It’s Good, But No More Please – How to Giving Feedback Properly

It’s Good, But No More Please - How to Giving Feedback Properly

My little boy is extremely polite, to the point that he gives feedback which might not be clear in the real world.

Dad: Do you like the cake?
Boy: I like it.
Dad: That’s great, would you like some more?
Boy: No thanks. Bye. Dad: … ??? …

Boy doesn’t like the cake, but did not want to offend, hence, said he liked the cake, but did not want to have more of it. This leaves the dad with questions racing through his head of whether the boy indeed liked the cake, or he was too full to have more.
In the workplace, most people managers or peers tend to give feedback in 2 extremes.

  1. Talking down
  2. Too nice

Talking down is not great because the manager is treating the recipient like they are not worth enough, not clever enough, not adequate enough, etc. Talking down with stern authority and a deragotary tone, instilling fear which might most probably hamper growth.
Being too nice is also an issue, because the manager or peer gives feedback without the recipient actually knowing what areas to improve on. This usually comes in the form of a “sandwich” feedback, where it begins with a nice remark, followed by a vague description of the problem, and ends off with a MAYBE / YOU MIGHT LIKE to do this instead. Which makes the feedback difficult to understand.
The proper way to give good feedback would be to be direct and show care for the recipient. Feedback should also have a proper structure:

  • Observation of the problem: What did you observe in the behaviour or action of the person that was a problem?
  • Consequences of the problem: Explain how the problem action / behaviour might have resulted in a difficult or unwanted situation.
  • Ask how could it be different: Ask the feedback recipient how they might have done things differently.

The best time to give feedback is immediately after the issue or problem happened, but depending on situation, it might also be best if all parties have “calmed down” from a very serious situation to be compose enough to receive the feedback.
At the end of the day, its really as simple as speaking from the heart and showing true emphathy and concern for your colleagues or peers.
Anyone you need to give feedback to?
#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership
“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Little Nudge, Big Impact

Little Nudge, Big Impact

I recently have been reading Work Rules by Laszlo Bock, and found delight in learning about all the little and big things that Google implements in their People Management process to improve hiring and increase employee satisfaction over the years. One of the little tactics was “Nudging”, or applying a little reminder (or nudge) in the right direction to facilitate employees being more mindful of the decision on hand and making the nudged decision.

The goal, as Laszlo writes in his book, is to nudge in a direction that would make the person’s lives better, not by taking away choices but by making it easier to make good choices.

As a parent, we are concerned about our child’s overall well being from their health, emotional state and learning abilities. In all these areas, I have devised little nudges that help my two children make their way (by themselves) towards making good choices.

Eating well …

instead of restricting them from eating unhealthy food or too much candy, I give them a choice of when they would like their candy. During Sunday nursery classes or after lunch. instead of worrying my kids would eat unhealthy snacks in school, I ask them to pack a little box of healthy snacks that I have bought and bring along to school.

Sleeping well …

I’m afraid I have not done so well here with the nudges, my kids just can’t get to bed without their parents. Here’s what I have tried, but please let me know if you have alternatives.

Pick your book before we head to bed.

Pick your PJ for bed.

Let’s sleep early like your friend.

Sleep early and you can wake up for breakfast together.

Moving into the workplace, how can we use little nudges to make big impact?

Laszlo mentions many experiments at Google, and I do recommend you read the book.

Here’s my take on little nudges …

Send reading materials before hand, many times.

When I want another team member to help me with a project, I would do a primer days, weeks or even months beforehand, where I would send relevant reading materials from the industry to the team member for review. When I finally setup the meeting to ask for the help, all the little nudges with the reading material had helped seed the right mindset and thought process in the team member to facilitate the project development.

Get different people to communicate the same thing multiple times

Another example would be getting buy in, where I over the course of multiple meetings usually in 1-2 weeks, I get different people to mention the importance of the same project over and over again. With repetitions and coming from different sources, the project or decision becomes easier to digest and is seen as really important since it has been presented by so many different sources.

Text reminders via email or chat

Simple things like getting people to turn off meeting room lights, lock their computer, close the doors, would just require regular and frequent reminders in a polite but firm manner through any form of text messaging.

Any mindset or behaviour can be changed if you have sufficient persistence, the right data and good intentions.

What are you nudging for today?

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #Leadership #Management #Entrepreneurship #Parenting

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Why You Need Flexible Scheduling For Your Next Project?

Why You Need Flexible Scheduling For Your Next Project?

Many of you would have heard of the expression “rubber time” when referring to families with kids, and it really means the family is not always on time and a meeting time can take on many different meanings.

For example:
Let’s meet at 3 pm, will be understood as “I will try to meet you at 3 pm, if my kid isn’t napping, if I did not fall asleep first while battling the kid to have their nap, if I have cleaned up the massive mess the kid had left in the wake of lunch.”
… now you understand why parents are hesitant to commit to appointments and even more hesitant to commit to a time.

They typically employ what is called “Flexible scheduling”, by fluidly reacting their own needs and schedule around the less flexible needs of the child. It’s not to say they bend their backs at the whim of the child, but more to say parents don’t beat themselves up if they missed their coffee date with their best friend.

Shifting gears into the workplace, why is flexible scheduling also important?
First, a clarification, flexible scheduling should not be applied to meeting schedules, where you arrive late due to “other commitments”. It should also not be applied to mission critical projects, as those would have very high stakes involved.
So, where should flexible scheduling be best applied?

It should best be applied to new projects, i.e. expanding into a new country, developing a new product, etc, where there are many unknown factors.

Even if you had done your proper due diligence, and gotten all the facts right about he demographic of the audience, the market share data, etc … there will be undefined factors that will impact the development of the project. This is where being more flexible in timing to allow for manageable failures to be uncovered is important.
Doing so has a couple of benefits:

  1. Allows you to grow at the right pace for the market; your idea could be before it’s time in the market, and being more flexible will allow you to have more time to persist and wait for market maturity, rather than declaring the project a failure.
  2. Allows you time to uncover all the possible pitfalls; your project is new and there are many unknown, take time to explore all possibilities and let he problem surface, some problems take time to surface, but because you had a slightly more flexible schedule, you could address the problem before your project is shipped or goes live, preventing costly recalls or PR fiasco.
  3. Allow you to identify the largest opportunity, with more time on hand, you can chat up more partnerships and identify the one with the most benefits, or focus on the core opportunity

It’s not rocket science and you needn’t change the way you operate drastically, but it’s just having a small change in mindset and to influence those around you.
Where else could you be more flexible in your schedule? Let me know …

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership
“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

I’m Smart vs I’m Learning

I'm Smart vs I'm Learning

As parents, we all hope that our kids have high IQ and are kick ass smart!

In an organization, we too want to hire the best, most talented, smartest candidate!

Yet, it is increasingly obvious (ok, not yet) that being smart is not sufficient (or, I daresay, inadequate) to thrive in a world shifting rapidly to uniqueness, individualism, and wisdom (not just knowledge).

So, I cringe, when granny calls my daughter “smart” or “clever” when my daughter successfully presses the right floor number in the lift, or in many other occasions where my daughter demonstrates age appropriate abilities.

Why? Well, emphasizing how smart my daughter is doesn’t give her the right mental framework to learn. By being smart, you believe you already have what it takes to make it in life, and there really isn’t anything more to learn.

If, however, you tell my daughter that it was great she learnt which floor we live on, or she can finally figure out the remote control herself (GASP!) then that is learning. An indication that there will always be one more thing to learn, if you want to continue to grow.

In an organization, we tend to give casual “good jobs” with a pat on the back to good results. Well, let’s also challenge that with “Great execution, I have seen you did something differently there. What else could we improve on in the next try?” (Yes, yes, it is a mouthful and it does take longer to coach people in this direction.) Yet, I challenge you to do so, because it will give a platform for colleagues to think about what could be better and/or challenge the status quo.

My goal is to bring the growth mindset that learning is never done, I’m not smart, I am just learning new things all the time into my personal life with my kids and my own development. This then naturally extends itself into the work place.

I hope you will do so too.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I’m sure we have all heard the phrase Monkey see, monkey do.

This common phrase is indeed a widespread phenomenon, where less matured people (aka children) or inexperienced people (aka junior staff) models their actions, speech and sometimes, even thoughts, after the “responsible” adult or the “professional” manager.

Recognizing this is a first step towards positive growth and development.

We as parents or managers need to be mindful of how we are reacting in different scenarios.

Are we team focused or often complain about team members?

Do we take responsibilities or blame circumstances?

Are we inclusive or condescending?

Are we positive or negative?

If we are stressed, disorganized and yell at people, a high likelihood would be your child would take after your traits too.

At one point, my daughter had trouble focusing on doing 1 thing at a time, she would fleet from activity to activity, or even while in the midst of an activity, her eyes would be glancing at the new activity her little brother was in and immediately scurry over to join in. Her curiosity is great, but her lack of attention was not. We as parents debated over this and believe the problem lies in us as parents having a hectic schedule, multi-tasking most of the time, hence, not providing the right model of concentration and completion of a task in a single pass.

At work, managers and colleagues all play a role in shaping the overall environment and how staff react to situations and conduct their daily activities.

For example, if everyone is in the habit of tearing down other people, and putting down other people’s ideas, then good ideas would have a poor chance of succeeding. Another toxic environment to avoid is when everyone is too nice. They either give sandwich feedback, where no one really gets the real feedback to improve, or they just don’t face the issue and give the right feedback. Senior leaders actions eventually trickle down to create and forms the work environment whether knowingly or unwittingly.

So, recognizing that your actions, speech and thoughts does indeed impact the people around you is an important good first step to take. After that, start with the snd in mind and decide what outcome you would like to achieve and work backwards from them to form your thoughts, speech and actions.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Kids Will Call You Out

Kids Will Call You Out

The amazing thing about kids is that they will call you out for being inconsistent, for bluffing or when you are inauthentic.

So picture this …

I say to my daughter that she needs to be in bed by 9 pm, and that she should not have screen time just before going to bed. She acknowledges my statement as matter of fact, as I constantly “preach” this phrase. When it’s nearing 9 pm, and I am not even close to sleeping and still on my mobile phone, she throws me a question: Why are you still on your mobile phone? Why aren’t you getting ready to go to bed? What about you?

Erm …

My first reaction would be … Daddy has lots of stuff to get done and I  just need some peace and quiet. You are not helping by interrupting and going to bed so late. Aren’t you suppose to be in bed by 9?

Yes, I get defensive and I believe many of us do too.

What happens at work is very similar.

Younger or junior colleagues often see through what goes on in the organization and is able to quickly call out senior managers for being inconsistent, or for bluffing throughout the organization.

For example …

CEO said we should aim for A
But, manager says we need to hit KPI by doing B

Or …

Senior leadership says they take your feedback into consideration, and nothing happens for months or years.

When our colleagues come to us with questions, issues, or feedback, it usually is a genuine concern, our first reaction might be defensive, brushing it away, giving excuses, or just ignoring the issue. We should aim to be as consistent, truthful and authentic about responding. Otherwise, it becomes plain we are NOT and it is seen through immediately.

Kids become rebellious.
Kids could also turn away and find “consistency” in addictions.

Junior staff lose interest in their work.
They might also leave the organization though they are in fact leaving the manager/leadership.

It’s usually a downwards spiral from here, unless, there is a change in parenting or leadership style.

Can we be consistent at different times and across all managers?

I believe it all comes down to having a clear vision for the organization and have already agreed upon guiding principles.
In parenting, establishing clear boundaries is also important and parents should also live by it.

It’s tough, but we can support each other.
Sometimes, we make mistakes, sometimes, we screw up. No one is perfect. That should be perfectly clear. The important thing is to acknowledge mistakes and correct them and move ahead. Having a buddy system to keep each other in check would be super helpful. Parents can support each other and keep each other consistent and authentic.

Thank them for calling you out.
Go ahead, thank your kid or your colleague for calling you out and giving you feedback. Without it, you would be stuck. Arm with it, you can now grow. Thanking them also lets them know you are open and willing to learn, something they will emulate from you too.

So, don’t be afraid to be called out and don’t be afraid to call out too.

Just be consistent in what you say and do.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

What Were You Happy About Today?

What Were You Happy About Today?

At the end of the day, after a bed time story, I often ask my children this question:
“What were you happy about today?”

The responses aren’t always very clear, but sometimes you are able to pick out a few key points.

Dance in class

Gliding this afternoon

Play with friend

Watching video of my performance

With these you get a glimpse of what was important to them and how they felt about certain activities.  Importance could mean many things at their young age, it could be something they were happy doing, it could be something they did well and got complimented for, or it could be any random act. Slowly, over time, parents should be able to pick up certain patterns.

This check in also helps instill gratitude on a daily basis, which I find is very important, especially in a world that values speed over patience, convenience over quality, and transactions over conversations. This very basic question will help them reflect on what made them happy, and parents can guide them to better understand their feelings and appreciate the world around them.

If you apply this at work, it’s still the same question, “What were you happy about today?”, but it can have 2 distinct meaning.

  1. Were you happy with your achievements for the day?
  2. Are you happy with work?

This simple question should trigger a process to evaluate the tasks that had been accomplished (or not) today, and help yourself or your team member determine if the day was well spent, and/or how it could have been improved. Look at what was well done and congratulate yourself for it, then take a look at what was not well done and decide how that will become better for tomorrow.

The same question should also go fundamentally deeper to question and/or affirm that you or your colleague were mindfully happy about your work in general. Are you finding joy in your work? Do you actively and passionately find ways to make work great? If so, great! If not, could it be that you would be better suited in another job, occupation or field? I have worked with team members previously that were young and unsure about their career path. Through observations and many conversations, we were eventually able to identify their strengths, their interest and how that can become a path of pursuit. One colleague went from digital marketing to sports marketing and yet another went on to open her own bakery. Both successful and happy in their own ways now.
So, friends, for today, just ask yourself this very simple and basic question: “What were you happy about today?”  In fact, go ahead and ask your team members, your family members and … also, your children.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership
“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Hey! Are You Present?

Hey! Are You Present?

We all would have made this mistake at least once …

You sit in a meeting and while the discussion is on-going, we are replying to that “urgent” email, or thinking about what’s for lunch or just day dreaming.

As a parent, I admit that I have commit this mistake more than once. When either of my children come to me to show me their work of art or ask me to read the story book for the 111th time, I shift a quick glance at them and vaguely acknowledge their effort, while still responding to a work email or (GASP!) scroll through my Facebook feed.

“Papa, why are you still looking at your phone? Can you please see what I am showing you?”

My elder child asked of me one fine evening, as I do that “work-life balance” thing where you physically spend time with your kids but mentally are pre-occupied with other work commitments. That came as a shock and I realized how awful it must have felt for her having to “beg” for attention.

At work we do that a lot too! We take our laptops into meetings to “take notes” but while the debate ensues, you are replying to someone on Slack, shotting off an email, etc. Even without a laptop, we glance at our mobile phones with every vibration or light up for incoming notification.

Hey! Are you present?

Without presence, we would not be able to commit 100%. We would not be able get the full picture. We would require the presenter to repeat themselves. We would require offline sessions to fill in the gaps. We would need meeting minutes to recap the takeaways. Total waste of time?

What if everyone were present? Meetings might be short (30 mins)? Everyone would be really on the same page? Decisions could be made faster? Everyone would show everyone else respect. Let’s acknowledge everyone’s contribution and give due credit when it is required.

As a parent, my children would be able to have their emotional tank better filled, because of having a present parent. They would understand the importance of being present. They would know that their parent love them and is always present for them. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Are you still present?

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Quit, Only After You Are Done

Quit, Only After You Are Done

My elder child is currently taking piano lessons. It was decision we debated for a while because we were not clear if our child had like music enough to stick it through a very “involved” piano lesson plan. It’s a minimum commitment of one year with 40 weekly lessons.

As with all project beginnings in life and at work, it was exciting, yet difficult. The classes were in Chinese (We had enrolled her in lessons in Shanghai) and it wasn’t hers or the wife first language, so understanding the lessons was a challenge. When you actually played the keyboard, your initially stiff fingers would find difficulty in playing any decent chord. Then there was the weekly “homework” that the child had to practise at home and record a short video for the teacher to critic.

Let’s just say we had a fair share of conflict with the child during the initial months.

However, our consistent message was “Keep on going. Quit, only after you are done”. No matter what you do or start to do, you had to keep going and complete it. Only after you have completed the project, the lesson, the experience, can you make an informed decision on whether you like/dislike, find suitable/or not, love/hate a particular thing you are doing.

When you start a new career, there is a very short “honeymoon” period of excitement when everything is new and fresh, but it very quickly moves into the “adapt” phase where you have to learn to transition and adapt to the new environment. The end result could be that you eventually thrive or you fail, but it is only when you complete your “year” and done your time will you be able to safely conclude that this or that was suitable or not.

Ever put together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle? How about a 1000 piece Lego figurine? We all go through the same excitement, then trough, before we eventually succeed or fail.

So, remember, no matter what you do, always stick it out, finish the race, complete the project, reach the end. At that point, you would have either taste the victory and crave for more, or you would have got bitten by failure and decided to refocus or shift to something else.

For my child and her piano lessons, we are half way in and an encouraging development happened after the first quarter, when she had her first performance and received a certificate from the teacher. That evening, she came home beaming with pride. The joy was shining on her face.

We later had a conversation …

“Did you enjoy your performance?” She said yes.

“Did you feel proud of receiving your certificate?” She said yes.

“Are you looking forward to your next certificate?” She said yes.

In conclusion, don’t short change yourself by giving up half way.

While on the way there, find little successes that can keep you moving forward.

Quit, (if you still want to) only after you are done.

More articles:

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Aim For The Stars, But Sometimes, It Is Ok To Land On The Moon

Aim For The Stars, But Sometimes, It Is Ok To Land On The Moon

Aim for the stars, but sometimes, it is ok to land on the moon.

2 weeks into 2018, and I am sure many of us have our personal new year resolutions and professional KPIs all setup or are finalizing the details. So, this is the perfect time to share about aiming for the stars, i.e. being the best … top scores, best results, full marks, rank #1, etc …

My elder child is very into stars and makes it a point to count all the stars on the worksheets that we do together. In fact, she adds up all the stars across worksheets and will proudly proclaim to every family member that she had 5 stars or 10 stars. She also questions why sometimes it is 5 stars and at other times it is 3 stars. (5 vs 3 is based on the scale of correct answers, but that’s irrelevant for this particular message)

When she gets 5 stars, her face beams with pride, but when she gets anything lesser, i.e. 2 or 3, her becomes very stern and looks concern at the “grading” I had bestowed on her.

While it is definitely important to inculcate the value of going all out and doing your best (i.e. aiming for the stars), I believe that it is equally (if not more) important that we teach our children how to manage imperfection and, even, failure. Getting something wrong, or failing at something is not the end, in fact, it is a beginning. This is where we begin to learn, our brain muscles start to flex and think of alternative solutions, our heart muscles stiffen but also learn to develop elasticity to be resilient to emotional stress.

Same thing applies in the workplace, when working with direct reports. Give them the freedom to explore and space for them how to reach for the stars. Also let them know that it is ok to miss the stars sometimes (in fact, everyone misses sometimes) and land on the moon.

Of course, saying is easier that doing, but let me share some quotes which I picked up from Big Life Journal, all about developing a growth mindset in children, which is applicable not only to children, but to your team members.

Instead of “I failed”, we say “Mistakes are part of learning.”

Instead of “This is too hard”, we say “Learning takes time.”

Instead of “I give up”, we say “Let me try a different way.”

Instead of “I am not good at this”, we say “I am not good at this YET!”

Let’s make 2018 a wonderful year of reaching the stars, and also for moon landings!

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills #Leadership

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.