be provided.

Good leaders who know their people are adaptable and flexible with their style. They recognize that “one size fits all” leadership is not the best approach. Depending upon the situation, they are able to adapt according to who they are interacting with and what is needed in the moment.

Be present to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts – George had a few men on the team who were his go-to guys. These guys were the ones he sought out for advice, counsel and decision-making.

He managed with a select few. By doing so, he missed out on diversity of thoughts, experiences and backgrounds. And without diversity, he did not make sound decisions. As a result, his credibility suffered.

George failed to understand that most of his team had previously been in a “community.” He could not see it, so he could not leverage it. Many on his team were close-knit colleagues who knew each other’s functional organizations well. They had a real sense for collaboration and knack for helping each other.

Good leaders create an organization that is about the collective whole. The organization becomes a community where people:

• Show up to be at their best.
• Participate with a sense of collaboration
• Know they are supported and in turn support others
• Purse excellence

Within a year, three of George’s key executives submitted letters of resignation. Others were on the hunt for something new. Why? Being a part of his organization was exhausting.

George failed to do the hard work of leadership. Apathy set in. Frustration levels reached the breaking point. His team members knew there was a better way.

Before George took the helm, the leaders in his group had passion. Their people mattered, and they mattered to each other. Their customers counted. And they had mastered the art of accountability and responsibility for results through collaboration.

Maybe if George capitalized on what was already there and used the three tactics highlighted above, he would have avoided the reputation as an empty chair leader.

How well do you serve others, know your people and believe in the power of the whole?

Praise & Encourage – How to Give and Receive

My good friend Jeffrey Shaw is creating a movement. This movement is in response to a life-altering event that occurred thirty-one years ago. That’s when Jeff’s father died just hours before his wedding ceremony.

Jeff was the only one with his father as he was dying. Moments before he lost consciousness, he spoke to Jeff. He said, “you’re a good kid.” Those words were the last ones Jeff heard from his father.

But those words didn’t convey what Jeff longed to hear. He wanted to know his father was proud of him. He wanted to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you.”

You may relate to Jeff’s need hear those words. Or maybe those words aren’t the right ones for you. Regardless, being validated matters. And that validation starts from within.

Jeff says that over the years he has been able to turn “you’re a good kid” into “I’m proud of you.” How? He recognized his own truth. He is proud of himself.

Jeff’s story is both about being a receiver and a giver of praise or encouragement. In that story, there is learning about being acknowledged and providing acknowledgment. To that end, here are a couple of tidbits for being a receiver and a giver.

Receiving words to praise or encourage

When you are grounded in your own self-worth, the words of praise and recognition you hear from others will be the right ones. You’ll be open to receiving and experiencing their impact. The words you receive can make an impact one of three ways:

  • They may echo what you know to be true: “I am proud of you.” => “I am proud of myself.”
  • They may provide a way to shift self-doubt: “You handled that situation well.” => “I hope I handled that ok” shifts to “Wow. I handled that well.”
  • They may shed light on something for you to get curious about and explore further: “I am impressed by your strategic thinking.” => “Hmm .. I wonder if it is time for me to consider a career move into the corporate strategy team.”

These examples illustrate the validation praise and encouragement can provide. However, if you are steeped in self-doubt, you may be reluctant to receive. And if you close off a part of yourself to positive feedback, you may be unable to echo what is true, shift away from insecurity or grow from what you heard.

As a receiver, how will you be a part of Jeff’s movement? How will you act upon the words you have heard?

Giving words to praise or encourage

What you say counts. You don’t want words that come across as hallow. Thus, select your words wisely based upon the following:

  • the length of time you’ve worked together
  • the connection you share
  • the accomplishment worthy of recognition
  • the leadership behavior you’d like to see more of
  • the growth you see in who the person is becoming
  • the sincerity you want to convey

And remember to always use the person’s name before your words:

  • Paul, You handled that difficult conversation well.
  • Mary, You must be so proud of this report and the presentation you gave to net it out.

Personalizing your feedback adds significance.

As a giver, how will you be a part of Jeff’s movement? What will you say to people around you?

Click here to learn more about Jeff’s story and his movement.