Once you’ve been working for a while, you’ll have been through many feedback exercises, and I’m no different in that respect. Solicited or unsolicited, formal or informal, developmental or critical… Many organisations require ‘360 degree’ input, from those below you, at the same level as you, and above you, aiming for a holistic perspective. And, there’s also the feedback we get on a daily basis, reactions from the audience to our presentations, smiles or frowns in the corridors, body language in meetings, responses to our emails… Lots of input if we’re open to it, but it can be overwhelming. What’s a healthy way to approach feedback?
When we actively seek input from others and ask for their advice, it makes us feel collaborative, humble and connected with them. Indeed, we strongly suggest gathering feedback as part of preparing for your performance appraisal as it provides supporting evidence for your conversation with your manager, including reactions from customers, praise from colleagues or suggestions for improvements.
It is natural that a wide range of views will contain conflicting responses too, partly because different people see you in different situations and they each have their own preferences – more on this later. The key is in assessing which is ‘outlier’ feedback and which are common threads that require attention from you.
For example, I recall how years ago one of my team told me that I’d regularly ask him for feedback, but then wouldn’t do what he suggested. I was taken aback, believing that my requests for input were genuine. Upon reflection, I realised that he was talking about how he felt that I should come into work early like him as well as greet him cheerily to get the day off to a good start. I’m so not a morning person, so a ‘good start’ for me is to ease slowly into the day, warming up by midmorning aided by caffeine. I don’t see the morning commute as a joyous experience nor bound into the office eager to attack my to-do list. He saw this as disrespectful to him though, and once suggested that when the clocks shifted for daylight savings time, I should use that as an opportunity to come into work earlier until the clocks shifted again! The night owls among you will attest how impossible cheery mornings are for us.
Read more to see why feedback isn’t actually about you, why it is still incredibly important, and who to listen most intently to.
Behind every successful individual, there is a squad of supporters who’ve contributed in different ways over the years: inspiring them to realise their potential, spurring them on when the going gets tough, or celebrating the wins along the journey. Mentors, bosses, colleagues, coaches, champions… Each supporter brings different skills, experiences and perspectives to bear as they grow.
Behind every successful individual, there is a squad of supporters… Mentors, bosses, colleagues, coaches, champions…”
At Protagion, we often advise our proteges to build their own ‘board’ of individuals with diverse insights – we find this offers invaluable reinforcement for achieving professional career goals as well as other life goals. Speaking regularly with the members of our personal board helps us to refine our ideas, challenge our assumptions and hold ourselves accountable to others. Connecting with them guides us to consider the regular improvements we make in the context of our aspirational longer-term goals, and allows us to gather input to course-correct as we proceed, learning from others’ experiences and suggestions.
Examples of different mentors and coaches include: aspirational mentors, skills mentors, leadership coaches, technical mentors, professionalism mentors, purpose coaches, robo mentors and more…
Leadership coach, Daphna Horowitz, refers to her own support squad as her “A-Team” and says they help her be at the top of her game. The members of her A-Team are:
If you’re developing people you need to begin with developing yourself… your knowledge, skills and personal effectiveness…”
Daphna also climbed Kilimanjaro in 2012, and wrote a book about her experiences, describing it as a “life-transforming journey for me. In every step I took, I was drawn to the parallels between the climb and leadership.” In her blog about her preparation, she referred to her “Kili training coach” too who helped her prepare physically and mentally. “Climbing Kilimanjaro was an experience of extremes – the toughest thing I’ve ever done and the most beautiful.” In the book, she thanks too the “amazing team of climbers, guides and porters who made this trip possible” and her “writing coach and mentor” who helped her share her experiences with others through her book.
I’m proud of the fact that while the Kilimanjaro trip is a personal journey of meaning and growth, it is also about a cause that is larger than myself. This trip is about inspiring women in challenging circumstances to know that anything is possible, one step at a time”
For more on this topic of assembling your own board, see our article “Mentorship: the value of a Personal Board of Advisors”. In it, we thank Protagion’s own advisors, and touch on Glenn Leibowitz’s views including his summary of an MIT Sloan Management Review article’s recommendations on developing self-awareness and diversifying your network. We also share Eric Barker’s thoughts on picking mentors, and reference Daniel Coyle’s ideas on desirable characteristics for mentors.
To explore the mentors and coaches available on the Protagion platform for your own board, sign up as a protege. Once you’ve logged into your protege account, select "Connect with Mentors" from the menu on the top-right to browse the headlines of the mentors and coaches available. Select each one you want to engage with from the list to see their detailed information, and "Book a Session" to book time with them, selecting a timeslot from the calendar and providing your payment card details.
Sumit Ramani is an independent consultant with a strong focus on InsurTechs and non-traditional areas. Based in India, he has actively stepped out from his comfort zone from childhood, through graduating as an engineer and later switching professions and qualifying as an actuary, to starting on his own as an actuarial consultant as well as recently launching another venture that aims at helping customers identify their insurance needs. In his personal journey, Sumit shares the four key ingredients that have worked for him so far:
“I realised at a very young age that I have a thing for numbers and puzzles. I can vividly remember the morning walk when I was 6 and my dad, who is a medical doctor, introduced me to the concept of the time value of money. Since the earliest moments I can recall, he has been pushing the envelope. Hence, I believe that moving out of one’s comfort zone is possibly something that I have inherited. It also happens to one of the key ingredients of my success.
The second ingredient is taking charge of one’s life (and of course career!), which I first learnt the hard way during my formative years. Up until age 8, I was everything but meticulous. Every day after school, I would throw down my school bag and go out to play with my friends without even changing from my school uniform. Doing homework was out of the question and hence the mornings were the most painful part of my day. I would beg my mother to do my homework and she would agree after a lot of persuasion and my false promises to do better next time. But one particular day, she chose to turn down my request... Naturally, I was reprimanded at school. However, since then I have been taking care of my own work and have never blamed anyone else for anything that was my responsibility!
Perseverance and Personal Branding are the remaining two ingredients that have been helpful in my career. Let me talk about these and the first two ingredients as I share my life journey.