Viewing entries tagged
feedback

3 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback Across Cultures

Comment

3 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback Across Cultures

Communicating is tricky enough when you speak the same language and have the same cultural background. Throw in multiple cultural or personality type differences that each add their unique filters, and misunderstandings are bound to happen.

For example, I recently ate at an airport restaurant, and they included a quick feedback form with the check. First of all, I thought that was great timing - no need to fill in name or email, just a few quick anonymous circles.

I automatically circled the second option, since I was happy with everything.

Then I looked at the form and read the statements. They went from extraordinary to excellent to good to fair to poor, and I had a moment of doubt and confusion: I did not think everything was "excellent". 

US-American superlativism in full effect

German scales usually go from "sehr gut" - very good to "gut" - good to "befriedigend" - satisfactory to "ausreichend" - sufficient to "mangelhaft" - bad. I thought the food, atmosphere, and service were "good", but come on - we're still at an airport. 

For everything to be "very good" or top-score, there would have to have been fragrant candles and quiet booths. Extraordinary, or even excellent, by definition would have to go above and beyond the usually possible or expected, e.g. include warm cleansing hand towels, a free bottle of water to take on the plane, and perhaps a neck massage. 

If I had translated the words given on the scale, the visual would have resulted in a middle score.  

How can you translate the feedback you want to give across cultures?  

Tip 1:
Agree what the terms on the scale mean. For me, going from Excellent to Good has at least one level missing in between. A clear definition of boundaries and expectations is essential.

Tip 2:
To avoid score falsification due to translation issues, consider using numbers, and naming the ends of the scale, e.g. 1 = :-) 5 = :-(

Tip 3:

Discuss the feedback whenever possible, particularly if we're talking about performance evaluations. This is the only way to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

 

Image by Henru Bergius, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Comment

The Johari Window

1 Comment

The Johari Window

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.35 PM
Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.35 PM

How we see ourselves and how others see us can be in complete opposition. Many philosophers have debated who can know our self better - we from the inside, or others from the outside. As with everything, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

The Johari Window, developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, has been around since the 1950's as "a graphic model for interpersonal relations".

How can it be useful to you?

It provides an overview of what you see, know, or believe to be true about yourself, and what others see, know, or believe to be true about you - including blind spots. In other words, it's an excellent gap analysis between what is and what you want to be.

The first quadrant is Public Knowledge - both you and others have access to that information. It'll still take some communication skills to ensure both have the same understanding or interpretation of what is known.

You can obtain input for the second quadrant by asking friends, colleagues, family, and strangers for feedback. Why strangers? Because they gain nothing by sugarcoating their perception. Remember, feedback is often autobiographical, so we have to consider the source and their personal experiences when we receive it, and try to filter out our own biases and projections when we offer it.

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.39 PM
Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.39 PM

Things you know but don't share with others populate the third quadrant. Some items may stay in there forever, some may be shared via services like postsecret.com and still remain somewhat anonymous. If you decide to share what was once private, of course that knowledge wanders into the first quadrant of public knowledge. Yes, there is movement between the items.

The fourth quadrant holds the space for all those things that may be pre-conscious, i.e. in the portions of your unconscious mind that can be probed, examined, and reflected. In coaching and counseling clients often describe "a-ha!" moments where something that was never quite clear, but lurking under the surface, suddenly pops into awareness. That piece of information then moves into the third quadrant, and possibly even the first if it's shared.

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.10.05 PM
Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.10.05 PM

The quadrants are dynamic, and they have different sizes for different personality types and people from different cultures. For example, people with preferences for extraverted Feeling tend to be comfortable sharing their own personal experiences - to establish rapport with another person, or simply to share. Someone with preferences for introversion or introverted Thinking, for example, may play their cards much closer to their chest. Some people simply are inherently more private and will know a lot more about themselves than what they'll freely share with the outside world.

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.48 PM
Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 7.09.48 PM

By the same token, there may also be cultural differences in how open we are. People from the USA tend to be more versed in small talk than people from Germany. Personal information is more easily shared State-side than it is in Germany, so the "public arena" may appear to be larger by comparison.

Asking for Feedback

To get you started, pick out five to ten adjectives to describe you, e.g. from list below (positive/desirable or negative/undesirable ones, or an even mixture, see Wikipedia example below). Then share that list with your network to see which adjectives they pick for you.

Discrepancies will indicate where to shine your light, seek more feedback, discuss, or simply feel if it rings true. Then it is up to you to decide whether the feedback is something you'll consider as an opportunity for growth and learning, or whether you'd rather dismiss it.

To boost motivation and self-esteem in your team, consider asking colleagues to use any of the positive descriptors to describe other team members - anonymously. E.g. write the person's name on an index card, add the descriptors, and then collect all cards that describe Lisa or Tom and read them out. For a more low-key debrief, simply hand the cards to the corresponding person, and they can read them whenever they're having a bad day.

  • able
  • accepting
  • adaptable
  • bold
  • brave
  • calm
  • caring
  • cheerful
  • clever
  • complex
  • confident
  • dependable
  • dignified
  • energetic
  • extroverted
  • friendly
  • giving
  • happy
  • helpful
  • idealistic
  • independent
  • ingenious
  • intelligent
  • introverted
  • kind
  • knowledgeable
  • logical
  • loving
  • mature
  • modest
  • nervous
  • observant
  • organized
  • patient
  • powerful
  • proud
  • quiet
  • reflective
  • relaxed
  • religious
  • responsive
  • searching
  • self-assertive
  • self-conscious
  • sensible
  • sentimental
  • shy
  • silly
  • spontaneous
  • sympathetic
  • tense
  • trustworthy
  • warm
  • wise
  • witty
  • incompetent
  • violent
  • insecure
  • hostile
  • needy
  • ignorant
  • blasé
  • embarrassed
  • insensitive
  • dispassionate
  • inattentive
  • intolerant
  • aloof
  • irresponsible
  • selfish
  • unimaginative
  • irrational
  • imperceptive
  • loud
  • self-satisfied
  • overdramatic
  • unreliable
  • inflexible
  • glum
  • vulgar
  • unhappy
  • inane
  • distant
  • chaotic
  • vacuous
  • passive
  • dull
  • cold
  • timid
  • stupid
  • lethargic
  • unhelpful
  • brash
  • childish
  • impatient
  • panicky
  • smug
  • predictable
  • foolish
  • cowardly
  • simple
  • withdrawn
  • cynical
  • cruel
  • boastful
  • weak
  • unethical
  • rash
  • callous
  • humourless

Image by Paolo S., Flickr, Creative Commons License.

1 Comment

How to give and take feedback like a leader

Comment

How to give and take feedback like a leader

Today's lesson comes from the The West Wing, a TV show about White House staff and what they get up to.

westwingtranscripts.com
westwingtranscripts.com

The scene you'll find transcribed below, courtesy of westwingtranscripts.com is between the President Dr. Bartlet and his aid Toby. Wish I could show you a clip, but that would be illegal.

The observation here is this:

Great leaders ask for feedback, hear it, acknowledge it, and accept what's true.

Great team members provide feedback, even and especially if it's constructive, as a sign of respect.

And guess what: that makes you a leader, too. Taking responsibility.

When was the last time you reminded your boss of his shortcomings?

Takes courage, no doubt about it, but if it's the congruent thing to do, do it.

TOBY Was David Rosen your first choice for my job? BARTLET [looks away] Yes. TOBY Well, I'm glad we had this little talk, sir. I feel a lot better. Thank you, sir. [laughs] BARTLET We were up all night on that one, Toby. Me and Leo and Josh. They were screaming at me, 'Governor, for God's sakes, it's got to be Toby. It's got to be Toby.' When I held my ground, and we went to David Rosen, and Rosen said he wanted to take a partnership at Solomon Brothers, thank God... I couldn't live without you Toby. I mean it. I'd be in the tall grass. I'd be in the weeds... I know I disappoint you sometimes. I mean I can sense your disappointment. And I only get mad because I know you're right a lot of the times, but you are not the kid in the class with his hand up and whatever it was you said to C.J. You are a wise and brilliant man, Toby...

The other night when we were playing basketball, did you mean what you said? My demons were shouting down the better angels in my brain? TOBY Yes, sir. I did. BARTLET You think that's what's stopping me from greatness? TOBY Yes. BARTLET I suppose you're right.

TOBY Tell you what though, sir. In a battle between a President's

demons and his better angels, for the first time in a long while, I think we might just have ourselves a fair fight. BARTLET Thank you, Toby. [beat] Now, go away.

Image by Cliff, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

Comment

Comment

Skill-booster: How US Americans and Germans Communicate Differently

Here's another example in our comic series of how communication differs across cultures. In this case, a conversation with a friend of mine sparked the idea. He mentioned his manager had given him the following constructive feedback in one of their performance evaluations:

Whenever the manager would ask him to do something, my friend would simply say "yes, I understand", or ask clarifying questions as necessary.

The manager, having worked with a primarily US American workforce, was not used to this approach. She expected my friend to use repetitions, reframes, re-wording, and more elaborate assurances to show he had understood and was indeed up to the task.

Once she explicitly suggested he use these communication methods to signal to her that he understood what was expected, the real conversation began.

"Thank you for telling me this," my friend said. "I wasn't aware of it before. This is probably a cultural difference between our two communication styles."

"How so?" asked his manager.

"I have several years of experience in this field. And we have been working together for a while now. So, when you are asking me to do something and I know what's required, I don't see the need to repeat it back to you."

"OK," said the manager. "But could you try to use some reframes anyway please?"

"Well, to be honest," replied my friend, "that would make me feel as if you mistrust my competence. Let me ask you this: have I ever given you reason to doubt I understood what was needed? Was my work output ever of unacceptable quality or faulty in any way?"

"No, no it wasn't."

"Maybe we can agree on a compromise: you will let me know the minute something isn't done correctly or as you expected, and I'll be sure to ask those clarifying questions and repeat back if it's something new or unclear."

"Deal."

How are instructions and feedback usually handled in your cross-cultural working relationship? Does this sound familiar to any of you? How are you handling the differences?

Thanks to Stuart Miles for the free pic!

 

Comment

Comment

What Others are Saying About Me

David Sullivan, July 18, 2012I so much enjoyed your presentation last night! I learned a lot of new things, discovered new areas for further investigation, identified two new books that are "must buys", and got to laugh and have fun as well! Your ability to engage the audience and to respond to complex questions also added much to the educational experience! I have worked for more than 15 years for international companies so I know first-hand how your research will help individuals similarly employed be even more effective in their work lives. I have done much work over the years in leadership development and your Cultural Self-Awareness Toolkit would have been a real asset in helping managers under my purview to better interpret behavior and intentions of their cross-cultural direct reports, peers, and bosses. The kit can help build wisdom which was always a key goal for my development programs.

Sricharanya Thiagarajan, August 20, 2010 I am extremely grateful that Toastmasters International has a mentor- mentee program and even more thankful that I have Doris as my mentor. I have worked with Doris for more than a year. She instantly makes you feel comfortable and for a person like me who is not a native speaker of English, it gave me a lot of confidence. She has worked with me on my communication and leadership skills and during the entire time she has been extremely supportive and encouraging. She is an excellent mentor and coach and is always so motivating and inspiring. Her communication and leadership skills are exemplary. She takes personal interest in her mentees and leads by example. Her ever smiling demeanor and friendly nature is what makes her even more approachable and dependable. She really motivates you to move beyond your comfort zone while at the same time making it clear that she is there for you when you need her. I would definitely recommend her as a coach/mentor for anyone who is looking for that support in an international setting.

Smitha Day, Cultural Transitions Consultancy LLC (August) 2009 I first met Doris at the FIGT 2009 conference. Little did I know the treasure of knowledge that was going to be unfolded from that meeting. I signed up to receive her newsletter as the “name” of her company captured my attention. Upon receiving her newsletter, I was surprised by the all the knowledge it contained that I needed to know how to start my own consultancy. After much back and forth correspondence with Doris regarding questions on starting a business, I explored the opportunity to officially consult with Doris. Doris made a generous offer recognizing where I was financially. I walked away from every session more passionate about my consultancy, more clear about how to make it happen, and more equipped with specific tools to creating a solid foundation for the business. The tools included business steps to build the business as well as tips on maneuvering around the psychological road blocks. As we began to approach our final sessions, Doris connected me with the support systems I would need to continue growing my business. Doris has the passion to see people’s dreams/visions fulfilled. She has the skill, talent and experience to decipher what it is that the particular individuals need to build their life’s dreams. Most importantly she is compassionate, empathetic, structured, brilliant and a devoted coach. I am honored and grateful to have had the expertise of Doris Fuellgrabe.

Deniz Demirors, May 12, 2009 As a participant of FIGT 2009 conference is Houston, I have seen Doris in action when she presented her session "How to Start Your Own Business" as well as her interactions with many other participants. She is very determined and passionate about serving expats and shares her experience and background with them in a way that will help them to focus on the positives and mitigate the impact of negatives in a more effective way. She has great empathy and listening skills that helps her to get connected with people very easy and fast. As a ex-trailing spouse and HR professional in global mobility area, I would recommend Doris to any company with full confidence and also any expat or expat to be.

Steve Miller, USA, April 2008 My experience with Doris as my coach was superb, and I am thrilled to recommend her coaching skills to anyone. Doris helped do more than just set and meet goals, she helped me realize what my underlying motivations were. For instance, I learned to identify what makes me more productive and what does not. And combining that with some great “getting-things-done” tools, and such encouraging accountability, I completed my goals, and can now apply these life skills to new goals, new jobs, and new stages of life. I’m much more productive in real, on-paper ways that makes me proud of myself, and I owe that to working with Doris.

Comment

How to reduce your blind-spots

Comment

How to reduce your blind-spots

For cars and horses it's physical; for people the elusive part is a mental corner, sometimes the size of a football field.

"What you don't know won't hurt you!"

So why should you care? Because shining a light in these corners can help ease your mind, improve relationships, as well as broaden your career prospects.

We've talked about perceptions, feedback, and the importance of getting to know yourself. In case this is your first time on this blog, welcome! :-) You'll find that I work from the premise that self-awareness is a wonderful thing, because once you know who you are, you know who you're dealing with, which parts of your behavior, emotions and reactions are yours and which are projections.

Enter the Johari Window. It has been around since the 1950's as "a graphic model for interpersonal relations" developed by Luft and Ingham. How can it be useful to you?

It's a neat way to have an overview of what you see, know, or believe to be true about yourself, and what others see, know, or believe to be true about you - in other words, excellent gap analysis between what is and what you want to be. 

You already know the information for that first public quadrant, and you can obtain input for the feedback one by asking friends, colleagues, family, and especially strangers (they gain nothing by lying or trying not to hurt your feelings). Quadrant three adds information about those things you are aware of and prefer to keep private from others, and the fourth and last one represents the subconscious and what's unknown.

How do you interpret your subconscious?

This one boggles my mind a little, because if it's unknown, then how do we know how big that quadrant is? Does it stand for our potential? Then it should be endless! Does it represent aspects about ourselves we've yet to find out? Then it's finite, and that doesn't sound right, either!

Depending on when in your life you decide to fill in the quadrants and the degree of feedback you're seeking, their sizes might vary.

Exercise:

  1. Pick out five to ten adjectives to describe yourself (see Wikipedia example below)
  2. Share the list of adjectives with your network and ask them to pick 5 to 10 adjectives to describe you.
  3. Examine the responses for overlaps and discrepancies to your own picks. 

Discrepancies will indicate where to shine your light, seek more feedback, discuss, or simply feel if it rings true. It is then up to you to decide whether the feedback is something you'll consider as an opportunity for growth and learning, or dismiss.

When introducing this tool into your school or workplace for colleagues/employees, a list of desirable options paired with anonymous feedback can result in powerful motivation, and a significant esteem-boost at the very least.

Sometimes we come across differently than we wish to, and until we are alerted to the fact we don't have the opportunity to make necessary adjustments. Granted, some people don't care or can't change other people's opinion anyway. Still, if you care about your appearance, I invite you to give the Johari Window a try. 


  • able
  • accepting
  • adaptable
  • bold
  • brave
  • calm
  • caring
  • cheerful
  • clever
  • complex
  • confident
  • dependable
  • dignified
  • energetic
  • extroverted
  • friendly
  • giving
  • happy
  • helpful
  • idealistic
  • independent
  • ingenious
  • intelligent
  • introverted
  • kind
  • knowledgeable
  • logical
  • loving
  • mature
  • modest
  • nervous
  • observant
  • organized
  • patient
  • powerful
  • proud
  • quiet
  • reflective
  • relaxed
  • religious
  • responsive
  • searching
  • self-assertive
  • self-conscious
  • sensible
  • sentimental
  • shy
  • silly
  • spontaneous
  • sympathetic
  • tense
  • trustworthy
  • warm
  • wise
  • witty

 

Image by Steven Ford, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

  • incompetent
  • violent
  • insecure
  • hostile
  • needy
  • ignorant
  • blasé
  • embarrassed
  • insensitive
  • dispassionate
  • inattentive
  • intolerant
  • aloof
  • irresponsible
  • selfish
  • unimaginative
  • irrational
  • imperceptive
  • loud
  • self-satisfied
  • overdramatic
  • unreliable
  • inflexible
  • glum
  • vulgar
  • unhappy
  • inane
  • distant
  • chaotic
  • vacuous
  • passive
  • dull
  • cold
  • timid
  • stupid
  • lethargic
  • unhelpful
  • brash
  • childish
  • impatient
  • panicky
  • smug
  • predictable
  • foolish
  • cowardly
  • simple
  • withdrawn
  • cynical
  • cruel
  • boastful
  • weak
  • unethical
  • rash
  • callous
  • humourless

Comment

Comment

Perceptions and feedback

I am writing to you today from my old hometown in Germany. I´m visiting my family after having taken part in a very interesting Coaching seminar last week. This was the first seminar of the kind I took part in, and let me tell you, spending five 14-hour-days with 21 other Coaches is no mean feat. Imagine a suitcase, if you will, that on the way there is well packed and spacious, but on the way back you´re having difficulty fitting all the items you´ve acquired into it, to the point that you have to sit on it so it´ll even close. That´s what my head felt like, and I wouldn´t have it any other way. The certificate mentions a number of psychological tools I´ve learned how to use, but the experience and lessons in self-awareness simply don´t fit on one page. And that is something I´d like to share with you all today.

When you walk into a meeting room full of your colleagues, or into a bar full of strange faces, do you know what impression you give? Not meaning to scare you or anything, but chances are, it´s not the impression you have of yourself. You may feel nervous, but you may be perceived as being in control, or aloof, or even arrogant. Dito the perception you have of other people, they may not be as timid as you think they are. So how can you bring those two images a bit closer?

The starting point can only be "know thyself". Ask yourself what your motivators are, what behaviour in others makes you nervous, which triggers make you react in a calm, sad, offended or aggressive manner. A lot of self-awareness work is in retrospect, when you´re thinking about a conversation you had that didn´t go the way you planned it and you´re wondering where things started going downhill. Replaying the facts and fictions in your mind is a good way to look for clues of your own making. Why did you say this or react like that? Only you can know these things!

Once you know what makes you tick, I´d like to suggest to keep the following in mind: we´ve been programmed and hard-wired since our childhood, as discussed in earlier posts. Whenever you get negative or unpleasant impressions of other people, give yourself a minute to figure out if those might be the result of a projection of yours. For example, I know someone who has worked all his life. He gets angry and disappointed at his partner for sleeping in late on a weekend. Keeping in mind the concept of projection, it is reasonable to believe my friend is angry at his partner for doing something he would love to do, but doesn´t dare to due to his programming. Do you see what I mean? "What isn´t in ourselves, doesn´t make us angry" is a loose translation of a German saying coined by Hermann Hesse. This may mean someone´s doing what you would like to do, and seeing it makes you angry. Or someone´s doing something that reminds you of a part of yourself you would like to get rid of.

Byron Katie is using this knowledge in the "turn-around" part of her concept "The Work". In the seminar we used it after receiving negative feedback from members of the group. That way, we did get valuable feedback about how we appear to others, definitely something to keep in mind, and at the same time the others learned something about themselves.

In the extreme, the theory of projection may be abused to fend off any criticism of ourselves, saying "it´s all in their imagination". Faithful readers know that that´s not what I´m about. The thought I want to leave you with this week is the following: the more you accept yourself, and are at peace with yourself, the less others will be able to put you off balance.

Til next time!

Comment