Feedback is a gift

We sometimes shy away from receiving feedback because we don’t want to hear where we messed up or (worse) we think we already know it all. My previous boss – a great leader – used the phrase “Feedback is a gift” all the time and encouraged his team to actively give and seek out feedback. Over the holiday break I thought about why he chose to use this phrase in particular.

  1. It disarms the receiver’s fear of feedback. By presenting it at a gift the receiver is able to see the positive in getting it and begins to actively seek it out. It’s no longer scary!
  2. It helps the giver of the feedback realize the responsibility in giving the feedback. Here is something that can truly impact the individual and help them get to the next level. Giving gifts is hugely satisfying!
  3. Third, it’s catchy! He was in marketing after all!

As you head back into work and begin your new year, seek out feedback from people you work with. Use this as input into how you plan your personal development in 2015.

If you want to improve how you give or receive feedback, I recommend you pickup a copy of “One Minute Manager” and read the section on one minute praising and reprimands. It might just make your year.

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Changing corporate culture

Much has been written about the changes afoot at Microsoft. The reorganization of the company, inclusive of the CEO change, will be the subject of business case studies and MBA courseware well into the future. With that backdrop, I found McKinsey & Company’s interview of Alan Mulally from November 2013 fascinating reading. Mulally is of course one of the supposed “final candidates”, (yesterday’s news about Mulally not withstanding), for the CEO position at Microsoft and his transformation of Ford is widely documented. With Microsoft having restructured from divisions to functional units, the first job any incoming CEO presumably is to instill a culture that reflects the new organization. This begs the question; how does Mulally view changes like this?

McKinsey: You’re widely credited with reshaping the culture at Ford. What’s different now?
Alan Mulally: At the heart of our culture is the One Ford plan, which is essentially our vision for the organization and its mission. And at the heart of the One Ford plan is the phrase “One Team.” Those are more than just words. We really expect our colleagues to model certain behaviors. People here really are committed to the enterprise and to each other. They are working for more than themselves. We are a global company, so we really have to stay focused on the work. There are so many people around the world involved in our daily operations that it has to be about more than a single person—it truly has to be about the business. Some prefer to work in a different way. Ultimately, they will either adopt the Ford culture, or they will leave.

Given the well-documented company DNA, this kind of approach might be exactly what the doctor ordered. This is why many believe that someone from outside the company is best suited for the role, even in a caretaker / temporary position, so that they can instill the culture that fits the functional structure and then stand aside to let the product visionary take over the reigns.

Disclaimer: Whilst I work at Microsoft, I have no insight into the CEO selection process. Of course, opinions stated on this blog are my own and discussed purely from an interest in macro business strategy and trends.

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