In this episode I talk about constant feedback. Constant feedback refers to being in a state of giving people your perspective on how they are doing on an ongoing basis.
A few of you may remember when I requested your feedback in an episode called “Pivot The Annual Review”. In that episode I remember explaining that when you give the annual review, the annual review is a reciprocal process – You are reviewing your employee, and your employee is reviewing you- and how that should not be your only time to give them feedback. An employee should not be hearing for the first time in an annual review that their performance is less than satisfactory in some critical area. But then one might ask, “well, then how frequently should I be giving negative feedback? Do I meet with them once a month or do I pull them aside once a quarter? How do I do this?”
Tune in to find out what I recommend!
In this episode we discuss:
- Being in a state of persistent negative feedback.
- Differentiating feedback about the behavior versus it being about the person.
- People’s different reactions to negative feedback based on past experiences and related punishments.
- How creating a culture of constant feedback helps people to improve and can also provide validation that they’re doing a good job.
- Developing a new framework for the delivery of feedback.
- Presenting negative feedback as a growth opportunity.
Allison Williams: [00:00:11] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your Law Firm Mentor. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys, we help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business, and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:25] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here. Your Law Firm Mentor. And on this week’s episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, what are we talking about? Constant feedback. And when I say constant feedback, I mean just that, just that being in a state of giving people your perspective on how they are doing on an ongoing basis. Now, for a lot of people, I received some feedback actually about the show on annual reviews it was called Pivot The Annual Review. And I remember very distinctly talking about how, when you give the annual review, the annual review is a reciprocal process, right? You are reviewing your employee, your employee is reviewing you and how that should not be your only time to give them feedback. They should not be hearing for the first time in an annual review that their performance is less than satisfactory in some critical area. But when the question is raised, well, then how frequently should I be giving negative feedback? Do I meet with them once a month or do I pull them aside once a quarter? Like how, how do I do this? The, the immediate answer that comes to mind is not it depends, it’s not a lawyer’s answer. It’s that you should be in a persistent state of giving negative feedback. And I know that this is a radical idea, but I want you to hear me out and think about it this way.
Allison Williams: [00:01:52] A lot of people resist giving negative feedback, in fact, so much so that people ghost on giving any feedback at all instead of having the, the uncomfortable conversation of saying, here’s what I see that’s wrong about the situation. And I think a lot of times that comes from our own internal rules and how we were raised as children. We learned somewhere along the way that you are a bad boy or girl if you did something that displeased a caregiver. So instead of saying, OK, this behavior is a bad behavior, we instead say bad boy or bad girl, and we teach that there is something inherently wrong with you. If you have done something that does not please another person and then of course, follows the consequence, right? So the consequences, bad boy or bad girl leads to going to our room or standing in the corner or being sent to bed without dinner or whatever the punishment is. But the reality is what is really desired to be communicated is that the behavior is bad. Right? It’s not that the child is bad or the perpetrator or the wrongdoer. It’s that the behavior is bad. And so when you think about that, I want you to think about the fact that even though the message got skewed early in childhood, that message has been carried forward by your employee, for God only knows how long. Right? So he or she may very well internalize that if you are giving negative feedback, that that means they are a bad person and that there is going to be a negative consequence to follow.
Allison Williams: [00:03:32] So a lot of people will have a trigger wound of, oh my God, my boss is not happy, I’m about to get fired or oh my God, my boss is not happy, I’m not going to get a raise or oh my God, my boss is not happy, I’m not going to get the promotion that I’m inline for. So I want you to be thinking about that just as a frame of reference that you know, that it has a place that it comes from and didn’t start with you, which means it’s not your fault and it probably is not going to end with you unless you’re very intentional about breaking the habit of having that person encounter negative feedback as a precipitating effect to something else, meaning you can give negative feedback and hold someone accountable. But if negative feedback always is followed by a significant consequence, because by the time you give the negative feedback, you’ve got forty-five infractions of the same thing and you’ve had enough of it. Right? You’ve had it up to here and then there’s a consequence to the person, then yeah, they will fear feedback because they’re having the message reinforced that negative feedback always precedes a negative consequence. Instead, however, you can create a culture of constant feedback where people are constantly looking for and receiving not just validation that they’re doing a good job, but ways that they can improve. And ways that they can improve will be something that they get into the habit of looking for without the distress that attends to the idea of searching for and waiting for the other shoe to drop, i.e. waiting for that negative feedback.
Allison Williams: [00:05:10] So I want you to think about this, OK, and again, I know that it’s somewhat of a radical idea for a lot of you that are used to only having someone in your office or a closed-door conversation when there’s something major wrong that you absolutely have to deal with, that you can’t stand not to deal with, which is the reason why you’re willing to bite the bullet, have the difficult conversation, be nauseous to your stomach all before, be annoyed and frustrated and continuously hopeful thereafter, right? Instead of that framework, let’s find an entirely new framework. The new framework is going to be that feedback is going to be delivered regularly. And every time something goes wrong, we’re going to stop and we’re going to have a conversation. But that conversation is not going to be a bad boy, bad girl, negative consequence, lineage of conversation. Instead, that conversation is going to be one of what went wrong here. Why do you think it happened this way? What beliefs and what thoughts were leading you to conclude that this was the right course of action? What beliefs do we now need to rewire so that you have a different frame of reference for the future? How can we make sure that you learn from this lesson so that you are better in the future at going forward with the beliefs that we now have ensured that you have. And how do we make sure that we learn from this, not just how to do this one activity better next time, but also how to take all of that learning and positive growth that you’re going to have from this and instill it in other areas in the business.
Allison Williams: [00:06:43] When we ask those questions, you open up the floor for the person receiving the feedback to get the hint of, yes! And now that I’ve learned from this, here are the ways that I can take this into the future, here are the ways that I can add more value. And on the very what’s in it for me level here, the ways that I can get a raise, I can get a promotion, I can keep my job, I can keep people happy, I can create a happy workplace. All of the things that will benefit your employee in addition to all of the people that encounter your employee in the workplace.
Allison Williams: [00:07:16] So the idea of giving negative feedback, we all know that it starts with the idea that most of us don’t like giving negative feedback because there is this idea of rejection baked into it. If I am saying you did something wrong, presumably I’m not happy about that, I’m not happy about what you did wrong, I’m not happy that it’s having a consequence for me, I’m not happy that I’m having to stop my life, deal with your mistake, deal with you and either redo what you’ve done or find someone else to review what you’ve done and grow from that experience. That takes time out of my life, that wasn’t on the regularly scheduled program and most people intuitively understand. So you have to reframe your negative feedback even before you give it so that people who are going to receive negative feedback don’t receive it as negative the feedback, they receive it as a growth opportunity. So what do I mean by that? Well, I want you to think about just a common mistake that happens, whatever the common mistake is in your law firm and let’s say it’s a relatively inconsequential mistake because it’s probably easier for you to start looking for and dealing with negative feedback on the inconsequential mistakes rather than the major mistakes, because the major mistakes, you might have some emotional energy around those. You might have a higher level of anxiety or anger around those. And it’s going to be challenging if you start going from no feedback until something catastrophic happens to hear negative feedback all the time about things that really pissed me off so that you’re starting to spew some vitriol. We don’t want you to get to the point where you’re kind of offloading on your employees on a regular basis. That’s not what this is.
Allison Williams: [00:09:01] But think about something small and inconsequential, it could be not enough money went on the postage meter and they all got kicked back to you or something like that, right? As soon as that event happens and you have this conversation with your employee and the conversation can be all right, how did we get to this mistake here? Do we first of all, do we recognize this was a mistake? Right? I presume you didn’t do this intentionally. OK, we recognize this was a mistake. How did we get here? What thoughts led you to take this action? What was the consequence? Now that we see that we don’t like this consequence, what are we going to do next time? What are the thoughts that are going to support the actions that you’re going to take next time in order that we get a different result? And how are we going to learn from this? So if you take that trajectory of activity and then you apply it to other areas of business, you can say, OK, what I learned was I got into the habit of using the previously used settings on the postage meter when it was time for me to meter the mail, and instead, I am going to stop and look at the postage meter and verify how much postage I need before I use it next time. I’m also going to apply that in other areas of the business, for instance, I might have to package up items to go out by FedEx and before I put the, put the account information in and print out the label for FedEx, I’m going to make sure that I don’t just use the previous settings there, but that I actually look at how much I’m requiring for this particular item, a postage or item, a parcel to go out.
Allison Williams: [00:10:37] Right? So there’s an area of transmutation of the solution in other areas of the business. That transmutation happens as a result of the person not just seeing the problem that was created by this instance, but also seeing how that general premise that we got out of this activity, i.e. that I am to stop, look, listen, evaluate, think before I take an action. I can apply that in a lot of different areas in the business and when the person is able to vocalize and the person is able to look for, see, identify and share with you the different areas of the business where they are going to apply what they have learned, you will see that they get excited about the fact that they can use what they just experience. Right? So instead of it becoming a bad boy, bad girl, you did something wrong here as a consequence. Instead, they had a coaching conversation, right? Instead, they were able to learn from the questions that you asked, how their thinking led them down the wrong path so that when they start thinking in a similar manner in the future, they can course-correct before a negative consequence happens.
Allison Williams: [00:11:50] Now, I also want to, and I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, also this idea of how someone is able to integrate feedback, how feedback comes to us from a place of where we are. Right? I talk a lot on the show about the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. So shout out to Don Miguel Ruiz. That’s one of my favorite books of all time, there are a host of wonderful books from, from this author and so if you’re interested, you can check out his whole library, The Voice of Knowledge, also one of my favorites. But The Four Agreements actually talks about not taking things personally. And one of the areas where it’s really challenging for business owners not to take things personally is when we have to give negative feedback. Because most of us don’t like inflicting pain for a living. Even our most aggressive litigators, Right? We might have a kill… Kill the opponent type of attitude when we’re in the courtroom. We’re going for the jugular. Most of us don’t want to bring that back to our office. Most of us don’t want to see ourselves slicing and dicing our employees and so when you’re talking to your employee and as soon as you bring up something that didn’t go right, they start crying or they start becoming defensive or hijacking the conversation with all the ways that someone else was involved and you start to feel a level of empathy and sympathy for them.
Allison Williams: [00:13:17] Oh, my God, this person feels so bad, I am making them feel so bad. Recognize that you are not making them feel any better. Right? The feeling is already there and inside them. You are nothing more than a trigger for that. You are an impetus for the feelings that they already have. And when a person experiences your message negatively, that doesn’t mean that you have done something to them. It means that they have something going on inside themselves, that their experience of what you’re saying is causing them to have an emotional response and sometimes we run from emotional responses. So much so we just don’t like it, we don’t like the way that people go into their feelings. We can’t stand it when people get deep into the weeds of the emotional stuff. We just want them to take the message, say yes, ma’am or yes sir, and get out of our office so we can get through it. What we have to remember is that part of the reason why these negative emotions never get processed and never get worked through for your employee. The reason why they will always come up every time you give negative feedback to someone is the fact that, one, you never deal with the fact that they’re having a negative response, but you just leave that negative response in the air and let it linger there. They never get the chance to see you be OK with their negative response.
Allison Williams: [00:14:37] And they never get the experience of realizing that just because they have a negative response does not mean you’re going to change what you have to say to them. But a lot of times we do change what we have to say, so your message might be on a scale from one to ten, an eight in terms of firmness, strongness, anger. Whatever you want to characterize it as, in order to convey to them the severity of what they have shared but then when they start crying, oh, my God, I did something wrong, I’m so sorry. When that happens, you dial it back down to a four. Well, they’ve now been educated that all that they have to do when you don’t like something, that when they don’t like something that you said is turn on the waterworks. And by the way, I don’t believe that this is conscious. There are some people that are very consciously manipulative. I don’t believe that most people are consciously manipulative, I believe a lot of people are subconsciously manipulative because this is how they get to safety for themselves. If they have an emotional response that they know does not lend itself for you to maintain your stance, i.e. their emotional response instigates in you a change that is more advantageous for them. They’re going to then lean into that and they’re going to say, OK, all that I have to do, they’re going to know this on a subconscious level, whether they know it consciously or not. Even though most people do know it consciously, they certainly will learn it subconsciously. All I have to say is this to get my boss off my back.
Allison Williams: [00:16:07] But when you get used to being in that discomfortable, uncomfortable status, that that discomfort of a person’s emotional response, that discomfort of a person’s reaction, that discomfort of a person’s defensiveness when you can stay in that and move through it consistent with where you started in order to convey the message that you need to do, what you do is you teach them that you’re going to maintain your response no matter what, right? If it’s a level five infraction, you’re going to get level five intensity of response. So level one reaction, you’re going to get level one intensity of response. It doesn’t change because of how someone reacts. When that happens, when you learn that and you then stay in the energy of I need to give you this feedback so you can grow and develop and the person starts to have those coaching conversations after every piece of negative feedback. And this, by the way, you’re probably thinking, oh, my God, do I have to have one of these conversations every day? You may for a period of time but ultimately, if you have the kind of employees that are making so many mistakes that you’re having to have a coaching conversation every single day, that’s probably a sign that they don’t need to be working in your business.
Allison Williams: [00:17:24] For most people, especially when they first get started, hearing it over and over and over again, all the ways that things are wrong with a spin of, and we’re going to learn from this and you’re going to grow from this and the business is going to be better and they’re not getting negative consequence, they’re not getting punishment, they’re not getting ridiculed, they’re not getting humiliated but they’re getting an opportunity to get better. And they’re getting your belief in the fact that they can get better. That is how you ultimately can create a culture of constant feedback without having the repercussions that come with a workplace of scared employees or people that simply are going to hide their mistakes. So I want you to be thinking about that, and I want you to think about the idea that ultimately you want to have people in your business that are not just willing to do the job of today, but willing to grow into who they need to become in order to be effective in the role in the future. Because if you’re growing a business, you are growing yourself. And as you grow yourself through the trials and tribulations of growing a business, you are also going to outgrow your employees if they’re not willing to go through with you to get to the other side.
Allison Williams: [00:18:39] All right, everyone, I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And on this episode of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, we have been talking about creating a culture of constant feedback. Now, if this is something that you struggle with, it’s something that a lot of us struggle with. It took me a long time to get this drilled into my head as to how to be an effective leader in a business and ultimately to ensure that everyone was constantly evolving, growing and becoming a better version of themselves. But if you are having that struggle in your business, I want you to reach out to us, have a call with a member of our growth strategy team, and we can help you to talk through some of the ways that your people ultimately might not be being their best because you are not requiring enough of them through giving them that constant feedback. All right. We’ll see you on the next episode.
Allison Williams: [00:19:42] Thank you for tuning in to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s guests and take advantage of the resources mentioned. Check out our show notes. And if you own a solo or small law firm and are looking for guidance, advice or simply support on your journey to create a law firm that runs without you, join us in the Law Firm Mentor Movement Free Facebook group. There you can access our free trainings on improving collections in law firms, meeting billable hours, enjoying the movement of thousands of law firm owners across the country who want to crush chaos in their law firm and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. Have a great day!
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications and money management in law firms.
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00: 12: 29 (31 Seconds)
And one of the areas where it’s really challenging for business owners not to take things personally is when we have to give negative feedback. Because most of us don’t like inflicting pain for a living. Even our most aggressive litigators, Right? We might have a kill… Kill the opponent type of attitude when we’re in the courtroom. We’re going for the jugular. Most of us don’t want to bring that back to our office.