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23rd July 2015
New Reviews Just In

Stand Out by JP Markey
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22nd July 2015
4 Ways To Make Feedback Valuable

valuable feedback

The start to being able to improve yourself relies on being able to map out a journey:

Knowing where you are now, where you want to be in the future, how you're going to get there and what obstacles you might face on the way and an ETA on when you want to be there.

Knowing where you are now is all about having some level of self awareness. Something that can be achieved through psychometric testing, reflective activities and gathering feedback.

Gathering feedback, from what I have seen, often goes wrong or is misunderstood or is tainted to only be positive to achieve an ego boost. That's not giving any self awareness. So here are my three tips to making feedback valuable and effective.

Use the STOP - START - CONTINUE model

Keep feedback simple and action-led by asking for things you should STOP doing, things you should START doing and things you should CONTINUE doing.This also helps you digest the information in a more positive way.

Things you should stop doing tend to be a hard piece feedback to take. The things you should start doing are action-led and inherently offer new ideas which makes you feel ready to improve. The continue section gives you a little pat on the back and helps you recognise the good that you're doing already.

Allow it to be (really!) anonymous

No matter how approachable, friendly or gregarious you are, a lot of people find it hard being frank. To make it a more honest environment with no chance of reprise for being too critical you need to ensure that not only is the feedback anonymous it is believed to be anonymous.

If you work with a close team then, I would suggest, getting paper forms handed into a trusted team member who can rewrite all the comments onto a separate feedback sheet. This way people won't be worried you will know it's them from their handwriting. Or use a service such as survey monkey is everyone will have access.

NEVER be openly critical about the feedback

Be prepared. If you've set the environment to be honest then you may receive some feedback that's hard to take. THAT'S THE POINT. It's easy to react. It's easy to be angry. But just relax. Give yourself time to absorb the information. Take your time. Whether or not you think it's fair, you need to remember that this is someone's opinion and you've just become a little bit more self aware.

And lastly.


You've got the feedback. Now use it to decide how you will be a better manager. Or a better worker. Or a better communicator. Or just a better person.

Had good experiences with feedback? Bad experiences? I would love to hear about it below!

Thanks for reading.

I hope this silly little article helped provoke some thoughts about feedback.

For more of my thoughts see "Stand Out" which I wrote on train journeys to and from London during my time working there. Find out more here.

More articles and blogs at: The James Markey Homepage.

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24th April 2015
Leadership: Are you Walking the Walk or Talking the Talk?


There's a difference between managing people to a goal and leading them to it.

We all know that.
We all get sent on courses which tell us that.

Then why do a lot of people talk about leading people to "good results" even though they still treat those same people like robots to do a process?

So how can we truly "lead" our teams to greatness?

First of all, what is leadership anyway?

Before I give my opinion, I really suggest buying The Leadership Pill by Ken Blanchard (Amazon)*. A wonderful parable(?) about the difference of leading and managing. I was actually given my copy by a previous manager and then gave it away to my Deputy to read because I thought it was fantastic.

Leadership is personal I think and, to me, it's about two things...

1) Taking people with you on a journey to a goal.

And you do this by......

2) Treating people like.....People.

Every one is still a human being and you share more in common than your difference in job title. It's a good thing to remember that!

Notice I didn't even mention results. Sometimes, the bigger picture (the economy, tax rates etc) has a bigger effect on business performance than we like to admit when we're trying to manage a shop / a factory / contracts against previous year targets, budgets, costings or other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

So here's a little personal story:

I'm a manager of a medium sized retail store. For two years we've performed very well and continue to do so. We have someone at the front of the store to greet. The Supervisors "supervise" and make sure customers have a good time and weren't approached too early / too late so they didn't feel either pressured or forgotten. The team is looked after, we socialise out of work and everyone enjoys working there including myself. People are trained to a point they could leave for a better paid job but so many stay because of the team and the company.

But something's missing.

When staff are having fun, joking around and laughing, a customer (just another human being) comes in and everyone puts on a straight face and tries to be professional because it's "the right thing to do". But is it? Surely, that human being would enjoy to be part of the fantastic atmosphere?

Then one day I walked into Seatree (link- strongly recommended*) a fish and chip "bar" well known in Cambridge which is take away and has a small restaurant area to eat in. It was fairly busy and they were a little bit stretched on staff but my god were they enjoying themselves. Laughing to each other, chatting to customers and just generally having fun. Then a customer wasn't noticed when they were waiting to order and another customer had to wait a few minutes to pay at the table. But you know what? It didn't matter. The customers didn't take offence, they relished in the good atmosphere and would have forgiven anything.

On a side note it reminded me of a video I saw about a fish market, a bit over the top but well worth having a look:

Now, back to our story...

I came back from SeaTree and sat in the corner of our shop for 5 minutes. About 8/10 customers had what I would consider a really good experience in that
they got greeted in good time, they were helped at the appropriate time it was needed (not to early or late) and the sales assistant found out what it was the customer was looking for in a friendly way.

But this was achieved by treating the sales assistants as a process. Someone needs to be at the front of the store to greet, someone needs to be roaming to approach customers that need help. If anything's missed you need a Supervisor to intervene / prompt someone to action.

Next, me and my (truly wonderful) Deputy sat in the corner of our shop for 5 minutes and I asked the Supervisors to trust the sales assistants to do everything and only intervene or prompt if it was really needed. This time about 6/10 customers had a really good experience (the rest still had a good experience of course) but perhaps we approached them far too late into their search or we didn't acknowledge them coming in. Maybe they became reliant on someone else prompting them? Who knows.

Lastly, me and my Deputy sat down with all the sales assistants and said "we want to start treating you as people and listen to you. But we want to tell you what we observed. And here's what we saw:
1) When we treated you as robots, we actually got it right 8/10 times.
2) When we treated you as equals and just let everyone crack on we only got it right 6/10 times.

All I want to know is how do we treat you as equals and get it right 8/10 times, or even better, 9 or 10 times out of 10?

Suddenly, ideas came flying out. They seemed to want to prove they could be trusted to better themselves.

The next time a customer walked in, staff didn't just cut off their conversations and put on a straight face, they managed to use it as an opportunity to get a smile from the customer when they said hello. We didn't have one person hovering at the front to greet but instead everyone hovering around the entire store and taking collective responsibility to make sure people got acknowledged as they came in. It was looking like 10/10 customers had a great experience. But it's early days.

The same night someone asked to speak to the Manager. "How can I help?". And the Response? "Please pass my thanks to your sales assistant, she was lovely". Coincidence? Maybe. We do have a whole team of lovely assistants after all.

There is a different way to manage. A better way.

And I hope we can continue on the path we have chosen and continue to succeed even more but time will tell I guess.

I hope this silly little story gets you thinking about how you manage too!

*(DISCLAIMER: don't fret, I have no affiliation with these links above and get no "kick-backs" from them)

P.s. I thought this was going to be about two paragraphs, so my apologies for the longevity of it. But I hope it sparked a few thoughts of your own.

P.s.s. As always, feel free to show me the light and point out any of my ignorance on this topic below! I do very much appreciate it!

Thanks for reading.

I hope this silly little article helped provoke some thoughts about Leadership.

For more of my thoughts see "Stand Out" which I wrote on train journeys to and from London. Find out more here.

See you next time!

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