Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that work groups that scored the lowest on candor (the quality of being open and honest in expression) see the poorest financial returns.
Coaches often help those they support to be more candid, offering negative feedback and criticism in a more caring way, and receiving feedback with less pain.
Americans are BIG on financial returns. So why are most of the recent clients that hired me as their Executive Coach NOT from the USA?
Who actually gets Executive Coaching?
Lately, in my experience, it’s people in Tanzania and Italy, Denmark and Brazil, Colombia and France.
But not the USA!
Surprised? So am I.
While I am happy to have worked with people from 53 countries around the world, it would seem that I might have worthwhile ideas for my fellow U.S. citizens, too. After all, I have
- 20 years as a successful business leader, having been promoted and promoted and promoted
- Been the #1 sales rep worldwide at Xerox Corporation
- Launched a new product that produced US$75 million in revenue in its first year on the market
- Launched a second new product that produced US$40 million in its first six months
- Successfully Coached hundreds of people, many of whom give me nice, quantified testimonials (http://www.YouCanLeadCoaching.com/testimonials)
But let’s leave me out of this. Are Americans so confident that we don’t even think we can benefit from bouncing our ideas off others … or is it that we are afraid to be challenged?
It seems there’s a lot of misunderstanding around the subject of how people are helped by professional coaching. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Keith Ferrazzi says, for example, “We’ve all been there: trapped in pointless meetings. (We’re) waiting for the meeting to end so that the real conversations – which usually happen in private – can begin.” Ferrazzi’s research shows that work groups that scored the lowest on candor (the quality of being open and honest in expression) see the poorest financial returns. Often coaches help those they support to be more candid, offering negative feedback and criticism in a more caring way, and receiving feedback with less pain. (Hint: Ferrazzi suggests that when you offer feedback that may be seen as critical, use phrases like “I might suggest” and “Think about this.” And learn to thank the person offering you candid feedback, making clear the points on which you agree. Think of the person giving you honest feedback as generous!)
It’s also clear that part of one’s preparation to succeed is learning to take criticism – another skill that coaches can help you acquire. Citing a Sensitivity to Criticism Test to which 3,600 people responded, Andrea Kay writes that those who tend to be defensive about criticism “are less happy with their job, have low performance ratings and low self-esteem.” Kay quotes Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests, which administered the study, who says the key is to get past the “harsh outer shell of criticism to the nugget of wisdom at its core.” If you tend to block out the constructive part of the equation and only focus on the criticism, you’re missing a success opportunity! Why take the time to address this? Because those who respond defensively to criticism are feeling out of control. A coach can help you to move toward being interested rather than defensive.
When criticism comes, to what extent are we reacting to pain we’ve experienced from critical comments in the past? In her column “On the Job,” Anita Bruzzese quotes Deanna Rosenberg, author of From Rage to Resolution who says that the problem is that “because so many workers have been burned by unfair criticism, they avoid any feedback at all, a habit that can hurt careers.” (italics mine) The crucial skill: “understanding how to ask for more specific information when critical comments are made,” so you can learn where you need to direct your energies, instead of just becoming emotional and unproductive. Among Rosenberg’s suggestions are these:
- Control your body language while listening to criticism. Don’t clench your teeth or cross your arms.
- Focus on the problem. When the speaker is done ask questions and then rephrase the issue in this way: “As I understand it, you are concerned about (this problem) and you would like me to (solution proposed). Is that correct?”
- Hear the complete message. Don’t stop asking questions until the other person agrees that you fully understand the concerns.
- If it’s clear that the other person is correct about a situation, acknowledge it and offer an apology if appropriate. Express your appreciation for the other person taking the time to offer you feedback, and follow-up when appropriate, to show that you valued the input.
I just hired a Coach for an aspect of business that isn’t my greatest strength – and I have done so regularly. If your challenges are in the areas of Leadership, Sales or Marketing, I hope you’ll do the same! Most Professional Coaches do first conversations for free; call us and see what you think!