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Interpretation of the sounds we utter from our mouths, and the behaviors that we either consciously &/or unconsciously make, have led to marriages, promotions, and wars — although hopefully not in that order! Below is a succinct overview of some national cultures’ responses to the inquiry, “What do you think about my idea / performance?”
- What’s good. (Strengths)
- What could be better. (Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats)
- Encouragement to do it. “Just do it.”
Most ineffective feedback behaviors come either from lack of skills or from the sender not seeing the process as an interaction in which both parties have needs that must be taken into account. The feedback process is the outcome of two diverse individuals as partners. It needs to be monitored and sometimes explored and improved. If a manager does not value the concept of “process” or does not want to take the time to discuss anything other than content, then the results include disappointment, frustration, wasted time/energy, and lots of ineffective feedback. His/Her lack of interest in anything other than your total acceptance of the content will distort the manager’s perception of your response as being defensive, when it is most likely an indication of his/her inability to lead effectively. Effective leaders carry the key to motivation and inspiration; not negative feedback dumps. People join organizations and leave managers.
To be more illustrative as to what typically works in the USA, below is a chart of comparison on effective and ineffective feedback.
|Describes the behavior. E.g. “I hear you finishing my sentences for me.”||Uses evaluative/judgmental statements. E.g. “You’re being rude.” “You’re trying to control the conversation.”|
|Separates the behavior from the person. E.g. “When you use the industry terminology, I get lost.”||Speculations on the receiver’s intentions or motivations. E.g. “You’re trying to drive me nuts,” “You’re trying to appear intelligent.”|
|Comes as soon as appropriate after the behavior – immediately if possible; later if events make that necessary (e.g. you need time to “cool down”)||Is delayed, saved up, and “dumped.” The receiver may experience guilt &/or anger because after time has passed there’s usually not much s/he can do about it. E.g. They explode or approach you several days/weeks/months later, as in a Performance Review or 360.|
|Direct, from sender to receiver. E.g. “Jim would you please not crack your knuckles?”||Indirect, uses triangulation to involve others in an effort to appear as the Rescuer. E.g. “Tom, how do you feel when Joe cracks his knuckles?”|
|Is “owned” by the sender, who uses “I messages” and takes responsibility for his/her thoughts, feelings, or reactions. E.g. “I find it condescending when you leave without waiting for a response to your comment.”||“Ownership” is transferred to people, upper management, we, everybody, etc. E.g. “Other people have found you to be condescending.”|
|Includes the sender’s real feelings about the behavior. E.g. “I get frustrated when I’m trying to make a point and you seemingly laugh at my suggestions.”||Feelings are concealed, denied, misrepresented, distorted. Smuggled feelings include sarcasm, sulking, competing to see who’s “right,” or passive aggression. E.g. “I guess I won’t share my suggestions.” (Hangs head).|
|Asks relevant questions which seek information, with the receiver knowing why the information is sought and having a clear sense that the sender does not know the answer. E.g. “How can we/I offer you more support?”||Asks questions which are really statements. E.g. “Do you think I’m going to let you get away with that?” Or, which sound like traps, e.g. “How many times have you been late this week?” “How do you think that makes me feel?” “Has your boss given you all the information you need?”|
|Solicited/requested or at least to some extent desired by the receiver. E.g. “Would you please offer me some constructive feedback on how I can perform better? I would appreciate hearing how you think I can improve.”||Imposed/dumped on the receiver often for his/her “own good.” E.g. “I was asked to give you this feedback, and I’ll set up a coaching session with you right now. Do you really want to turn me down?”|
|Affirms the receiver’s existence and worth by acknowledging his/her “right” to have the reactions s/he has, whatever they may be, and by being willing to work through issues in a game-free way. E.g. “I can see how you would find his lack of preparation and suggestions from thin air as funny.”||Denies or discounts the receiver by refusing to accept his/her feelings. E.g. “Oh, you’re just being paranoid.” “Laughter is not a stimulus response.”|
Have at it.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
My investment at Pepperdine University.
©Rossina Gil, 2013