Friday, September 25, 2009

Be blunt with feedback

Inherent nature of the Asian culture avoids blunt and candid feedback. By nature asians would avoid any form of confrontation which is deemed inappropriate. How does this impact professionals and especially those in their early and mid careers.

Time and again I've seen plenty of mid career professionals (and some big bosses for that matter) making scores of grammatical and spelling mistakes in their writing. I think e-mail has a lot to do with it. That's not all they make obvious language mistakes when they talk. People talk about these mistakes behind the person's back on most occasions.

Unfortunately many of the bosses refuse to confront these mistakes promptly. They feel it's best to let it go. On most occasions they feel the recipient might feel intimidated.

This doesn't help the individual at all. In fact at a later stage in their careers it will become a hindrance for career progression.

Fundamentally, younger generations who study in their mother tongue and learn English as a secondary language believe mastery of the language is way beyond them. However with concentrated effort one can master the language over a period of 3- 5 years (up to a respectable level in the corporate world).

Trust me, the typical class room learning can do very little to bring a person up to speed with the language usage. (Those of you who believe sending some one for a English course would solve the problem, you are dead wrong!) Its all about application and application in real life situations where you need to rectify yourself.

So what stops people from learning the language properly during their adulthood?

From a receipient's point of view they need to do two things.

a) They need to accept the fact that they can make mistakes when it comes to the language and more importantly it is ok to make mistakes as long as you don't repeat it.

b) They (the recipient) need to proactively indicate to the boss that they seek feedback and they appreciate the same. (You need to have the urgency to up your game!)

From the boss's point of view they need to commit the necessary time and energy on constant basis to give feedback. And when they do they should focus on the issue and not on the person while ensuring it is one to one.

So next time around when one of your subordinates make a mistake, ensure you give prompt feedback. If you haven't done it before, talk to them prior to giving feedback and tell them why you are doing it.

Driving - What it can teach you about focus and attaining goals

Yesterday I had to attend an event which was 116Km away from my home with a colleague of mine. Throughout the journey I took the liberty to drive. I do enjoy driving. It was a pretty good driving machine as well (a 2008, Toyota Allion).

Prior to our eventual destination we had few planned stoppages to visit some of our outlets. As for the goal, yes I knew it exactly. It was about eventually reaching the destination on time. usually with typical traffic and road conditions it is a 3 hour drive up the hill. However as a driver you aim at attaining short goals. My goals were two pronged. I was keeping the main towns at the back of my mind. Knowing that with each town that I reach I was that close to my end destination.

There was another more important aspect to my driving. I was focusing on the vehicle immediately in front of me. One vehicle at a time, I started overtaking. This to me was more important than the feeling you get when you cross one of the pass by towns.

On my way back it was purely the vehicle in front. Driving in the night and when you've travelled down the same road on plenty of occasions before it makes it easy for you to focus only on the vehicle in front. I must confess during my return journey I made it a point not to look at the time. Well guess what, there was less traffic comparatively on the road and I made it home within 2 1/2 hours.

So the lesson is for those of you who find it difficult to focus on things, take the wheel and drive a little bit!