Best Practices + Deaf Ears = Wasted Resources: Part 1
Six months ago, DX ran an afternoon conference-style version of Magnetic Feedback (since rebranded as The Feedback Shift), for 100 leaders all at the same time. For the most part, it was a great experience, we got students from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology involved as sub-facilitators, and a lot of learning was had.
I also learned something very important that afternoon.
To provide some context while protecting the privacy of this company, I will say that this Leadership & Development department really loves one particular feedback model. I have had a couple of conversations with them about it. I am not sure the exact ways that they have rolled it out in the past, only that they have, and seemingly on multiple occasions. However, by the time we got to teaching the model during this workshop, the energy of the room completely changed.
“Oh, this thing again.” and several variations were muttered around the room.
In my small group, I pushed a bit further and asked them more about their experience with the model. Their response was that they hear about it all the time, to the point where it became ‘overkill.’ I was certainly nervous for the rest of the day, but I encouraged the group to try this experience with fresh eyes, and really notice where their energy was. They were having a lot of fun playing with the magnets, so I think they were willing to stick it out.
For some people, the model finally clicked, they understood why it was useful and had new energy around it. For others, the damage was already done. For me, I realized how important it was to motivate a participant to want to change before spamming them with best practices.
The problem we have in leadership development when it comes to the ‘softer’ leadership skills like feedback, coaching, and accountability is that it is very difficult to self-assess one’s own ability. I genuinely believe that leaders are usually trying the best they can, but often they don’t know what good looks like, or they don’t know how bad they really are. Eventually they find an area that seems to work and feels right to them.
Over time they begin to believe that their good at the skill. Maybe they don’t give feedback in the best form, but it gets the job done. So, when L&D promotes a new method that feels different and means they are obligated to change, they push back because what have been doing works fine to them. The best practice that L&D give them become an arbitrary rule that takes away their autonomy, so they resist.
That’s why it is critically important to motivate leaders to change before giving them best practices. If they are only given the best practice, and they do not feel like they need them, you are simply throwing away your budget.
This is why we use toys and games at DX Learning Solutions. Through simulation and games, we strip away the technical skills that leaders hide behind, and make them depend on their soft skills to achieve the goal. More importantly, our simulations expose their natural tendencies and allow them to compare them to actual best practices, given them a visceral experience being on both the giving and receiving end of good feedback and coaching. In a short time, we show them their failures, show them how they can improve, and let them feel the improvements with what we are suggesting they try; a small movement towards mastery. Having discovered that they can do it, they only need to remember to repeat the behavior until it becomes habit.
An executive coach friend of mine likes to remind me: “If you want someone to change, they have to feel that the discomfort of changing is less than the discomfort of staying the same.”
My question to L&D is, “What are you doing to ensure that your employees want to implement the best practices that you’re suggesting, and does that make changing less uncomfortable than staying the same?”
Stay tuned, my next blog will cover the inadequate practices that currently exist as L&D checks the box on motivating change, due to their own inherent biases…
Dustin Johnson is Chief Learning Architect at DX-Learning Solutions and Adjunct Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, DeVry University, and National Louis University. Dustin works in Leadership Development, Training and Organizational Culture. He teaches Business, Psychology, Business Psychology, and Statistics. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any of the organizations with which he is affiliated. To get in touch with Dustin feel free to email him firstname.lastname@example.org