Monday, April 17, 2017

How Well Do You Provide Feedback?

Author:  Ellen V. Platton
              Learning & Talent Development Professional

We all want to learn and make improvements in our lives.  We should also want to help others along their way. One way is by providing feedback in a way that helps to improve someone’s performance – constructive feedback. Feedback is information about our reactions to a product or a person’s performance of a task. Feedback should not be a personal attack or with judgment about the individual. Rather feedback should help to improve the individual's overall performance and therefore build a stronger team and solid outcomes.

So how should we go about providing feedback effectively? Well the process starts with the conversation. Important to note is that we do not all accept feedback in the same manner nor are we equally resilient to feedback.  Some of us are eager and ready for feedback. There are also those on the opposite side of the fence who may be guarded when it comes to receiving information on their performance. Feedback is more widely accepted when someone is not on the defensive. Knowing that we all handle feedback differently becomes essential to the way we approach "the conversation". We all benefit by a conversation without blame. For example, when providing constructive feedback, we may try stating “I wish this layout was a bit more organized” rather than “This layout you presented is a mess”. The focus becomes the layout rather than about the individual who presented the layout. 

What we need to do is listen, be positive or empathetic, suggest “development areas”, and provide support and encouragement. Focus on the goal of the business or task by energizing and motivating people in a timely fashion. Without support, there won’t be much motivation.

What we don’t want to do is to make the individual defensive about the feedback received. The focus is to develop, reach a goal and encourage improvement or even maintain progress. Pointing out someone’s weaknesses or their poor performance does not reach our goal. Remember feedback is not about the person so we should not pass judgment, compare them to their peers or include labels.

The next time you are about to provide feedback, you may want to: 

S=State the standard (or expected) behavior
B=Point out the actual behavior
I=Note the Impact, results or consequences of the actual behavior 

When was the last time you provided feedback? What kind of feedback did you last receive?   Please feel free to comment or share.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mature, unemployed, and the next steps

Author:  Alex Freund
             The Landing Expert

Even though the economy has improved lately, there’s still a large contingency of people who after long and successful careers find themselves not only blocked but also bewildered about their professional future because of their age. This is a serious problem because these people still need to provide for their families, and many are by no means ready to retire—either mentally or physically. The pressure on this sector of people continues to mount, and they know that initiating their Social Security benefits too soon would put them at a long-term disadvantage. Many do not have employer pensions, and those who have retirement funds such as 401(k) plans should not start distributions too soon because of penalties for doing so. The last resort is in the form of tapping personal savings—if any exist at all.

What might be some reasons?

Of course each person’s case is individual, but the long-term unemployed must face reality. If the marketplace was unable to absorb them in a reasonable time, it means either they don’t have the skills required to compete with others vying for the same position or they’re deemed not a good fit for subjective reasons such as age, appearance, or image. Another possibility might be that they simply don’t know how to market themselves as well as others do. Perhaps there’s also a level of rigidity about adapting to the current marketplace, or difficulty in accepting having to learn new job-related skills, or refusing a significantly lower benefit package, or reluctance to move to a different geographic job market. In many cases, the last is not an option for, say, family reasons.

What are some solutions?

Start with a self-evaluation to identify strengths as well as weaknesses. If you don’t trust your own judgment, then look for professionals who can provide help in doing it.

Next, evaluate opportunities where you can use your skills and experience and market yourself to employers that can use your talent and are willing to pay for it. If you don’t know how to find such employers, then seek advice from career coaches who specialize in identifying such opportunities for job seekers. Yes, there are people who specialize in that aspect of career coaching.

Then, once you’ve identified those potential employers, you’ll need an outstanding résumé and a strong and complete LinkedIn profile. Short of these, you will not be found by recruiters and employers. Yes, you guessed it: there are experts who write résumés and develop LinkedIn profiles for job seekers. Once those things have been done and are in place, your phone might start ringing because recruiters are busy finding candidates for the jobs they need to fill.

The last step involves learning how to present yourself in an interview. Yes, I know, you think that step can be skipped, because after all, you’re good at it—right?—and the proof of that is that in the past, you’ve gotten jobs based on your interviewing skills. I suggest, however, that you reevaluate that conclusion because in today’s job market—and especially for anyone who’s experiencing a huge gap in employment—good interviewing skills are of utmost importance.

What I have described here is a journey with a specific process. Job search takes endurance, determination, and follow-through. At times you’ll feel very uncomfortable and totally rejected. But every occurrence of such feelings serves to take you one step closer to an offer. Many people who followed this exact journey were successful. Can you add yourself to the statistics? Do you have the desire and the will to make the trek? This is the test. Bon voyage and best of luck as you embark to navigate your way to a landing at a pleasant and professionally profitable port.