Video Library – Healthy Workplace

Why a Heart for Leadership Matters

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”  Nelson Mandela

The Trinity of Leadership Success

One of the first questions that is often asked is why. Why does heart matter? What difference does my heart make if I am using the right skills and competencies and achieving a certain level of success?

And those are very fair questions.

The heart of a leader completes the trinity of leadership success, potential and full actualization of ability. Consider three circles, the first circle contains your competencies and skills. The most important of those competencies include communication, team member engagement, coaching, self-mastery and empowerment. Also among them are decision making, innovation and change, strategic planning, relationships and external management and courage and risk. Within each competency, there are critical skills to master as well. These competencies and supporting skills, when mastered and used consistently will lead you to a tremendous level of success just on their own.

Developing the use of competencies and skills is a cognitive or thinking processed piece of learning. It is developed through the engagement of intellectual capacity and stored in process, mind memory. The learning occurs from reading, seeing, doing and reinforced by the successes associated with the application of those skills. Your mind and memory drives the use of competencies and skills when not combined with other elements of success.

The second circle is the environment in which you operate. No successful person or leader can truly actualize their abilities and talents without a supporting and supportive environment. Within this circle are the organizational and environmental competencies of providing opportunity, valuing people, providing of needs, creating opportunity for growth and providing feedback to people. This type of environment will allow leaders to fully utilized, in a supporting climate, their abilities and talents. Together, with competencies, this creates a powerful combination for potential success.

But wait. That’s not all.

The third circle becomes the final driving piece of personal and leadership success. It is within that circle that the power of your emotions, heart and beliefs can be managed and unleashed. The heart, soul and emotional composition of a leader will drive beliefs which, in-turn, drive actions and behaviors. This can be viewed in a variety of ways including another circular view of your emotions and heart are at the core of who you are, your beliefs are driven by that emotional composition and your emotions then create the reality of behaviors and application of skills in all situations.

In the simplest of analogies, you are upset, your attitude reflects that. Your outward behaviors will then become a projection of that attitude and belief set. Conversely, if you are happy, your beliefs and attitude will be upbeat and positive. The outward behaviors driven by this will be much more positive in nature. You will smile, you will encourage, you will provide positive feedback, but only if your heart is in the right place.

Another superpower associated with leadership heart is the ability to drive sustained positive competencies and skills. Quite bluntly, anyone can memorize a skill or change a habit temporarily. We all do that. To sustain long-term desired behaviors, alignment with attitudes and belief and ultimately, emotional composition and heart must occur.

Consider for a moment that we could all quickly learn scales and a simple tune on a piano. All of that is cognitive learning and we will have this knocked down in 15 minutes. But to continue to play that music, expand the selection, execute with passion and achieve great musical results, your heart must be into it and belief in the outcome must be present. Without those, the song will sound mechanical and interest will wane quickly.

With alignment of heart, attitude and actions, any leader and any person becomes unstoppable.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Sparking a Culture of Change and Innovation

Four Almost Easy Tips to Spark a Culture of Change and Innovation


What does it mean to you and what does it mean to your customers, your team members and your business? Contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t coming up with a brand new idea never before seen on the planet. Simply put, innovation is the process of translating an idea or best practice into a solution that either fulfills a business need or solves a specific problem. It can even include identifying and utilizing a best practice from another organization and “molding” it into your business environment. Yes, you heard right. Basically, “borrowing” ideas from other organizations is a form of innovation.

So if it is so important to our companies and our customers, why are leaders so bad at cultivating innovation in their organizations? In 2008, McKinsey & Company conducted a survey of 600 global executives and found that 64 percent of senior executives are generally disappointed in their ability to stimulate innovation. 64 percent. Think about all the missed opportunities!

The good news is that leaders can (and should) help create an environment that sparks innovation and change in their organization. Here are 4 almost-easy tips to help drive innovation:

1. Foster Trust and Build Culture: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Encourage folks to speak up and give their suggestions. Ask questions and create innovative environments. No negative repercussions if the idea isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread.

2. Tap customers: Customers know what they want. Ask them. Focus groups and surveys are great ways to get actionable ideas and feedback.

3. Create an Idea Program: Implement a formal avenue that provides an avenue for team members to submit suggestions and circumvent “normal” channels. Give everyone an opportunity to participate, and respond to ALL suggestions (even the ones that aren’t moving forward). Recognize implemented ideas.

4. Implement Innovation Workgroups: Identify and mobilize innovative, engaged team members to attack specific problems and provide solutions through brainstorming and process improvement. Frame the opportunity or challenge as finite as possible to get them started. Give them a structured timeline and team lead, and watch them go!

Innovation is more than just a buzzword. It is thinking creatively and taking action to improve your business. As a leader, you can help drive innovation and spark a culture of change that will positively impact your customers, your team members and your organization. It is almost easy.

Polly Walker is a talented facilitator, coach and expert in process improvement.  As the chief innovation officer for Aegis Learning, Polly produces many of the new ideas and creative solutions for workplace learning programs and their delivery.

Ms. Walker has two master’s degrees and has worked with some of the biggest client projects for Aegis Learning.  She is also our Townie and constantly optimistic.

Celebrating Leaders-US Fish and Wildlife Senior Executives

An Aegis Learning Customer

Visionary, Purpose Driven Leaders

Congratulations to the exceptional senior executive team of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C.  Skilled, passionate, powerful and visionary leaders who embraced intensive and immersive training and coaching.  Looking forward to be with you again during the next quarter. 

The Amazing Power of Gratitude

Unlocking a Heart for Leadership

This is a multi-part series of excerpts from Unlocking a Heart for Leadership, a soon to be released book by Tim Schneider.  This book and series examines the powerful methods to add heart based (affective/feeling) approaches to your leadership and life.  An unlocked heart is the third facet of full leadership and personal realization.  

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”   Cicero

For a leader or any person, the practice of gratitude provides:

• Ability to see the good in others and situations
• Clearing of darkness, bitterness, disappointment, hurt and anxiety from the heart
• Openness to increased positive outcomes
• Attraction of more positive events in which to be thankful

The consistent practice of gratitude is one of the most powerful tools available to leaders and anyone. It is also very predictive of success in both work and life. When gratitude becomes a way of life, it will open your heart, clear out a lot of bad junk and provide the room for many more blessings to come to you. Gratitude is a starting point to unlocking your heart for better leadership and a better life.

What is Gratitude

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation, both internally generated and externally communicated. It is a feeling of thankfulness and true joy in something you have or someone in your life.

The power of gratitude rests in the internal feeling generated by being thankful. This piece is all about you. It feels good to remember our blessings. This takes some of the mud off our hearts.

As if that were not enough, the power (some say superpower) of gratitude becomes when it is shared with others. This is where multiplying, compounding and diametric expansion of the power comes into play. Now, instead of just you feeling better, you have impacted, in a very positive way, someone else. They now have a choice of continuing the expansion by being appreciative of others or even reciprocating your gratitude. Over time and consistency, gratitude will change the emotional composition and create a wave of positive belief for individuals, companies and communities.

And wait, there is still more (no, there will not be a sales offer for Ginsu knives coming). Gratitude has the unique power of reframing a dark, difficult situation into bearable and, even positive. Think for a moment about one of the most challenging things you have faced in the past few months. Now look deeply for some positive qualities in that situation. Did you learn from it? Were there some great qualities in that difficult person that are now covered in the mud of anger? Were you able to overcome the obstacles and continue with life? Did you move forward, despite the lingering pain and hurt? If you can answer yes to any of those, you can be grateful for that difficulty. And when you do, it feels great.

Where Should I Look for Gratitude

Sadly, many people reserve their appreciation for something big. A raise, promotion, winning the lottery, delivery of a big project all rise to the level of easily common gratitude.

Genuine gratitude and the power than comes with it is found in the usual and the often-overlooked pieces of everyday life. Successful gratitude practice will focus on thankfulness for the necessities, the challenges and all the resources we have been provided. And without any “but” statements connected to them.

A leader should be thankful every day for:

• Family and Friends
• Her or His Team
• The Employer or Company
• The Challenges Solved or Lessons from Them
• Resources Available to Lead
• Critics and Naysayers
• The Life Necessities of Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing and Transportation

Saying Thanks is Not the Same as Gratitude Practice

When introducing gratitude as a restorer of leadership heart and emotional composition, the consistent rebuff is “I always say thank you” or “I am always grateful”. And they are probably right but that is not the practice of gratitude and it does not have the lasting impact and power of creating an intentional and mindful practice.

To truly unlock this great heart power, begin the practice of appreciation and gratitude by:

1. Taking 30 seconds to a minute to clear your mind of clutter and the bouncing thoughts that affect many of us.

2. Use two to three minutes to think of things in which you are thankful or grateful. Nothing else but those thoughts for that time.

3. Note five to ten items in which you are thankful or grateful in daily entry journal form. Be sure to date the entry.

4. Of the five to ten gratitude notations, make sure at least one and preferably two are directly about something you did. That’s right, thankful for you and your own actions. Give yourself a little appreciation and thankfulness here.

5. Also ensure that at least one of the grateful notations is about a challenge, struggle, loss, hurt or pain. Look deeply for the good in something that was difficult at the time but brought a positive outcome or great lessons for you.

6. Pick one of the items of gratitude and purposefully express it to the person involved. Tell them. Send them an unexpected note of appreciation. Do something for them. Doesn’t really matter how you do this but express it sincerely and from the heart.

And the last step is to use the shampoo method on this practice: wash, rinse and repeat. Consistency is key to the power of gratitude. Everyday. Even on vacation.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Conflict Resolution and Lessons from History

Leading Edge from Aegis Learning

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Success

  1. Seek the best solution, not one that is related to winning or losing.
  2. Subordinate your pride and ego to find a resolution that works for everyone.
  3. The need to be right is pervasive and some reflection about motives will reduce that.
  4. Be gracious and respectful on both sides of conflict; right or wrong.

By Tim Schneider

The spring of 1865 was a difficult and particularly brutal time for the Confederate States of America, and the events surrounding April 9 of that year can teach us a lot about resolving conflict at work, in business and at home.

Seeking the Best Solution

The Army of the Potomac, under the command of George Meade and overall direction of Ulysses Grant, had the Army of Northern Virginia surrounded at Appomattox Courthouse Virginia. At any time, and with a single command, Grant could have crushed the rebels and wiped them from the face of the earth.

But he didn’t.

Against the objections of several of his officers, Grant sent Robert E. Lee no fewer than three offers for surrender. General Grant sought a better solution. A solution that would reconnect the southerners to the Union and create a peace that was lasting, sustainable and would allow the defeated to lift their heads and return to citizenship.

The lessons for the modern workplace become easy to see. Do not look for ways to crush or humiliate someone in conflict. Look for a solution in which needs are met by both parties. A conflict solution will never last if it is horribly one-sided but solutions can be created in which both or all people involved can walk away with something; a mutual win. This is not compromise but seeking an independent solution that serves individuals and the organization.

Pride and Ego

Lee’s army was outnumbered six to one, starving and with no viable supply line. Yet he chose to reject the first offers of surrender. His pride would not allow him to acknowledge losing.

That pride cost 500 lives.

The ability for any person to subordinate ego and pride to resolve a conflict is incredibly important. To step back, pause, reflect and realize that the need to be right or “win” a conflict has tremendous cost in time, effort, emotional energy and relationships. When a person can remove this ego/pride block, creating a best solution outcome will become much easier. Checking in on your motives is the first step in this direction. Quite simply, ask yourself why you are in this conflict and why you need to be right or win.


There was no shortage of people on both sides of the American Civil War that sought an absolute, black versus whit and right versus wrong, outcome. Those people looked for either a crushing victory or a “never surrender” approach that had potentially devastating outcomes.

Contractual, letter of the law, policy based solutions to conflict rarely work. You may have policy on your side but that does not mean that will resolve the conflict. Those people that cite law, policy or other terms to support their argument in conflict will do nothing more than fan the flames of disagreement.

Empathy, by contrast, is a far better tool that written righteousness to resolve conflict. Instead of quoting contract terms and company policy, listen to the other point of view and put yourself in that situation. Leading with the heavy-handed perspective of “absolutely right because the policy says so” will only ensure a continuation of the conflict.

Generous in Victory

The terms offered by General Grant were especially noteworthy and his generosity stayed with Lee until his death. The winning commander offered all confederate combatants be able to keep their horse to rebuild their farms, and that none face trial for treason and none be incarcerated. Grant also allowed all officers to keep their sidearm and, upon inspection, returned General Lee’s sword to him. Lee was also allowed to pick the date, location and time of the surrender meeting.

Also remarkable is that no cheering was allowed and celebrations were kept to a respectful minimum. Grant was quoted as saying “they are our countrymen now and the best sign of rejoicing will be to abstain from demonstrations in the field”.

When a conflicting position is in the right, the need to be generous is important. Far too often a person needs to demonstrate their “win” in conversation and follow-up emails echoing their victory in conflict. This type of resolution will not last and the other party must be allowed to exit a conflict with grace and dignity restored. Without this, connecting them back productively and in an engaged manner to the working environment will not occur. When someone says that you win or are right, leave it alone and stop hammering home the point.

Supportive in Defeat

Equally telling is Lee’s support for the surrender, reconciliation and Grant himself after the events of April 9, 1865.

By his own choice, General Lee never again donned the uniform of general officer of the confederacy and when marching in parade formation, he purposefully remained out-of-step with the cadets at his university. Now a private citizen and having lost everything to the war, Robert E. Lee also never uttered an unkind word about Grant and never allowed poor talk of Grant in his presence. Lee was committed to being the best citizen he could and used his voice to encourage others to do the same. The war was over.

In workplace and interpersonal conflict, often the person in the wrong feels an ego driven need to justify either their loss or the injustice of the conflict result. This pot-stirring added value serves no purpose and will guarantee the conflict returns. When the conflict is over, it must be over. Admit wrong. Move along.

Postscripts from History

Although victorious in 1865, Ulysses Grant died penniless and in constant pain from a variety of illnesses. His account of the war restored much of the family fortune after his death.

Robert E. Lee accepted a position of college president and served honorably until his death.

Tim Schneider is the founder of Aegis Learning and has been working with teams and leaders for 25 years.   He generates results, impact and his sole focus is your success.

He is the author of The Ten Competencies of Outstanding Leadership and Beyond Engagement and a widely sought speaker, training facilitator and individual development coach.

Barriers to Delegation and Empowerment

Lack of...

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

From the Soaring Eagle Enterprises’ training program Coaching II-Delegation, Development and Empowerment.

1. Insecurity
Fear of losing control and fear of criticism prevent some leaders from delegating. Ultimately, they are afraid of losing their job.

2. Lack of Confidence in Others
Some believe their team members are not competent to take on a task, but through delegation, they can improve their skills and competence.

3. Lack Of Ability To Train Others
If proper training is not provided, team members will fail and become resentful. Some leaders lack the ability or desire to articulate directions and desired outcomes.

4. Personal Enjoyment
Some things are hard to let go of, but leaders should not retain control of a task simply because they enjoy doing it.

5. Habit
If a task becomes simple and repetitive, it should be delegated to free up your time for more complex issues and responsibilities

6. Reluctance Caused by Past Failures
Determine the cause of failure. Failed delegation is typically due to a poor match, lack of training or poor tracking of delegated tasks. Avoid the mistake, not delegation.

7. Lack of Time
Training, preparation, and delegation require a time investment. While it may take time in the short term, it will be a time saver in the long term.

8. “I Can Do It Best”
Leaders who think that to do something right, they have to do it themselves will achieve very little strategically.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Communication Style

Adapt Your Styles

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

People communicate in dramatically different methods and styles. Almost as if there are sub-languages within each major language.


Image for a moment that, as the leader, someone in Berlin must perform a series of tasks to complete an objective. You speak in your native tongue of English. The Berliner smiles and nods their head approvingly. Communication complete and successful, right?


Just as different languages will lead to communication disconnects, different communication styles will often cause a lack of information flow and impede any real communication. Five or more years ago, the leader would often proclaim that “I am who I am” and it is your job to adapt. Sometimes it was followed by the gentle reminder “or leave.” More recently, successful leadership communication has become a more chameleon-like and adaptive approach.


The most commonly identified communication styles include direct, relational, low-key and detailed. The direct style often communicates in a very blunt, matter-of-fact or bullet point method. There is not a lot of language wasted on pleasantries and not a lot of background or supporting data is provided. Many times an assertive tone, implied urgency and rapid pacing comes along with the direct style.


By contrast, the relational communicator is often more wordy and those words are designed to build rapport. Usually, an upbeat demeanor and an eagerness to contact people are included in this style, as is an animation in non-verbal messages. These people are often labeled as chatty and optimistic.


The two additional styles of communication are a little harder to peg and pigeon hole. The low-key style is seen as reserved and speaks with a flat demeanor. They prefer a very soft, methodically paced and predictable approach to interpersonal communication. The detailed communicator is one that is data driven and often prefers a low-key tone. One unique trait of the detailed communicator is they will tend to answer the why question first and provide multiple sides of a point prior to communicating the resolution.


Now imagine for a moment all of these style thrown into a working environment and told to perform. Just as foreign languages cause disconnects, non-modified communication styles will do the same. A relational style leader attempts to communicate with a key team member who prefers a direct style. A low-key team member tries to interact with a direct style boss and soon loses her in minutiae.


The effective leader will bridge this disconnect with adaptive communication styles. He or she will read the style of the receiver very quickly and adapt appropriately. Quite simply, that means to know your communication style and learn how to read the style of others and adapt your style to that of the communication receiver. When that is done, messages will be transmitted with greater clarity and less misunderstanding. Subconsciously, team members recognize and appreciate the leader’s attempt at adaptation and better connection.


With people that you know, assessing their communication style is relatively easy. You have observed them. You have communicated with them previously. You have seen what style of communication works and does not work with them. What about new contacts and those people who are not as well known?


One technique that works with a high degree of accuracy is to assess the response to the “how are you?” question. Direct style communicators will respond quickly with one word and one word only. Relational communicators will provide between three and five words and many times, inquire about you. Low-key and high detail communicators will often express a brief pause while they assess the reason for your inquiry and the need to respond in an accurate manner.


The final word on communication style is back to the reason why adaptation is important. If, as a leader, your communication style disconnects with some people and the messages that you send are not followed, you lose. If you adapt your style and more people engage to the messages you send, you win.
Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Self Management, Owning Your Behaviors, Blindspots and Obstacles to Personal Change

Fully Understanding Yourself

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

The most difficult person that you will manage in your leadership career is you.

That is a very hard statement to get your hands around and grasp but managing yourself is a very challenging task. Without good self-management, the delicate balance between leader and follower is jeopardized. You can loose credibility. You can damage relationships. You can completely become irrelevant.

Background on Self Management
First, a little background on self management. Self management is half of the science of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence tells us that eighty percent of our reactions, responses and projections are driven by emotion and not by logic or processed thought.
Many leaders struggle with this concept because they fancy themselves as creatures of pure, unemotional logic. This is nothing but a fallacy designed as a cover for the true nature of decisions and responses.

Emotional intelligence is split in two distinct and different pieces. The second piece is external and relational management and the first piece is self management. Working with the skills associated with both of these pieces, a complete emotionally intelligent leader is produced.
Another point of emotional intelligence and self management relate to age and experience. There is absolutely no correlation between calendar age and emotional intelligence. Some twelve year olds can have outstanding self management and emotional intelligence while some fifty year olds can have very poor emotional intelligence.

A final bit of background information about emotional intelligence is that organizations of all types and sizes have found that good self management is a great predictor of workplace success. Much more so that experience, formal education or technical skills, team members and leaders with good emotional intelligence and self management are much more likely to be successful than those with poor or lacking skills in this area.

What this has caused is that more and more companies are testing, screening and interviewing for emotional intelligence and self management. Your next career move may become dependent on how well you can manage yourself.

Complete Understanding is the First Step
The first, and perhaps hardest part of self management begins with full understanding of the subject matter. That would be you.

You will never completely understand yourself and about the time you think you have a handle on all of your behaviors and personality traits, new iterations of you and your style will emerge. Understanding yourself is not a singular event but a necessary leadership process that needs to be frequently addressed and consistently administered.

There are three sources of information for self understanding. The first is the most overused and most unreliable source related to effective leadership. Far too many leaders rely solely on their own discovery and feelings to try to understand themselves. Unfortunately, this source is full of pitfalls and lies. Often, self talk and intuitive feedback is more about who we would like to be rather than who we really are. Internally produced feedback is a part of understanding yourself but it is a highly unreliable source.

Another reason that self feedback is not a good sole source of understanding is that many leaders have a tendency to be either very hypercritical of themselves or self aggrandizing. The hypercritical feedbacks leads to many negative thoughts that are very counterproductive in self management. The puffing that comes from believing you are more and better than you really are can lead to alienation and loss of followers. Self feedback needs to be balanced with information from other and more objective sources.

Assessments and Profile Tools
One of the best sources of leadership self-understanding comes from psychometric personality tests. Great examples include the DiSC profile and the Myers-Briggs assessments. A psychometric instrument or test is a fully validated and predictive tool that can be used in a variety of settings including coaching, counseling, team building and leadership development. Test like color coding, what Star Wars Character I Am and handwriting analysis might be fun but they are not valid or predictive of your behavior and attitude traits.

One of the great dynamics witnessed in the past twenty years of coaching leaders relates to the use of personality tests. Almost without exception, people will find a piece of language in one of the DiSC profiles and just fall in love with it. Things like “works well under pressure”, “considers the feelings of others”, “builds relationships and teams effectively” or “takes charge and accepts challenges.” They will just ooze with pride when reading and reviewing results like those.
Without missing as much as a breath, the same people will read language such as “can become manipulative and quarrelsome”, “easily distracted by interruptions”, “overly concerned with details” or “appears artificial or disingenuous” and react with contempt for the validity of the survey, assessment or test.

The difficult bottom line about psychometric instruments for feedback is that you cannot embrace the good comments and trends without owning and being accountable for the other behaviors and traits in which you don’t like or don’t agree. We always encourage leaders to note all the statements in these instruments in which they disagree and then ask someone else to review the statements and provide honest feedback. The results: almost unanimously, other people reviewing the results fully validate the accuracy of what is said. Like it or not, it is you and your behavior.

Many times, the information from psychometric assessments and tests in which the leader does not agree represent behavioral blind spots. Blind spots are those pieces of behavior, or in the case of leadership, stylistic elements that the person does not recognize but all other people see with perfect clarity.

If unmanaged, blind spots can be very damaging to a leader. The blind spots can alienate followers, harm and strain relationships and create poor image elements that can damage a career. Blind spots can also be a very limiting factor in the growth and ongoing development of leaders.

If Three People Call You an Ass, You Should Buy a Bridle
The third and final source of information related to understanding yourself comes from the feedback of others. This can be in two subsets, formal and informal. Formal feedback from other people includes performance reviews and 360 degree evaluations. Performance reviews are usually not a very good source of self understanding and awareness because they are done infrequently and they are generally not done well.

The formal process of gathering leadership, performance and behavioral information from others is commonly referred to as a 360 degree assessment. It obtains feedback from those you lead, your boss and others, including vendors and customers, in which you exercise influence. The best versions of these instruments contain both quantified and numeric ratings about key leadership indicators but also include a section for anonymous comments. The most helpful information is often found in the comment section under headings that include behaviors to stop, behaviors to begin, things the person does well and things the person could do better.

The one intellectual honesty risk with 360 degree feedback comes from selecting the audience to comment and evaluate. Two errors occur frequently in choosing either people that you know will be very supportive and positive or choosing people that will be very critical. Both populations do not provide an accurate picture of you or your style. Evaluators and comment providers must be a cross section of those who love you and those who do not.

Informal methods of gaining feedback include the highly complex transaction of (gasp) asking people how you are doing. One of the best leadership sources of this information come from those being led. Simply asking how you are doing as a leader, what you could do better and what is working well is a great source of feedback to understand yourself and uncover some important blind spots.

Another great source of the same type of information comes from peers or near peers. Since they have no real vested interest in how you lead, their degree of honesty would be pretty high. This works especially well if you can create a peer mentoring type of relationship where the feedback is shared between both of you.

As with all types of self understanding feedback, this also contains a warning tale or two. The first time out of the gate, many people will not provide you with direct and fully honest information. In fact, your subordinates and peers may sugar coat things or deny that there is anything in you that needs to be changed. They may even openly think you are up to no good in this questioning. It is only through a consistent approach in which you have demonstrated no repercussions that team members will provide you with complete honesty and feedback that you need. You must ask several times across multiple months and show that no one is going to get hurt to get the self management information you want.

The final cautionary tale about direct feedback is the desire that many people have to dismiss the source. In informal feedback, if you hear something you don’t like from someone you don’t like, it is easy to discredit the information. You might say things like “you know Bob, nothing ever pleases him” or “Mary has not had a good thing to say about a boss in ten years.” Unfortunately, even when the source is not valued, some of the feedback is important. Even when wrapped in exaggeration or dislike, important information about you might lay below the surface and underneath some emotion. Focus on the message and not the messenger.

The three ingredients of understanding yourself are what you already know and believe, feedback from personality assessments and profiles and the feedback from others. Armed with this information you are now ready to begin the final step of self awareness and understanding.

Owning Your Behaviors
Like it. Love it. Hate it.
It is you.
The final piece of self understanding and awareness is to begin to reconcile all of the feedback you receive and owning who you are. The good and the not so good. The parts you like and the parts you don’t like. The effective leader owns all of those pieces of who they are.
From this point, most effective leaders will construct a plan to deal with the areas in which need improvement or need to be corrected. This is a longer term approach in which your behaviors and style are modified through consistent application of better skills and competencies that take the place of the old behaviors. This type of change and progression takes time, persistence and dedication.

Difficult? Absolutely. An absolutely necessary to your success as a leader.

A Little Note About Personal Change and Growth
The biggest obstacle that most leaders face in their own growth and development is success.

That is a tough concept.

When things are going well. You get good raises. Your performance reviews are solid. Results are good. Everything is peachy. What is your motivation to change, improve and grow?

Success often creates an artificial sense and aura of need to continue to grow, develop and change. Success can be a fog that blurs reality. Success can blind leaders into believing they are doing everything well and nothing needs to be tuned.

The most changeable and development desiring leaders are those who are coming off of a failure event and not a success event. Those feeling and experience failure embrace growth while those experiencing success often rebuff it.

Let the impetus for your leadership growth and development be success and not failure.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

The Basics of Positive Feedback

Powerful Tools

Tim Schneider, Coach, Speaker, Author and Trainer from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

The correct and frequent delivery of positive feedback is one of the most powerful tools available to any leader. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most widely misunderstood, misused and underused tools as well.

Positive feedback is providing appreciation and acknowledgement when a team member performs at their role expectation or higher. It is simply designed to replicate the positive behavior or performance from the team member and create a culture where others strive for the positive feedback and acknowledgement.

For those of us who are dog owners and those of us that have previously enjoyed the company of man’s best friend, we can compare positive feedback in work team members to the process of conditioning dog responses. When you throw the tennis ball to the dog and he brings it back, you say “good dog.” When you throw the ball again and he brings it back, you again say “good dog.”

In the event that you cease saying “good dog” the dog will stop bringing the ball back. You say “good dog” to praise a positive event and encourage the replication of an appreciated behavior.

For those of us who have raised children, we can also compare our interactions with them to the correct use of positive feedback at work. When a child brings home a good report card, we say “good job, nicely done.” The intent is to reward the good grades and encourage more good grades. Every time the grades come back well, we repeat the praise.

Please don’t get this comparison wrong. Adult working humans are very much different from dogs and children. Or are they?

Adults react to reinforcement conditioning in the same way as children and dogs. When positive feedback exists, they will replicate the behavior. When no positive feedback exists, there is little motivation to replicate the performance.

Why Bother
In about twenty years of consulting and training work, we have documented an incredible phenomenon related to the lack of positive feedback in working environments. It is the “Why Bother” phenomenon.

Basically, what happens is that a team member does something well and the leader does not acknowledge or appreciate the activity. The first time around, there is not much harm because intrinsic motivation and pride will drive the team member to do well again. Unfortunately by the second or third time with not acknowledgement, thanks or reasonable belief that any appreciation is coming, the team member will develop a “why bother” approach and begin performing at minimum or worse levels.

This phenomenon also occurs when a leader is seen only in the role of critic in chief. The only time we hear from the boss is when something is wrong or she always tells people how to do it better so, “why bother.”

“Why bother” can become pervasive in workplaces and organizational culture when there is no expectation for positive feedback. It is very common when a leader ascribes to the “I pay them to do a good job” or “I expect them to do a good job” or the “when they don’t see me they know they are doing well” philosophies. Arcane and fatally flawed, you can’t produce replicated good performance through ignoring people.

Another contributor to “why bother” are the systems used in place of human interaction positive feedback. Annual performance reviews, employee of the month plaques and bonus checks have value but do not come close to the immediate reinforcement needed reproduce good performance.

As a leader, if you want to jump start the performance of team members or recharge an entire work group that you think is under-achieving, positive feedback can cure the “why bother” phenomenon quickly and re-motivate team members.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.