Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Apprentice week 2 analysis, RWA: Giving/Receiving Feedback using Head & Heart

Summary: This post reviews episode 2 of The Apprentice Australia and offers Real-World Applications (RWAs) on how to give and receive feedback.

Previous related posts:
Analysis of episode 1, RWA: Foundation & Force
Preview of episode 2, RWA: Conflict Management

Analysis of week two

TEAM EVENTUS (winning team)

What was shown of the behaviour the all-female team members demonstrated a team divided... dare I say: catty?

's comments about team leader Sabrina (whom she had invited into the Boardroom with her last week for potential elimination) were critical and caustic, in keeping with Carmen's central theme of revenge for perceived betrayal. Watch for more fireworks from Carmen's corner as it seems she has not yet learned how to channel her abundant energy into more productive behaviour.

Heather joined in the fray early this week when her desire to use her experience in advertising as team leader was thwarted by Sabrina thrusting herself forward for the role. Heather did not contest Sabrina's suggestion but then seemed inwardly resentful throughout the task as a result - a function of not wanting to deal with a difficult or potentially painful situation. When Heather did apply her experience to the project, we saw another side of her: a perfectionist pursuit of what is right according to her expertise/rules. Working with the graphic designer she repeatedly said, "no that's not it, that's not right" and worked literally up to the last minute on fine-tuning and adjustments - which could have led to disaster. Despite this long time commitment, Heather looked stressed and anxious during the pitch, most probably out of fear that it still wasn't right. In the weeks to come a developmental goal for Heather will be to present her ideas assertively while also making room for other perspectives, adopting a position of curiosity rather than a compulsive quest for what is right according to her own standards.

Sabrina wasted no time in putting herself forward to shine this week - and then manifestly failed to do so. Using her characterisitc forcefulness she effectively nominated and acclaimed herself team leader at the outset (team approval at that point being really just a formality in her mind). In the event, not much was shown of her leadership or contribution to the project aside from her singing voice on the jingle and her delivery of a negative and critical assessment of Heather's design efforts. Worse, she nearly blew what to that point had been a strong team pitch to the Ogilvy execs by getting defensive during the Q&A and arguing with their feedback. Incredibly, she repeated this blunder in the Boardroom by cutting across and attempting to correct Diane Stone's report on Eventus' performance. It's possible that Sabrina talks a good game and fronts herself as being capable of much more than she can actually deliver. In short, she's a fraud and at a certain level she knows it. Her persona is therefore built on tenuous foundations and she will be on perpetual high alert for any threat to its maintenance...which makes her incredibly resistant to feedback and fearful of any assessment of her by others. Her development task remains the same: cultivate modesty and objectivity, greater awareness of others through opening herself to feedback, and learning to deliver feedback to others in a more constructive way.

TEAM PINNACLE (losing team)

Lynton's elimination this week stemmed largely from his over-reliance on data, information and logical, step-by-step process. In his exit interview he seems not to have learned the lesson: he states there is not a lot he would have done differently, says they made the best possible use of the tools and information available, but failed to talk about how he would correct the two major shortfalls: his failure to remember the clients' names(!) and the lack of engagement and energy in his "wooden" presentation to Ogilvy. It's likely that he thought his way was the best way, so despite claiming to have a "dream team" to work with, he insisted on delivering the pitch on his own. In the Boardroom his detached, non-emotional mask began to crack as he continually pursed his lips - a blatant microexpression that may have indicated anger/annoyance, disapproval/disgust, or impatience at not being able to speak, but in any event clearly demonstrated outwardly the emotional distress that he was unwilling to actually put into words.

Jon, meanwhile, was this week's target of Mr Bouris' war on "shrinking violet" behaviour and "fence-sitters" - which seems to be code for everyone who's not making a big noise about their own contribution. I'd agree that Jon seems ambivalent about his role and was too easily brushed aside by Gavin during the interviews - all the more reason for him to insist that some groundwork be set before tasks are undertaken so there's greater role clarity and even debate about how to proceed, before proceeding. So, more Foundation before the Force.

Sam meanwhile got positively manic and made good use of his creative side during the brainstorming session - which is, after all, what a brainstorming session is meant to be about - but then got some stick for being unfocussed. At present there is simultaneously a lot of goodwill towards him and doubts about his youth. That said, he stuck his hand up and took responsibility for an idea in the Boardroom, which earned him kudos from Mr Bouris since everyone else on Team Pinnacle was in prevarication/plausible deniability mode. In the weeks to come Sam needs to keep on being himself and continue to earn the respect of his team members by engaging with them in an energetic, authentic way - in other words, with Heart.

Real-World Application (RWA) #1: Head and Heart

Lynton and Sam offer good examples this week of the contrast between Head and Heart.

HEAD is about data, tasks and learning. It looks like this: get clear on the step-by-step actions, make resources available, allocate them efficiently and leverage them to move forward. Ensure good information flow, analyze data for patterns to apply and exploit. It's logical, procedural, rational and non-emotional.

HEART is about empathy, inclusion and relationships, creating a personal connection so that internal competition does not tear the team apart. Being smart about connecting with the team helps foster a sense of belonging for each team member. People don't work for companies or money - they work for people. As team leader, offering a sense of personal commitment will build authentic relationships between team members, who gladly go the extra mile for you...and for each other.

There's an old saying: "People don't care what you know, until they know that you care." With Sam it seems pretty clear that what you see is what you get - to use the phrase, he wears his Heart on his sleeve for all to see. On the other hand, Lynton's Head-strong efforts to dazzle with his marketing know-how and to put himself forward as the expert presenter during the pitch actually alienated him from team members. It also blinded him to the fact that a joint presentation would have been more compelling because it would draw on the diverse strengths of the team members, including Jon's input from his role as parent, Gavin's charm and easy way with people, Sam's energetic enthusiasm and Andrew's warmth and engagement.

Using only his Head and not his Heart, Lynton failed to engage either his team or the client, and paid the price. His exit interview shows that this lesson hasn't sunk in. Logically, his Head-based behaviour still makes rational sense to him. As yet, he hasn't developed the Heart-insight to understand where things went wrong. Opening himself to emotional and Heart-style engagement with others will therefore be his developmental task in his post-Apprentice career.

Of course both Head and Heart are necessary elements and each is an effective counterbalance to the other. We can get so focused on results that the human dimension, that of emotions and relationships, gets forgotten. Yet it is the central task of leadership to successfuly reincorporate exactly that dimension to to engage people in getting things done.

What does your team or organization do to ensure a good mix of both Head and Heart in decision-making, activities and interactions?

An excellent tool for reincorporating the human dimension, the Heart in an organization, is by enabling people to communicate more effectively by giving and receiving feedback.

Real-World Application (RWA) #2: Giving & Receiving Feedback

Giving feedback: The Affirm
This week Sabrina demonstrated the kind of feedback that many managers give: pointing out what's wrong, challenging decisions with a lot of "why" questions and generally putting the person at the receiving end on the back foot. This highly critical approach focused on the negatives will be interpreted by many people as a threat - and drive them into their limbic, emotionally reactive survival mode.

Rather than offering negative, destructive feedback, there's a tool that helps you to give constructive feedback aimed at a collaborative and mutually-agreeable outcome. Working on the basis that people work better when they are appreciated, a good approach is to Affirm the things you notice that are going well and the resources, skills, talents and attributes that a person has demonstrated.

At first this might seem like a pointless waste of time, just soft-stuff, hand-holding and not getting the point across. Or like those empty compliments that some managers lavish indiscriminately on team member - a load of sickly-sweet, nonspecific and insincere praise. But the Affirm is something else.

Good Affirms are:
Authentic and sincere

Specific and detailed

Relevant to the context

And...they feel really good both to the giver's brain (since it's linked to compassion) and the receiver's brain, since they help position the receiver to win the Battle inside their Brain. Good Affirms calm the knee-jerk, emotionally reactive limbic brain and invite the attention and involvement of the rational cortical brain, where the mental heavy-lifting takes place and whence people produce their most useful behaviour and activity. (Learn more here.)

Receiving feedback: Active Listening

Even if you're not being Affirmed, you will still need to receive feedback from others in order to learn, develop and grow. Scottish poet Robbie Burns wrote, "O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us." And he's right, we gain invaluable insight from the outside perspective that can only come from other people.

Assuming you've won the Battle inside your Brain and quieted the noise of your emotional reactivity, here are some good Active Listening habits to cultivate:
  • Reassure/encourage - convey genuine interest, show you're paying attention, keep the person talking by occasionally saying: "I see..." "Yes..." "Say more about that..."
  • Reflect/paraphrase - convey understanding by restating what the person has said, not necessarily word-for-word but as you've heard and understood it, sometimes taking a guess at the underlying feelings: "You feel that..." "I can imagine you would feel angry that"
  • Restate/clarify - check that you have understood the speaker's intended message (NB: whether you agree with it or not!): "So if I understand you correctly, your idea is..." "In other words, you're saying..."
  • Summarize - to highlight important facts, ideas, etc., review progress so far and establish basis for further discussion: "These seem to be your key ideas..." "Let me just check where we've got to so far..."
The opposite behaviours can be called listening stoppers:
  • Denial - "No, that's not true." Also, body language like lip pursing, rolling eyes, ignoring comments.
  • Counter-interrogation - responding with questions that attack, criticize or make false assumptions
  • Offering counter-opinions - Rejecting the other person's point of view out of hand and substituting your own, "accurate" version: "Let me tell you what really happened!"
When team members can learn to give and receive feedback using Heart, it opens the channels to and engages the rational brain to better process the Head-based facts, data and information. A winning combination!

tmc can help you and your team members to give and receive feedback more constructively, interact collaboratively, and more productively deliver the results you need. To find out more - contact me.

Note: For those of you outside Australia who wish to view the episodes of The Apprentice Australia that I'm discussing in this series of posts, you can find them on YouTube here. Meanwhile if you're in Australia you can see not only the episodes to date but also post-episode video diaries on the Nine website here.


Caitlyn said...

Really enjoying your reviews of the Apprentice.

In particular, your assessment of the contestants leadership style has given great insight & I'm looking forward to see if they react 'in type' to future challenges.

Can't wait to see what you have to say about episode 3.

Brian said...

Yes, enjoying the reviews too - so, Todd, when will you post episode 3 review!? :-)