Receiving Feedback

5A few months ago, I had written what I thought was an excellent blog post (see “Living in the Shadow”). From the first round of feedback (my peers) it seemed that it was perfect to use in my reflective statement, but when a second round of feedback from my seminar leader was provided, it ended with a sentence pretty much anyone hates to hear.

“Maybe you should consider how relevant this is to the course and perhaps rewrite it”.

Cue tears and melancholic music.

Like it or not, students, feedback and outside review is incredibly important for your work. Outside perspectives are important for identifying mistakes and oversights that you yourself may be oblivious to, simply because you wrote the blog/created the content.

As well as helping to identify areas for improvement, accepting feedback not only enables better communication between both parties but also acts as a tool for continued learning. Continued feedback is important in order to remain aligned to goals. Continued learning is the key to improving. Necessary if I am to achieve a high grade at the end of my international business course degree.

When receiving feedback, there were times where I thought my seminar leader was correcting every single error. Of course that was not the case. Feedback is necessary for personal development and fortunately as Oxford Brookes, there are many sources to choose from.

CIRT: Centre for Innovation in Research and Teaching (2018) Effective Feedback in the Classroom. Available at: https://cirt.gcu.edu/teaching3/tips/effectivefeed (Accessed 25th April 2018)

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The Need to be Right: A Personal Struggle

I’m sure it’s happened to you: You are in a team meeting, trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over a colleague and correct his/her point of view. He/she pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out of body experience – and in many ways it is. 

In high stress, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with thought processes like strategy and compassion shut down. And our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a choice about how best to protect itself – in this case from the loss of power associated with being wrong – and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions.

For example in my PLG (group work presentation), our group was deciding the way we would write our goal (grammatically). A colleague put forward an idea that explained what we wanted perfectly and I put forward one that I thought was better English (sounded better). Ultimately we went for the one I chose, as I would not back down on.

As a result of this situation, my colleagues and others around me were being drummed into submission, which would likely reduce their collaborative impulses in the future.

The above is clearly not the ideal situation. In the aftermath I concluded that the engagement could have gone better if we had planned who speaks and when. In the future I would ask all parties to identify who in the room has important information, perspectives, or ideas to share. List them and the areas they should speak about and use that as your agenda, opening the floor to different speakers, asking open-ended questions and taking notes.

I will implement this method in the future.

Bessinger, J. (2016) ‘Let go of the need to be right’ — and 9 other ways to give your brain a spring cleaning, The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/04/13/let-go-of-the-need-to-be-right-and-9-other-ways-to-give-your-brain-a-spring-cleaning/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1b0c1ab415a8 (Accessed 21st April 2018)

 

Structure in Organisations: Impact?

What do you get when a rigidly structured organisations hires a team of former digital nomads?

In very rare cases, the organisation would get a beacon of creative light and an inspirational idea how to secure its place on the market. More often, however, the team of former digital nomads who are used to freedom when it comes to creativity and decision-making gets overwhelmed by strict hierarchy and excessive bureaucracy.

In that case, the team is left with two options: either they will adapt (which is time consuming), or they will leave the organisation with the excuse of not being able to adapt to new surroundings.

Simply put, they suffer because their creativity and their performance is under the influence of drastically different organisational culture than they are used to.

Just one example of hundreds in thousands of businesses over the last few decades. Thus to understand how culture impacts team performance, we must first take a look at different types of company cultures. Depending on “Decision Making” and “Reward Structure” dimension, there are four types of company culture:

Schneider (Types of organisational structure model)

Schneider. W. (1999) Schneider’s culture model

If the company chooses a particular culture and implements it throughout all departments, “natural selection” will soon take its course: employees who feel that organizational culture suits them will stay within the organisation. Others will leave on their own accord.

However, if the company allows different cultures to operate in separate departments, itmay impact employee performance severely. For example, HR department has “written communication only” culture. On the other hand, in a marketing department, you can often overhear a loud conversation, discussion, and even laughter.

This “inequality” and “uneven treatment” will most likely cause rivalries among areas, and culminate in outright rebellion if not handled correctly. So, giving each department freedom to choose their own culture is usually NOT a good idea. All employees are equal in the eyes of the company and should be treated as such.

 

Eyes Wide Open: Drivers of Change and the Importance of Change Management

vision

Today’s business environment is one characterised by rapid change. The forces of change come from external and internal forces. The external environment includes things such as rapid technology advancement, increased globalisation, political and regulatory currents, innovation and shorter product life-cycles, and the list goes on. The internal drivers of change include such things as the need to drive costs out of the business through better efficiencies to improve bottom-line results, pressures to accelerate growth, and the need for higher levels of organisational agility. Adapting and embracing these forces of change requires ongoing organisational change, which adds its owns management issues.

Over the last several decades, the practice of change management has been radically impacted by a continuing turbulent business environment characterised by the rapidly fragmenting and information-intensive global marketplace. The current and future business environment characterised by uncertainty and ambiguity requires organisations to now anticipate competitive threats and deal with them accordingly.

Leaders in organisations all over the world are realising the need to enhance their leadership agility. Leadership during change is not new but the pace and volume of change is greater than ever and will continue to grow. Thus, there is a need for greater and greater leadership agility.

Kurt Lewin (1951) put forward a model of change that consists of three steps: unfreezing, moving and freezing. The model can be described as “change efforts to overcome the pressures of both individual resistance and group conformity, making the changes and then integrating and sustaining the new way of doing things. Other, more recent models include John Kotter’s (1996) eight-step process for leading change. These and other models are useful for informing the discussion of managing change in organisations and potentially as a recipe for making a change. However as mentioned above, a company needs to consistently look for ways in which to keep up with the changing global marketplace, so looking at Lewin and Kotter alone is simply not enough.

Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in Social Science, New York: Harper & Row

Kotter, J.P., (1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.

Framing the Problem

The module “Planning a successful event” will forever remain the most stressful and complicated module for me. Tasked with managing and writing the project plan, it did not get off to a good start. I did not think about it for well over 4 weeks. That was my first error. Then panic set in as the deadline neared and the rest was a shambles. The title could have been “what I learnt about being project manager” but that would take too long. Instead I have chosen to focus on the first and most important issue. Framing the problem.

The ability to frame business problems to make them susceptible to rigorous fact-based analysis is one of the core skills that a university business student should acquire.

In any established company/team, the problem-solving process would begin with the use of structured frameworks to generate fact-based hypotheses followed by data gathering and analysis to prove or disprove the hypothesis (Rasiel & Friga, 2002). A hypothesis greatly speeds up your quest for a solution by sketching out a road map for research and analysis that will guide your work throughout the problem-solving process, all the way to the presentation of your solution. Ideally I would have done the same. However the reality of being a first year undergraduate business student mashed together with other fellow novices (as indicated above) proved otherwise, i.e. how not to frame the problem.

First, do not reinvent the wheel. Do not make up your own method of creating a hypothesis. Follow the given framework, whether SMART or other.

Second, use structure to strengthen your thinking. Use a proven format, e.g. Acme Widgets Logic Tree, make a clear link between all points. Read through any completed work. I did not and I suffered the consequences. Presently I apply this method to all my work.

None of what I have written is new information. Every student in the Oxford Brookes Business School knows I am talking about, however we all do this to some degree. That is part of the journey but not all of us reflect on it. We need to do this in order to learn and improve.

References:

Rasiel, E. M., Friga, P. N. (2002) The McKinsey Mind, London: McGraw-Hill

First child off to university. An example for the others to follow. Right?

19 year old adult. First born. Finished school a year ago. A high achieving school leaver who took a gap year to add experience to their already outstanding resume. Just started university. The ideal sibling to look up to.

All that may be true but in this day and age, that is never enough. It may be as a result of growing up in the private school jungle. Fantastic academic and sport facilities, musical opportunities, an environment for the proactive thinker who “has been given this fantastic opportunity few others have the opportunity to experience”. That is of course true. Only 7% of British school children have been to private school. But a student can participate in all these different faculties (to a relative high level of success), only to be overlooked by society because “only one space was available and Ashley did better. Maybe next year”.

Growing up, my younger sibling was Ashley and I was “maybe next year”. Of course I am sure the reader of this can imagine some scenarios. “Don’t be so harsh on yourself, I am sure you will find your niche in the future. It just takes some people longer than for others”. Definitely a thoughtful and comforting set of words, however our society wires our brains to think “this person is not doing as well as the other. I am sure when he/she finds their niche, they will be just as good, if not better”. Often no time is taken to instead think, “Ohh my! Why is this person downcast? They have (potentially) achieved a massive degree of success which is fantastic given their situation”.

Human brains think objectively rather than contextually…. sometimes. In some ways I am the child to look up to. I am leading the charge. In other ways I am not. I have not achieved what my siblings have achieved. It seems difficult to cultivate the ideal person to “look” up to.

This blog series will look at how our own perceptions are influenced by society and the environment we live in.

In this scenario, I have already passed my A levels and my brother has not. Am I the exemplar? My brother is a U18 European Rowing Champion. I have rowed for 4 weeks. Is he the exemplar? What do you think? What do you think society would think?