Thank you! The power of appreciation & gratitude

Well done! Great job! Thanks!

It has been said that Sorry seems to be the hardest word [1], but for many people it’s “thanks”.

At my organisation we are encouraged to give regular, constructive feedback to allow us all to improve the areas that we may be weaker at. That’s very valuable, but maybe we don’t spend enough time simply praising or giving thanks to each other?

I’ve always wondered why people don’t seem to find it easy to give praise or express gratitude. It seems to me that people are much more inclined to criticise. Even that “constructive feedback” has an implied criticism and while useful, won’t give the recipient that warm feeling.

In fact a recent survey [2] of almost 8000 managers found that 40% never give praise of any kind, whereas another study [3] showed that high performing teams get on average six times more positive messaging than lower performing teams. And it’s not just in the workplace. It’s long been known that successful marriages and relationships feature a positive:negative feedback ratio of at least 5:1. If that ratio is much lower then it’s a significant predictor of divorce [4].

Seems to me saying thanks is most definitely a good thing. So I’ve done a bit of research.

What are the benefits of saying thanks?

  • Mutual happiness
    • It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. Everyone’s a winner.

 

  • Bridge building
    • Gratitude is a great tool to turn around a bad relationship. If an interaction isn’t going well, then finding a reason to show appreciation can be that starting point for resolving issues and mending your relationship with someone.

 

But it’s not easy. Many people find it very difficult to express gratitude. Why?

  • Cringe factor
    • I know some people that find a praise-giving session tough to deliver. They find it slightly embarrassing. And sometimes the recipients can also [5]. That can be a barrier and mean that praise gets as far as someone’s mind, but no further as no-one wants an emotionally uncomfortable situation. I find that the more you get into the habit if giving praise, the more comfortable you get and you also learn to recognise the reaction of the recipient and tailor your approach accordingly.

 

  • We expect “out of the ordinary”
    • At work we expect excellence from our colleagues. So often, extra praise isn’t given unless someone demonstrates out of the ordinary performance. Like someone who doesn’t tip because the “server is just doing their job”. I try to think more about trust, reliability & attitude rather than going the extra mile. There are plenty of colleagues that I’ve thanked or praised simply because they make my life easier in any number of ways. In cases like these it’s important to be specific and constructive. Praising a particular behaviour gives the recipient more to work with than generic thanks. It also appears more genuine [6].

 

  • We don’t want people to get one up on us
    • Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. “Why should I praise that person, they’ll get better at their job and then they’ll make more progress than me?” Yes this is the wrong attitude in a collaborative firm, but it’s out there, fortunately in small doses. For those that may think that way, I’d suggest reading about the power of givers and takers – something I’ll be blogging about in future.

 

Ok that’s cool – I want to be more grateful, but how? There are plenty of tips for giving effective gratitude.

 

How to express generosity

  • A weekly gratitude note
    • I like this one. I end my week by sending a weekly note to someone that I appreciate. I find it gives me (and hopefully them) a nice warm feeling at the end of a week. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant recommends “chunking” gestures of gratitude for maximum effect. [7]

 

  • Make it public
    • Showing gratitude in public is also powerful. My team has a bi-weekly project update and in it we have a section called “Agile BI Appreciates“, where the team calls out anyone they feel like. See here for an example.

 

  • Keep a thanks diary
    • People easily forget when you’ve either done something well or when they have done something well. Recording experiences boosts the positive feeling. Create an Outlook “Quick Step” to file mails that fall into the “thanks” category for later use.

 

  • Mental exercises
    • Yes you can train your brain to be more of a thankful and appreciative person [8].

 

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading. Comments invited.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_Seems_to_Be_the_Hardest_Word

[2] https://qz.com/work/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764203260208

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201308/why-some-people-hate-receiving-compliments

[6] https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/the-thing-that-many-people-get-wrong-about-giving-praise.html

[7] https://hurryslowly.co/adam-grant/

[8] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/
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Feel the fear and do it anyway – tips for breaking out of your comfort zone

Challenge. It’s often mentioned as one of your company cultural behaviours. Or see the following definition

One of the most effective ways to challenge yourself is to break out of your comfort zone.

What’s the comfort zone?

Everyone needs a safe spot. Most people will have that psychological panic room that provides mental safety, stability and relaxation. It’s our way of reducing risk, keeping anxiety low and making life easier. It’s our comfort zone.

It’s great to spend time in the comfort zone. But it’s even better to leave it. Here’s why and how you can achieve that goal.

 

How do you benefit?

  • Growth – I don’t think anyone wants to stand still. Certainly not at my org. Leaving your comfort zone is a proven way to evolve your capabilities in any area of your life.
  • Productivity & performance – An increased focus and variety of experiences leads to a sharpening of skills and discovering of new abilities. Often ones you never imagined you’d have.
  • Confidence – The more you break out of your comfort zone the more you’ll see confidence improve. I’ve seen people completely re-invent themselves just by taking on more challenges.
  • Satisfaction – And the satisfaction a new challenge nailed speaks for itself. You’ll begin to build up the circle of challenge feeding satisfaction, feeding more challenge.
  • Friends – Wanna see your network grow? Each new challenge will have a population of enthusiasts, newbies & experts alike, all willing to welcome you into their family. It’s the best way to meet new people.
  • Influence on others – This is one of my personal favourite benefits. Once you get into the habit of taking on new challenges, then you’ll be able to act as a mentor for others and help bring them along with you. It’s often more satisfying to help someone else achieve their goals.

 

There are many motivations or triggers for wanting to break out of your comfort zone. You might experience a life event such as childbirth or bereavement, or it may be part of a wider strategy to reinvent yourself. Or maybe you’ve had a Rubicon moment in your career where you just want change. The trigger could be anything. But that’s the starting point for great things to happen.

How do you escape the comfort zone?

  • Understand the boundaries – First you need to know where your comfort zone end are. Generally if the thought of doing something makes you nervous, then it’s likely to be outside your comfort zone.
  • Make a list – Note down all of the activities, thoughts, actions that scare you. Try to cover things that might be a small stretch, as well as the huge, seemingly impossible items. You might want to categorise the items, as there may well be different themes. I like to think of separate comfort zones relating to work, family, sport & mental health. You can even make it fun. I thought of creating a list of activities to break out of my food comfort zone. Sushi anyone? Ew!
  • Rank & rate – Now rank each item in terms of how much benefit you *think* it might give you and also rate in terms of how hard you think it will be to achieve. Obviously if you’ve got “Run a Marathon” on your list and you’ve never run before then you’ll have to break that down into manageable steps. It’s likely you’ll have a lot of items so ranking them is important.
  • Make it happen – Then it’s time to start doing some of these scary things. Start with the easy, manageable items that are just a little bit scary, then work up. You’ll get so used to taking on challenges that it will get progressively easier, although always scary. And for each achievement that feeling of satisfaction will grow.
  • Act as If – There was an interesting talk at my org recently from life coach Charlotta Hughes, author of this book. She spoke about “Acting as if” or “faking it till you make it”.  Have a look online, this is an approach that can make it easier to achieve the goals on your scary list.
  • Seek safety in numbers – as you work your way through your list of terror, try to associate with other like-minded people. Just like it’s easier to train for a marathon with a group, it’s easier to achieve your goals when surrounded by similar people. You’ll inspire each other.

 

But be aware of the demands of all this challenge. There’s a sweet spot between anxiety and performance. Don’t push it too much, and listen to your body and mind. And if it gets too much, don’t be scared to ease off and review.

And as you grow in confidence, ability and stature as a result of all this achieving do remember that everyone is different. Stay humble and non-judgmental. What might be easy to you may be super-hard to someone else.

This obviously isn’t a foolproof guide to success, everyone is different. But I’m confident that this approach would be beneficial to most people who want to kick-start an aspect of their life.

Do let me know what you think of this in the comments. Especially any personal examples of where you’ve left your comfort zone or top tips for achievement.

Regards, Paul

 

References

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/in-flux/201512/5-benefits-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone

https://www.roystonguest.com/blog/7-reasons-why-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone-is-a-must/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-benefits-from-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone-joshua-miller/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-brain-and-emotional-intelligence/201203/the-sweet-spot-achievement

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-ways-step-out-your-comfort-zone-and-enjoy-taking-risks.html

http://mentalfloss.com/article/74310/8-fake-it-til-you-make-it-strategies-backed-science

How to disagree

Disagreements. You’ll find yourself doing that a lot in life. After all, one of the core behaviours at my firm is that of demonstrating challenge, speaking up if we see something that doesn’t exemplify our high standards, and not accepting the status-quo. Being an effective negotiator is a key characteristic of strong leaders as well as helping to just get stuff done.

You’ll also see constant disagreements in the news, regarding Brexit, US politics, and even whether Eden Hazard should play wide left or as a central striker. I’ve become frustrated with the quality, or lack of quality in many arguments or negotiations so I thought I’d do a bit of research into the art of the argument, and in particular, how the approach to a disagreement can affect how you are perceived by your opponent and others.

One of the key papers on this subject seems to be the 2008 essay by computer scientist Paul Graham called “How to disagree”.

In this paper Graham published his “Hierarchy of Disagreement” which has 7 levels.

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  1. Refuting the central point(explicitly refutes the central point).
  2. Refutation(finds the mistake and explains why it’s mistaken using quotes).
  3. Counterargument(contradicts and then backs it up with reasoning and/or supporting evidence).
  4. Contradiction(states the opposing case with little or no supporting evidence).
  5. Responding to tone(criticizes the tone of the writing without addressing the substance of the argument.
  6. Ad Hominem(attacks the characteristics or authority of the writer without addressing the substance of the argument).
  7. Name-calling(sounds something like, “You are an idiot.”).

 

Personally I try and operate at levels 2 and 3. I’m not clever enough to explicitly disprove the central point of an argument, but at least I can aspire to get there one day.  And maybe being smart enough to blow someones argument away could be seen as arrogant or superior. Who knows? It actually might have some negative effects. So levels 2 & 3 seem to be a good home, effective whilst still showing some vulnerability and humility.

I also encourage my team and mentees to never dip below level 3, as each drop in level comes with a corresponding loss of credibility.

Contradiction and responding to tone (levels 4 & 5) may win occasional debates, but won’t win favours and will ultimately build a reputation as a taker or someone who is only concerned with their own needs. It’s not a level you’d want to operate at long term.

As for levels 6 & 7, I’d hope no-one at your organisations engages in name-calling or ad hominem strategies. And if you ever experience that conduct then escalate to your line manager or seek help from HR.

So next time you’re engaged in a healthy debate, be that at work about your latest hot idea, or in the bar questioning Chelsea’s selection policy, be self aware enough to know where you (and your opponent) are on the Hierarchy of Disagreement.

Comments invited as always.

References

https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/how-to-disagree-well-7-of-the-best-and-worst-ways-to-argue
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Hierarchy_of_disagreement
https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/a-hierarchy-for-disagreement/5943
http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

Regards, Paul

 

Accelerate your career with a Personal Board of Directors

Hi all,

As we wrap up annual performance review season, you’ll all be on the receiving end of feedback. Some of it will be good, some of it will be less so, but hopefully it will all be constructive. With any luck there won’t be any big surprises in there, that’s always unpleasant. Feedback should be a continuous process throughout the year, driven by the individual.

A great way of creating that pipeline of continuous feedback, advice and support is to think of yourself as a company. Banoub Inc. if you will. Has a nice ring to it actually. The best companies operate with a solid, skilled and experienced Board of Directors, working together to provide the direction that the company needs. No one person can do it all themselves.

And that’s the same with you. We all need our own Personal Board of Directors. The people that can advise, critique, praise, motivate and generally steer each of us through the minefield that is our career.

I like to think of my own Personal Board of Directors as 6 – 8 people that connect with me in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A Subject Matter Expert

    • Someone that knows my subject area inside out. A person I can learn technical and job-related skills from. A real expert in the field.

 

  • The no BS advisor

    • We all need someone who gives it to you straight. Someone who’s opinion comes with no BS. They’ll tell you how they see it, whether it is uncomfortable for you or not. Often a great way to get the feedback that others are too scared to give you.

 

  • A super-fan

    • Some people just like you. They might like the way you work, or your attitude, or you just click. It’s always good to have a positive fan on your Personal Board of Directors. They’re handy for spreading that positive message about you and for selling your achievements.

 

  • A critic

    • While your super-fan will tell you all the things you do well, it’s good to balance that out with someone who will let you know where you’re going wrong. They might seem negative, but if they’re spotting flaws that you are missing then they’re extremely valuable. Obviously attitude is key here; you want feedback to be constructive.

 

  • The connector

    • We all know someone who seems to know everyone! They’re all over your social feeds, all over forums and events. Their name crops up everywhere and they seem to get all the info on what’s going on. It’s great to be close to someone who has this profile. They’re able to connect you with people from all over the place and they open so many doors. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the network.

 

  • Someone from Generation-Not-You

    • Your perspective on life is profoundly influenced by your generation. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. I like my Personal Board of Directors to feature someone from another generation. Be they younger, or older, they see things through a whole new lens and as such can offer an invaluable opinion.

 

  • The non-work advisor

    • I find it useful to have an advisor that I don’t share any real work connection with. Maybe they share the same hobby as you, or have similar life challenges, the non-work advisor can offer unique commentary that you can use to make real progress.

 

Finally I like to think how I can act as someone else’s board member. Maybe you’ll have a mutual arrangement with some of your own advisors? But do consider how your own skills can be of use to acquaintances at work. The recipient might not even realize you could be of use. So offer!

You’ll probably already have some of these roles already filled, maybe without even realizing it. And just like a real company, there will be turnover, hirings and firings, and maybe the odd scandal, but the group will undoubtedly provide a great deal of collective value.  One thing is for sure, your Personal Board of Directors will provide a continuous fire-hose of actionable feedback and advice, that you can use to shape your career for the better. Don’t rely on the usual feedback channels, go out and get hiring!

Regards, Paul

Tips for building a scalable enterprise deployment of Tableau (Tableau Conference 2018)

Here’s my talk from Tableau Conference 2018 in New Orleans.

Check out the presentation here

UBS | Tips for building a scalable enterprise deployment of Tableau

So, you’ve deployed Tableau and have 100 users? Are you ready for that 100 to become 1,000 users? What about 10,000? Tableau is a great tool and can spread like a virus. Join this session, led by Paul—who’s grown his Tableau Centre of Excellence from zero to 13,000 users, while maintaining a solid, affordable deployment with an engaged user base and dynamic community. Learn top tips for scaling your service, such as: scaling your infrastructure, monitoring performance, capacity, organizing your team and support, and more.

Speaker(s):
Paul Banoub, UBS
Content Type: Breakout Session
Level: Intermediate
Track: Enablement and Adoption

You’re a manager, but are you a coach?

Hello all. Thought I’d take a few mins to continue my series on leadership. Check out some of my other posts on Emotional Intelligence etc.

This one is about management and in particular, how management is a distinct skill from the oft-used discipline of “coaching”.

We hear a lot about management. About what makes a great manager, what makes a bad manager and how to develop your own management skills. And that’s important. Effective managers are vital to the success of a firm and also to developing and maintaining a cohesive team. In fact I’ve often seen that people don’t usually leave jobs, they leave managers.

We also hear a lot about coaching. Managers are encouraged to act as coaches to get the best from their teams, but often the specific skills involved in coaching are sometimes not fully understood.  The terms “managing” and “coaching” are also often used interchangeably, incorrectly in my opinion.

Managing refers to the task of overseeing the work of others, be that a team or a project.

Typically we see management responsibilities as

  • Delegating tasks and work items
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring performance
  • Onboarding and orienting new staff
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Resource planning
  • Status reporting and tracking

That’s very different from coaching. Coaching is much more of a two-way process between the coach and the employee which aims to implement and refine a framework that empowers the employee to develop their own skills in the areas of attitude, judgement, motivation and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches excel at the following

  • Listening, absorbing and understanding points of view
  • Asking probing but open-ended questions that encourage the employee to think
  • Providing feedback
  • Fostering behavioural change, initiated by the employee
  • Showing empathy and high emotional intelligence
  • Recognizing strengths and focusing energy on refinement
  • Helping the employee develop a natural support framework

I always think of my role as a coach first and a manager second. Sure we need to get the job done, and management skills are critical to that, but it’s also vital for me to develop a team that feels empowered to take charge of their own career. Coaching helps people to build those critical frameworks to self-support and self-manage, which gives the employee a much greater sense of satisfaction than merely following management direction. Seeing individuals join a team and then using coaching techniques to develop that person is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role, especially if that person then begins to naturally coach other team members or peers.

So I’d always encourage managers to have a strong focus on the coaching aspects of their role. Managing people enables them to get the job done, but coaching people develops the leaders of tomorrow.

As always, comments invited.

Cheers, Paul

Further reading

https://venturefizz.com/stories/boston/management-vs-coaching-whats-difference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach/

Emotional Intelligence – The Secret Sauce for your Career

Hi,

Back in the day I was a young, bullish upstart, with an over-inflated opinion of myself. I’d come to work, think I was the bees knees and then watch as others moved past me in their careers. It was always someone else that got the promotion, or the great feedback, or the pay rise. How could that be? I just couldn’t work it out. Why were these people leaving me behind? What was the differentiating factor? It was all just so unfair!

Then as I got more experienced and read more it became clear that these people all had one thing in common. A secret sauce for success. Something that is present in almost all successful people and absent in many people that struggle. That magic ingredient is Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

EQ as a term was popularized in the mid-90s by journalist Daniel Goleman and is loosely defined as the ability of an individual to recognize, manage, and adapt their feelings to situations, and use those feelings to achieve success. Something that as a young gun I thought I had full control of, but was sadly mistaken.

When the whole EQ subject clicked into place, my career started to rocket. Everything changed. I delivered, I got on with people, I influenced and achieved. I managed conflicts and improved relationships. I gained more friends. Results were transformed. I enjoyed my work again.

EQ is a complex subject so I won’t attempt to explain it all here, but in a nutshell there are a handful of key components that I’ve found most valuable.

 

1. Awareness of self, others & situation

The first step in controlling emotions and EQ is to be able to recognise the current situation. How is your behaviour coming across to that person right now? How will that email comment be interpreted? If I do this, what might the outcome be? We all know the people that cause a scene by shooting off that angry email without thinking – that’s a sign of low EQ. The high EQ response is considered, thoughtful, calm and measured and ALWAYS achieves better results.

Next is to be able to recognize the mental state of others. A common example is being able to spot when someone may have lost control of a situation and looks ready to shoot that angry email or make a silly comment. The high EQ person would spot that, and then gently intervene to prevent an escalation. That’s classic awareness of others / situation.

 

2. Empathy and humility

A common characteristic of effective leaders, empathy isn’t just being able to listen. It’s about placing yourself in their shoes and not just responding with your own experiences or opinions.

For example, a team member may be having a hard time at home with illnesses and wants to speak to you.

 

Colleague: “I’m really struggling. My child is ill and it’s causing me a lot of stress. I’m finding it hard to sleep.”

Low EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. My son had a bad illness last year as well. I had to take time off and it was really stressful for my family. I’m still not recovered, maybe I need a holiday”

High EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. I’m really sorry to hear that. It must be really difficult for your family. Have you thought of taking some time off or seeking help from HR? There may be things we can do to help. “

 

A world of difference in the responses. And it’s not just verbal, body language can play a large part. Having a level of empathy is key to achieving results from your teams.

And then there’s humility and equanimity. Don’t get over excited when things go well, and don’t get too down when they go badly. Stay calm and in control. Hard to do, especially when it all hits the fan, but a key characteristic of people with high EI.

 

3. Social skills

High EQ leaders work tirelessly on their communications skills, conflict resolution and being able to give and receive constructive feedback. They regularly praise others for their achievements over taking credit themselves. They genuinely enjoy seeing their colleagues achieving great results

 

4. Motivation

The high EQ leader is motivated to succeed, believes in their own abilities, and is constantly striving to learn more and improve.  They set goals, monitor and manage performance and demand consistent excellence from themselves and their colleagues.

The best high EQ leaders set such a high example with quality of work and interpersonal relationships that they inspire and affect change without even trying. You’ll regularly find the best way to increase standards in a team is to lead by example.

Obviously there’s more to it than this, but those are the components I’ve had the most success with. Of course I’m not perfect and have to continuously work on my own EQ, but if I was asked to name the main factor that allowed me to progress professionally, it would be Emotional Intelligence.

Regards, Paul

Further reading

https://www.hrzone.com/perform/people/emotional-intelligence-do-you-know-the-four-basic-components

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-crossley/10-reasons-why-emotional-_b_6770864.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Goleman-Emotional-Intelligence-GOLEMAN/dp/9382563806