Coaching For Skillrater...
Many corporations are not satisfied with their high potential leadership development programs. The problem for some organizations is that their approach is too linear and programmatic. You can’t make leaders the same way you make sausage.
Developing high potentials requires more than checklists and timelines. It is about cultivating the exceptional talent of unique individuals. Those high potentials need unique and custom-made development plans.
For more articles like this visit Best Practice Institute's Leadership and Management blog. Use skillrater, our anytime 360-degree feedback tool: www.skillrater.com and develop your high-potential leaders in an open and transparent manner backed by a researched methodology in feed-forward, anytime feedback.
New Social Network Promises ‘Future of 360’
Skillrater.com, an online social network that launched today, makes it easy for members to request work performance ratings from overseers, co-workers and direct reports across a domestic and global workforce.
“This is the future of 360-degree assessment and social learning,” said the network’s creator, Louis Carter, CEO of Best Practice Institute.
“Get rated. Get better. Get noticed,” says Skillrater.com’s website, which describes the new social network as “the world’s first rating, networking and feedback tool on a social platform.”
Executives, employees and entrepreneurs who have already been friended, linked and tweeted can now get feedback and rating on their skill sets and work at Skillrater.com. Individuals may join the Skillrater social network at no cost; corporations may purchase a premium or enterprise membership to use Skillrater as an in-house platform for feedback, talent management and social networking.
Best Practice Institute is a leadership development center, think tank, research institute and online learning portal with more than 10,000 corporate and individual members. BPI’s corporate members include Walmart, Bank of America, GlaxoSmithKline, Hilton Hotels Worldwide, and several others of the world’s top corporations. With the popularity of 360-degree feedback and considering BPI’s built-in client base, it is reasonable to expect Skillrater.com to quickly become a popular talent management tool in the corporate world.
The Next Thing in 360 Assessments and Corporate Social Networking
“I want to bring a revolution to 360 so that organizations become more open and transparent, and driven by the desire for employees to request feedback on their competencies/skills and activities they execute on a daily basis” said Carter, BPI’s founder and a social-organizational psychologist.
The world of work is becoming more open and transparent. “A new IBM study of 1709 Chief Executive Officers from 64 countries and 18 industries worldwide reveals that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century” .
Employees using skillrater engage in conversations and threaded discussions around improving their activities at work. Instead of hiding feedback from employees, employees may receive immediate correction of negatively reinforcing workplace habits directly from their bosses, peers, and customers. Employees may continue the feedback process in a threaded discussion to receive deeper advice and help from executive coaches or other members of the team. Repeating this process will show measurable changes in behavior and actions over time for your organization, as well as show patterns for the changes that need to me made on an individual, team, and organization level. The employee requests feedback of others directly, so that a culture of accountability and feedback is encouraged. Instead of “big brother/sister” HR forcing feedback of competencies and workplace performance, employees take ownership for creating their own culture of transparency so they may show their progress toward growth.
One study found that as many as 90 percent of all Fortune 500 companies use 360-degree feedback with their employees. In a 360 assessment, feedback is sought from all directions of an employee’s circle: overseers, peers, direct reports, and sometimes even external sources, such as customers and suppliers.
Skillrater brings several innovations to the 360-degree process to make the technique easier to use and to increase the tool’s beneficial results. Features include:
- Ratings can be requested at any time by any individual, and the individual determines who sees the results.
- Feedback is requested on a specific project or activity, which provides a valuable context for the feedback. “How did I do, and how can I do better?”
- Skillrater.com occurs 100 percent online. It provides a creative way to easily collect multiple feedback and assemble all of that information in a format that is easy to digest.
- Ratings are available immediately to the person being rated. The lengthy delays of many feedback techniques are eliminated.
- Only positive feedback is sought, resulting in more honest responses.
“Skillrater is a great tool. Leaders and managers are going to fall in love with it,” said the world’s leading executive coach and bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith. “There is no better way for organizational leaders to track talent data. Skillrater gives you a simple way to request receive feedback on what you are doing, while building an in-house social network to discuss the feedback. The ability to customize Skillrater around the desired competencies of your organization is brilliant.”
Focus on Leadership Development in Globally Dispersed Workforces
Most importantly, Carter said, Skillrater provides a social network through which members can springboard from quantitative ratings to qualitative discussions that make the feedback truly transformative. This is especially beneficial for dispersed workforces where consistent face-to-face communication is costly to accomplish.”
“Our goal is to create a social network within an organization that is focused on helping employees improve their skills and improve performance,” Carter said. “Skillrater is not primarily about promotion and pay decisions, it’s about leadership development and positive behavioral change throughout a national or global workforce.”
Studies have shown 360-degree feedback is an effective way to help workers identify their strengths and weaknesses, including blind spots in which they need further development. Skillrater’s convenient online platform, along with the addition of a social networking dimension, makes Skillrater a powerful leadership development for dispersed or collective learning environments.
After corporate clients learn their way around all the bells and whistles of Skillrater’s multi-rater feedback tool, Carter said, they will move on to appreciate the richness of the in-house social network, creating a dispersed learning environment in which ongoing leadership development and action learning is cultivated within domestic or global workforces.
Skillrater Benefits for Individual Users
Individuals may join Skillrater.com for free and choose up to five skills upon which to be rated. Top executives, mid-level rising stars and lower-level workers with an eye on advancement may all use Skillrater to request feedback and map their own course of development. Requesting a Skillrater rating is an excellent way for an individual to confirm satisfaction with a completed project or identify additional steps needed to achieve satisfaction. Using Skillrater, a worker can demonstrate to higher-ups one’s desire to perform well and also document tangible improvement.
An individual who has acquired several ratings on one’s Skillrater profile and has made those ratings public may catch the attention of employers on the search for talent. Skillrater will become a go-to destination for talent recruitment. Other social networks provide an individual’s name, personal background and employment history, but Skillrater provides rubber-meets-the-road details of how an individual has been evaluated by co-workers, clients and customers on actual projects.
Skillrater Benefits for Corporate Users
Companies may purchase an enterprise membership, giving executives an unparalleled tool for talent management and leadership development. Enterprise membership enables companies to enroll 1,000 users and place them in 20 groups or divisions.
For senior talent management executives, Skillrater provides a remarkable way to track the job performance, skill sets and leadership development of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of employees spread out across a national or global workforce. For years, connecting the right employees with the right tasks has been the elusive aim of talent management. With Skillrater, when a particular skill set is needed for a particular task, a manager can search on those specific skills, and then read fresh feedback on recent projects, including not only numerical ratings but subsequent comments and discussion. That is rich, valuable talent data, which Skillrater puts at executives’ fingertips.
Managers from different divisions may customize their own groups to have specific skills or competencies that are important for success on-the-job. Users can select these group skills when requesting ratings to get targeted feedback that meets the need of the department head or head of leadership development. The ability to customize skills is critical to an organization’s success, making this a key feature of Skillrater’s enterprise membership level.
VPs of leadership development have the ability to set up action learning groups with specific action items. Group members work together online to achieve goals and get ratings on the skills that will make them most successful on the action learning project. Changes in behavior and actual project results may be tracked over time, proving the ROI of the leadership development program.
How Does Skillrater Work?
Joining Skillrater is easy and painless. An individual can create a Skillrater profile in a few moments or import one’s profile and skill set from LinkedIn.
A Skillrater member may request a rating from anybody on anything. It really is that simple. The user simply clicks the “Request Rating” button, specifies the task or activity for which one seeks a rating and the specific skills on which feedback is desired.
Then the member sends off the rating requests. If the desired rater is already a Skillrater.com member, requesting a rating is just one additional click. If not, the user enters the desired rater’s email address, and a message is sent requesting the rating and providing the necessary link.
After feedback has been received, Skillrater notifies the user. Results include a spider chart, an easy-to-understand graphical interpretation of how the feedback lines up with one’s self-assessment. Users continue to share advice and further clarification via a discussion thread to continue the social learning and coaching experience online.
Providing feedback has long been considered to be an essential skill for leaders. As they strive to achieve the goals of the organization, employees need to know how they are doing. They need to know if their performance is in line with what their leaders expect. They need to learn what they have done well and what they need to change. Traditionally, this information has been communicated in the form of “downward feedback” from leaders to their employees. Just as employees need feedback from leaders, leaders can benefit from feedback from their employees. Employees can provide useful input on the effectiveness of procedures and processes and as well as input to managers on their leadership effectiveness. This “upward feedback” has become increasingly common with the advent of 360 degree multi-rater assessments.
But there is a fundamental problem with all types of feedback: it focuses on the past, on what has already occurred—not on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen in the future. As such, feedback can be limited and static, as opposed to expansive and dynamic.
Over the past several years, I have observed more than thirty thousand leaders as they participated in a fascinating experiential exercise. In the exercise, participants are each asked to play two roles. In one role, they are asked provide feedforward —that is, to give someone else suggestions for the future and help as much as they can. In the second role, they are asked to accept feedforward—that is, to listen to the suggestions for the future and learn as much as they can. The exercise typically lasts for 10-15 minutes, and the average participant has 6-7 dialogue sessions. In the exercise participants are asked to:
• Pick one behavior that they would like to change. Change in this behavior should make a significant, positive difference in their lives.
• Describe this behavior to randomly selected fellow participants. This is done in one-on-one dialogues. It can be done quite simply, such as, “I want to be a better listener.”
• Ask for feedforward—for two suggestions for the future that might help them achieve a positive change in their selected behavior. If participants have worked together in the past, they are not allowed to give ANY feedback about the past. They are only allowed to give ideas for the future.
• Listen attentively to the suggestions and take notes. Participants are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way. They are not allowed to critique the suggestions or even to make positive judgmental statements, such as, “That’s a good idea.”
• Thank the other participants for their suggestions.
• Ask the other persons what they would like to change.
• Provide feedforward - two suggestions aimed at helping the other person change.
• Say, “You are welcome.” when thanked for the suggestions. The entire process of both giving and receiving feedforward usually takes about two minutes.
• Find another participant and keep repeating the process until the exercise is stopped.
When the exercise is finished, I ask participants to provide one word that best describes their reaction to this experience. I ask them to complete the sentence, “This exercise was …”. The words provided are almost always extremely positive, such as “great”, “energizing”, “useful”, or “helpful.” One of the most commonly-mentioned words is “fun!”
What is the last word that comes to mind when we consider any feedback activity? Fun!
Eleven Reasons to Try FeedForward
Participants are then asked why this exercise is seen as fun and helpful as opposed to painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. Their answers provide a great explanation of why feedforward can often be more useful than feedback as a developmental tool.
1. We can change the future. We can’t change the past. Feedforward helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. Athletes are often trained using feedforward. Racecar drivers are taught to, “Look at the road ahead, not at the wall.” Basketball players are taught to envision the ball going in the hoop and to imagine the perfect shot. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful (as opposed to visualizing a failed past), we can increase their chances of achieving this success in the future.
2. It can be more productive to help people learn to be “right,” than prove they were “wrong.”Negative feedback often becomes an exercise in “let me prove you were wrong.” This tends to produce defensiveness on the part of the receiver and discomfort on the part of the sender. Even constructively delivered feedback is often seen as negative as it necessarily involves a discussion of mistakes, shortfalls, and problems. Feedforward, on the other hand, is almost always seen as positive because it focuses on solutions – not problems.
3. Feedforward is especially suited to successful people. Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals. They tend to resist negative judgment. We all tend to accept feedback that is consistent with the way we see ourselves. We also tend to reject or deny feedback that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves. Successful people tend to have a very positive self-image. I have observed many successful executives respond to (and even enjoy) feedforward. I am not sure that these same people would have had such a positive reaction to feedback.
4. Feedforward can come from anyone who knows about the task. It does not require personal experience with the individual. One very common positive reaction to the previously described exercise is that participants are amazed by how much they can learn from people that they don’t know! For example, if you want to be a better listener, almost any fellow leader can give you ideas on how you can improve. They don’t have to know you. Feedback requires knowing about the person. Feedforward just requires having good ideas for achieving the task.
5. People do not take feedforward as personally as feedback. In theory, constructive feedback is supposed to “focus on the performance, not the person”. In practice, almost all feedback is taken personally (no matter how it is delivered). Successful people’s sense of identity is highly connected with their work. The more successful people are, the more this tends to be true. It is hard to give a dedicated professional feedback that is not taken personally. Feedforward cannot involve a personal critique, since it is discussing something that has not yet happened! Positive suggestions tend to be seen as objective advice – personal critiques are often viewed as personal attacks.
6. Feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Feedforward can reinforce the possibility of change. Feedback can reinforce the feeling of failure. How many of us have been “helped” by a spouse, significant other, or friend, who seems to have a near-photographic memory of our previous “sins” that they share with us in order to point out the history of our shortcomings. Negative feedback can be used to reinforce the message, “this is just the way you are”. Feedforward is based on the assumption that the receiver of suggestions can make positive changes in the future.
7. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we don’t like to give it. I have reviewed summary 360 degree feedback reports for over 50 companies. The items, “provides developmental feedback in a timely manner” and “encourages and accepts constructive criticism” both always score near the bottom on co-worker satisfaction with leaders. Traditional training does not seem to make a great deal of difference. If leaders got better at providing feedback every time the performance appraisal forms were “improved”, most should be perfect by now! Leaders are not very good at giving or receiving negative feedback. It is unlikely that this will change in the near future.
8. Feedforward can cover almost all of the same “material” as feedback. Imagine that you have just made a terrible presentation in front of the executive committee. Your manager is in the room. Rather than make you “relive” this humiliating experience, your manager might help you prepare for future presentations by giving you suggestions for the future. These suggestions can be very specific and still delivered in a positive way. In this way your manager can “cover the same points” without feeling embarrassed and without making you feel even more humiliated.
9. Feedforward tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback. An excellent technique for giving ideas to successful people is to say, “Here are four ideas for the future. Please accept these in the positive spirit that they are given. If you can only use two of the ideas, you are still two ahead. Just ignore what doesn’t make sense for you.” With this approach almost no time gets wasted on judging the quality of the ideas or “proving that the ideas are wrong”. This “debate” time is usually negative; it can take up a lot of time, and it is often not very productive. By eliminating judgment of the ideas, the process becomes much more positive for the sender, as well as the receiver. Successful people tend to have a high need for self-determination and will tend to accept ideas that they “buy” while rejecting ideas that feel “forced” upon them.
10. Feedforward can be a useful tool to apply with managers, peers, and team members.Rightly or wrongly, feedback is associated with judgment. This can lead to very negative – or even career-limiting – unintended consequences when applied to managers or peers. Feedforward does not imply superiority of judgment. It is more focused on being a helpful “fellow traveler” than an “expert”. As such it can be easier to hear from a person who is not in a position of power or authority. An excellent team building exercise is to have each team member ask, “How can I better help our team in the future?” and listen to feedforward from fellow team members (in one-on-one dialogues.)
11. People tend to listen more attentively to feedforward than feedback. One participant is the feedforward exercise noted, “I think that I listened more effectively in this exercise than I ever do at work!” When asked why, he responded, “Normally, when others are speaking, I am so busy composing a reply that will make sure that I sound smart – that I am not fully listening to what the other person is saying I am just composing my response. In feedforward the only reply that I am allowed to make is ‘thank you’. Since I don’t have to worry about composing a clever reply – I can focus all of my energy on listening to the other person!”
In summary, the intent of this article is not to imply that leaders should never give feedback or that performance appraisals should be abandoned. The intent is to show how feedforward can often be preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions. Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, feedforward can make life a lot more enjoyable. When managers are asked, “How did you feel the last time you received feedback?” their most common responses are very negative. When managers are asked how they felt after receiving feedforward, they reply that feedforward was not only useful, it was also fun!Quality communication—between and among people at all levels and every department and division—is the glue that holds organizations together. By using feedforward—and by encouraging others to use it—leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations, ensuring that the right message is conveyed, and that those who receive it are receptive to its content. The result is a much more dynamic, much more open organization—one whose employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.
Marshall Goldsmith is the million-selling author of the New York Times bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – the Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year.