The benefits of missing a target

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We’ve had two marathon’s completed here at Bowland in the last couple of months.  John broke 4 hours.  Peter didn’t.  John – probably correctly – has looked back at his training and feels all went well.  Pete has looked back and said “I need to do something different to improve”.  He is looking at his training plan, nutrition, in-race fuelling.  John is suggesting that he won’t run another marathon now as he has achieved his main goal.  Pete is considering running another one in the autumn.  I suspect Pete will run more and be more active than John over the summer.

Now outcomes are obviously important but this simple review of two marathon’s run with the same target demonstrates how much learning often comes out of missing a target.  Not many of us consider what we could do better when we actually achieve our aims.

It is useful to relfect on this point when we look at performance appraisal in the work place.  If our real aim of performance appraisal is to improve organisational performance over the long term then missing targets and reflecting on what to do differently is probably the most effective activity.  This can be hard to do when the appraisal – and potentially grade and reward – is driven by whether the goal was achieved or not.

I had a really interesting chat with Pete about what he was considering changing, what may have caused issues and the training he was beginning to plan. His motivation was clear and I’m not sure if this had been an appraisal that we would have gained much by my pointing out that he had missed the initial target.

This post was agreed with Pete on the proviso that I publish a post when he breaks the 4 hour mark.  It will be a pleasure to do so.



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4 tips on how to provide great feedback

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I’ve put these 4 tips in order of importance as I see it.  The order is actually based on the key value that you should trust the recipient of feedback.  Here goes

  • Have a positive intent

Not really a tip?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I really recommend that you examine whether you have a truly positive intent before you give feedback.  If the aim of your feedback is to manipulate a situation to your benefit, or undermine a competitor at work, or gain favour with your own manager then that will show through your feedback and you will break the trust that you need to be able to give feedback over time.

  • Be genuine

This works both ways.  If you don’t believe a good job has been done then don’t say so.  If you are being asked to criticise someone’s performance but don’t believe it merits criticism then again, don’t do it.  Trust is a precious commodity in a relationship and being genuine in your feedback is critical to retaining that trust.

  • Be specific

OK, now we are onto the more practical tips.  Feedback is much more powerful when a specific example or circumstance can be referred to.  This works for both positive and critical feedback.  Being specific has two key benefits.  The obvious one is clarity – the recipient understands what has led to the feedback.  The added – often most important – benefit is the feeling of being noticed.  For positive feedback this gives the recipient the awareness that you are interested and have taken the time to notice a specific incident which has merited feedback.  For critical feedback it leads to an awareness of your attentiveness (not that they are being watched, just that you are attentive and interested) and allows them to examine the feedback against something material.

  • Be timely

Ever tried to give feedback to a child a day or two after an event – you wouldn’t even try!  They are vague and become dismissive and certainly will deny any wrongdoing.  Timely feedback ensures the chances of you both having the same recollection of events is high(er!) and also allows for a discussion to be held which feels immediately relevant.  A timely thank you, or timely nudge in another direction allows the feedback to sit easily alongside the event.  If this becomes a habit then it also avoids critical feedback becoming something that looms large in your mind if you are uncomfortable in providing such feedback.

How you provide the feedback will be down to your style – remember, be genuine – and like other organisations Bowland can provide training in useful techniques.  But follow the four tips above and most recipients will overlook any technical failings and accept the genuine intent of your feedback.



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Free Webinar – How to deliver a great 360 degree feedback project

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Friday 23rd@1pm

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - How to deliver a great 360 Degree Feedback project

It’s just a week to go before we run our next in an ongoing series of webinars  which are designed to help organisations consider all aspects of how to ensure   360 degree feedback and performance appraisal processes deliver the most  value.

Recent webinars have  focused on the conversations which underpin these  processes, including ‘Setting Objectives’ and Giving Feedback’, so now we are  getting back to basics with an overview of how to successfully implement a 360  degree feedback project from end-to-end.

This practical workshop will focus on four of the key foundation elements of successful 360 degree feedback implementation; in this session, you will learn:

  • How to design competency frameworks, 360 questionnaires, and rating scales
  • The different type of 360 reports; what works and when to use them
  • How to share the feedback report in the one-to-one debrief session
  • How to build the case for 360; getting senior level ‘buy-in’

We are using a new webinar platform and it allows us to run a much more engaging session, where participants can interact with the facilitator and each other; asking questions, sharing experiences for wider learning opportunities and downloading supporting resources for further reading.

Our last webinar generated some great feedback:


Eventbrite - Free Webinar - How to deliver a great 360 Degree Feedback project


“..clear and concise …(using) a creative way of engaging the virtual audience”

“(What worked best was) interactive links & slides I can access to refer back to”

“..good interaction from everyone, well managed by the presenter”

“..the session was delivered with great clarity and in an engaging manner. The audience engagement was heightened with great interactive tools of inputs and polls. Thank you”

If you want to understand the basic building blocks of how to successfully implement a 360 Degree Feedback programme within your organisation then this session will answer most of your questions.

No cost to attend; spaces are limited to 20 seats

We hope you can join us on the 23rd May.

Eventbrite - Free Webinar - How to deliver a great 360 Degree Feedback project

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The gift of positive feedback

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I’ve started to use Strava to record my bike rides.  The members of my local cycling club in Uttoxeter do the same.  Strava has a very simple “Give kudos” button which is sort of similar to Facebook’s like button and allows you to give kudos to someone for their ride.  At first I felt a little uncomfortable with it as it felt slightly unnecessary.  Now I both give and receive “kudos” with abandon.  I like to see the kudos build up for a ride I’ve done and I’m sure others feel the same.

As well as the kudos button, you can comment on a ride that someone has done.  Some of the people within the club are great at giving encouraging feedback.  “Great ride”, or “well done” just gives that additional lift.

As well as the general feedback the best feedback is when you can see someone has actually taken a look at what you’ve done on the ride.  “Great average speed”, “excellent ride up star bank”, “well done for getting out in that weather”.  This specific feedback is both encouraging and motivational.  For someone to have taken an interest in your ride and taken the time to give specific feedback is very positive.  The people giving the feedback are highly unlikely to have been trained.  For some, giving specific positive feedback appears to be natural – but they still have to make the effort and I am always highly appreciative of this feedback.

Anyone who takes the time to give you feedback is to be welcomed.  Specific, thoughtful, positive feedback is a real gift.



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Why do lawyers like 360 degree feedback?

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The subject title is of course presumptious that lawyers do enjoy 360 degree feedback.  After working with 360 feedback for so many years and working with so many law firms I can confidently say that lawyers enjoy the debrief session from 360 degree feedback.  It may be something to do with the way we handle that session and the way we go about 360 feedback here but I think some of it is the type of person a lawyer tends to be.  So, here goes with the genuine, but slightly light hearted, reasons why…

They are self-motivated learners

Most lawyers – certainly senior lawyers – are inquisitive and self-motivated.  They want to improve and while 360 feedback may be a bit more touchy-feely than learning law they generally have a desire to learn and improve which makes them great candidates for 360 feedback.

They like talking about themselves

Culturally – particularly in the UK – this can be seen as a negative.  For 360 feedback it is actually useful.  Listening to feedback about yourself, discussing that feedback with an impartial 3rd party and reflecting on yourself is somewhat egocentric and at times narcissistic.  For the 60-90 minutes of a debrief session it is very useful if the subject of the session enjoys talking about and reflecting on their own actions and ways of working.  In our experience, lawyers are good at that.

They recognise their own value and impact

This can of course be taken too far (and sometimes is).  But, partners and senior lawyers generally accept that their own impact is significant and improvements will deliver bottom line benefits.  Through an experience of valuing (charging for) their own time this can be second nature.  This motivates them to listen and to look to make changes.

Their failings are more obvious to others than themselves

The most common issues we see for lawyers revolve around allocation of their time, effective delegation, new business activity and handling of stress.  There are of course others.  But for these common issues others are best placed to 1) describe the impact of the undesired behaviour and 2) give permission/confidence for the change required.  Many lawyers have built a way of working and handling the pressures of the role over many years and have a belief system rooted in that way of working.  Believing that a real change can be made requires others to both point it out and give confidence that the changes can be made.  To receive this feedback – and particularly the permission to change from those they trust – is often a great break through for the lawyer.

Law firms like to do things properly

Our law firm clients genuinely wish to handle 360 feedback properly.  And so they take care to think through what is going to lead to the best conversation for each lawyer.  They are able to invest in the process and each lawyer to give the greatest chance of success.  Each lawyer then benefits from being part of a well thought through, properly run process.

Our thoughts…

Debriefing articulate, often confident, intelligent individuals is equally challenging and rewarding.  After the initial 5-10 minutes of establishing confidence in the process and ourselves 360 debrief sessions with lawyers are invariably open and enlightening.   Whether the executive group, the partners, promotion candidates, or identified high flying associates; all lawyers benefit from 360 feedback and enjoy it when it is handled well.



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Feedback and the butterfly effect

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When it comes to considering the importance of feedback in the workplace, be that the informal day-to-day feedback from a Line Manager, or through the more formal structures of performance appraisal and 360 degree feedback, it is important to place it in it’s widest context.

Feedback is just one element of a much larger ‘eco-system’; for example, we know feedback is a key element of an effective performance management regime.

This might prompt the question ‘so what?’; however, CIPD research concluded that in turn performance management is a ‘primary vehicle of communication between a line manager and their employees’

Following this thread upwards through further research by the CIPD and Institute of Employment Studies (IES),  effective communication between a line manager and an employee is a crucial foundation for higher levels of engagement.

Engagement is good for business; the David MacLeod report, found pretty compelling evidence that engagement was instrumental in sustained organisational success with increased ‘bottom line’ results.

When you look at feedback in this context, it suddenly becomes really important that line managers give it and employees get it.

However, context is not enough; even understanding the ‘butterfly effect’ of feedback, and how the seemingly smallest of actions can affect change in something much larger, the workplace is notoriously ‘feedback-poor’.

We still need to know the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, to usefully embed feedback in an organisation which is why we focus on the concept of ‘Meaningful Conversations’ as the way to help Line Managers successfully deliver feedback.



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