What are you having for breakfast?

27 07 2010

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

(Ken Blanchard)

Sometimes my work involves me delivering feedback. Sometimes people are just interested in the facts, the objective experience. On other occasions they are more interested in the subjective experience – how those facts could be interpreted.

For instance, lets take an everyday experience of visiting a shop.

If I was to give feedback in an objective style of a shopping visit I could describe precisely how many staff were serving, how long I had to wait to be served, how many products were on the shelves etc.

If I was to give feedback purely in a subjective style on the same shopping visit I may say that there were not enough staff serving, that I had to wait a long time and there were lots of stock on the shelves.

I can also blend both objective and subjective feedback, which would give the facts to justify my opinion and interpretations. So I may say that “There were 2 staff serving, which I felt was not enough. I had to wait 5 minutes to be served – longer than I expected.” etc

All forms can be useful depending upon what they are to be used for. Still using the above example, a shop may find the objective feedback useful to determine how that store performed against their policies and use the information for training purposes. The subjective style they would find useful to find out what their customers actually felt about their experience so that they can establish if what they are doing is getting the results that they want. A blend of both can provide information about which parts were working well and which are not.

This seems pretty common sense to many people when they are looking at giving or asking for feedback to or from others. However, I’ve noticed that when it comes to giving feedback about their own work then the style that is most often used is just a subjective one – so they may say things like “It was great” or “I was rubbish”. Without the acknowledgement of the objective facts then it may go un-noticed if that feedback is justified or how it can be made stronger in the future.

I’ve done it myself – when I came back from the recording studio a couple of years ago after recording my first CD my coach asked how it had gone. My initial response was all subjective. With his usual sense of humour he got me to include far more objective responses which made me realise that I’d based my initial response on an expectation of recording the whole CD in “one take.” Including objective feedback about the quality of the content, the sound of the final recording and that actually I hadn’t taken any longer to record than was allotted for a piece of this length, changed my subjective response.

This week I invite you to be aware of the style of feedback you are using for your own work. Notice the difference including both subjective and objective styles makes.

Have a week full of feedback




Great Expectations

30 06 2010

“Oft Expectation fails,

and most oft where most it promises;

and oft it hits where hope is coldest;

and despair most sits,”

(All’s well that ends well Act II scene i, William Shakespeare)

 Our expectations can affect how we experience a situation and our interpretation of it’s outcome.

This sprang to mind last week when I had a Wimbledon match on in the background, with the “shock” score mid-match of the reigning 7 time champion being 2 sets down in the very first round. The game was by no means over but people’s expectations was that he would easily have sailed through this match but it created a “story” even though he went on to win that match.

In my past I’ve had jobs that had a lot of customer service aspects, and one of the first things I learnt was that if expectations are communicated clearly to start off with so that the customer could agree to that standard, then, providing they were met, the result is happy customers and an easier life all round.

The trick, of course, is figuring out what expectations to set – personally I favoured setting the expectations at something that could be easily met, getting the customers agreement and then strive to exceed them.

For example, in hospitality, if we knew we were that busy that the kitchen had a backlog of orders we would make sure that customers knew of the delay when ordering with an expectation of how long they may have to wait to get their food. With this information customers would be able to decide if they agreed to wait that amount of time and place an order. The vast proportion of the time we would “catch up” and deliver the food quicker than the expectation we had set which resulted in much happier customers. Those who decided that they couldn’t wait that long when ordering nearly always came back another day.

Our own expectations about what we do and how we “should” do them can have such a huge impact upon our experience. It’s often used as a way to put pressure on ourselves as a motivation tool so that we do our best work and get the best results.

You may have noticed the welcoming reaction that others greet uninvited advice about what they “should” do. Having expectations for other people (or yourself) automatically introduces the possibility of others pushing against that and being rebellious.

Then there are the expectations that aren’t shared which so often results in disappointment and annoyance. Maybe it’s a relationship where it seems so obvious to you that the other person isn’t doing what’s expected – but do they know that’s what you think they “should do”? Do they know that you expect someone who loves you to bring you flowers? Does a work colleague know that you expect an email updating you on a project you’re working on together?

Then there are the expectations that we set ourselves, the ones we haven’t even acknowledged until we don’t meet them when we notice disappointment, lack of motivation etc.

For example, Bob was having difficulty starting writing a book, although he wasn’t particularly aware of it, he seemed to think that to write a book you should write massive chunks in one go. He was struggling to find any motivation

So what can be a solution to the “problems” that expectations can bring? One thing that you may like to play with is by making agreements. Making an agreement with someone else means that they have “brought into” and accepted a particular cause of action, eliminating any rebellious pushing against. It also means that they are absolutely clear about what you both need to do.

It’s also something that can make a difference with yourself as well. Going back to the example of Bob and his struggle to find motivation with writing his book:

We chatted and just for fun made the agreement that all he had to do was write one page, every day (even if it was “rubbish” that he wouldn’t share with anyone else.) This was such a different experience then the one he had been working with that even though he didn’t think it would work he agreed to give it a go.

Some days he only wrote the one page on other days he’d find he was on a roll and would write more but he found that the motivation problem he had had vanished. The book also began to grow.

This week I invite you to make an agreement with yourself to take a regular piece of action to get closer to what you want.

Notice the difference that this makes as you go through the rest of your week.

Have a week full of agreement



PS Thursday see’s the start of Michael Neill‘s Creating The Impossible Program: Transform your world in 30 days.

I’ll be participating and have already decided what “impossible” project I’m taking on. What about you?

Here are the only prerequisites for your project:

1. You must believe you have a less than 50% chance for success in the 30 days of the program.

2. You must be so passionate about what it is you want to create that you will be glad of any time you spend invested in creating it, regardless of how things turn out!

Visit here to find out how you can come and take part too.


What’s your story?

6 04 2010

“If you just communicate you can get by. But if you skilfully communicate, you can work miracles”
(Jim Rohn)

I was asked the other day, by a family member, what I’d just been doing. My response was to ask who’s verson they’d like to hear – mine was that I’d been grooming the cat. The cat’s verson was that I’d kidnapped her, held her against her will and scalped her!

There’s an old saying about there being two sides to every story – in fact you’ve probably noticed that there can be considerably more than two sets of interpretation of the same event if there’s more than two people involved.

If you are trying to effectively communicate with someone else it often helps if you have an understanding of the other person’s perspective.

After all, communication involves at least 2 people, the person who is “sending” the message and the one who is receiving. An understanding of how they process the message you give because of their beliefs, values and other perspectives can help you craft and adjust what and how you communicate to become more effective.

This week I invite you to play with something I originally used in a business setting during “complaint handling” trainings. While you can certainly use it with a situation where there is a conflict, you can also pick any scenario where there’s been a missunderstanding or you were bemused by another person’s response.

1. Pick a situation to play with where the communication that took place didn’t go the way you intended.

2. Grab a pen and paper and tell the story from your perspective from start to finish.

3. Once you’ve finished telling that story, either pick somewhere else to sit or a different position in which to sit. Yes I know it’s a strange instruction, and one that may be tempting to miss out but it’s in here to make the rest of the steps easier!

4. Now imagine the same scenario from the other person’s perspective. If you like you can literally imagine stepping into their shoes and seeing through their eyes. Write down their verson of events – remember it’s their version so you’ll need to be ensure that your description is as if it had happened to you personally ie “I was …”

5. When finished, again change where or how you are sat to a new third position. – Honest, people really do find this helps to see from a new perspective.

6. Now, imagine that a third party was watching the same scenario and see it through their eyes. This is someone who has no personal investment in the situation, so it’s an unbiased view. How would they describe what they saw?

Bonus steps: If you like repeat steps 5 and 6 and pick imagining getting the perspective from a mentor and/or someone you view as an expert in such a situation. What advice would they give you having seen their perspective?

7. Re-read each version and notice any new insights you’ve learned. How can you use this information and perspective in the future?

Remember, this is not an exercise to beat yourself up using the benefit of hindsight about what you could have done. It’s an exercise to help you get even more out of your communication and life – maybe even allow you to work miracles ;)

Have a week full of perspectives




Signals of inner knowledge

24 09 2009

“You must train your intuition – you must trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.”

(Ingrid Bergman)

I was driving along in some traffic recently, absently humming along with a tune on the radio, when I came across a series of pedestrian crossings with traffic lights. The thought occurred to me (as I cheerfully got to a particularly good bit of the song) that traffic lights are a hugely recognised form of communicating their desired message.

When I’m working with an individual or group, at a very basic level, the answer is often a mix of starting something new, continuing what they are already doing or stopping something.

This week I invite you to play with that concept and to make use of the traffic light signals to access your own inner judgement.

  1. Pick something that you are happy playing with to get more insight, more ideas and/or generally get unstuck.

  3. If you were going to start doing something in this area what could you do?
  4. If you were going to continue doing something that makes a positive difference in this area what would that be?

  6. If you were going to stop something connected with this area what would that be?

    You may want to read through the next instructions before carrying them out.

  8.  Imagine that you are going to take 4 different road journeys, all with the same starting point but along different routes.

  10.  The first one is one that represents what you could start doing. As you imagine travelling along this road and this route notice what that journey is like. The length of this route is as long as it is, and while travelling you may observe the scenery, the condition of the road, who’s driving, the weather and the state of where this route ends.

  12. Take as long as you need to fully experience that journey. When you  get to the end, imagine returning to your starting point. You’ll find that at the start of that road route a set of traffic lights has appeared. Just notice if they are at red, amber or green.

  14.  Now, we’re going to travel along the second route, this road journey represents what you can continue doing. Again pay attention to what this particular journey is like and where it finishes. 

  16.  Once you have reached your destination, as if by magic, you’ll find that you are back at the starting point and there is another set of traffic lights for the road just travelled. Are these ones on red, green or amber?

  18.   Imagine taking the third option, the one that represents what you could stop doing and as you’ll probably have already have guessed you notice the journey and the destination as you travel along.

  20.   When you have finished that route and you’re ready, you’ll find yourself back at that same starting point with another set of traffic lights that has appeared for the third route. Again notice if these ones are red, green or amber.

  22.   The forth and final route represents an option you have not yet considered. As you travel along this route, there may or may not be clues about what this route actually represents. If there is not, it’s not important at this stage – just carry on noticing what there is to be aware of when taking this option.

  24.   When you have completed that route, return to the start again and as another set of traffic lights have appeared – notice if these ones are on red, green or amber.

  26.   At this stage become aware of your physical surroundings of the room that you are currently in and maybe even stretch and wiggle your fingers and toes.

So what did you learn by playing with that?

If you found that any of the traffic lights were on red, it’s probably a pretty good inner signal that option isn’t one for you (at least at the moment)

If you found that any of the traffic lights were on amber then you may want to consider proceeding slowly with that route. Maybe you need a bit more information or other people involved more. It’s not to say that it won’t work, it just may need a bit of tinkering to make it stronger. You may find that the details of how you imagined that route or destination will give you more indications about how that could be altered.

If you found that a routes traffic light was on green, then that’s a great inner signal to go ahead with that option.

If you found that you got more than one green light then that’s great to, you may want to consider how that could be combined or maybe you want to choose to pick the most pleasant journey /destination.

Have a week full of inner knowledge




Freedom from Fear of
Speaking Week

22 06 2009

Did you know that next week is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Week?

It seems an appropriate time to mention Jonathan Altfeld’s public speaking and presentation skills course.

With London dates in July and US and Australian courses in October, this is a course I highly recommend if you want to increase your confidence and be more compelling when speaking in front of people.

I make it a principal of only recommending products and events that I have already tried and consider a quality product that gets results. If you are looking for a course to develop your public or group speaking then I highly recommend Speaking Ingeniously with the trainer Jonathan Altfeld.

I attended such a course a few years ago (under the previous title of holographic communication). There was a broad range of experience within the group attending. From individuals who literally shook at the idea of speaking in front of the group, to trainers and speakers who would professionally daily speak to groups.

Using just the right mix for everyone in the group Jonathan quickly dealt with any nerves that any of the group used to have and provided a course that blended techniques and exercises with individual coaching.

Jonathan Altfeld is a highly skilled communicator and trainer whom it is an absolute pleasure to watch at work. He cultivates a learning environment which nurtures and develops the skills of every ability within the group. The journey which Jonathan easily guided us through creates epic transformations, no matter what experience the individual started day 1 with.

Using a combination exercises and group work, lessons and skills easily emerge which can be utilised not only in public speaking but in the far wider concept of everyday life.

The amount of time Jonathan spent with the group went far and beyond the call of duty, it wasn’t at all unusual for Jonathan to join the group for meals or in the bar and carry on covering subjects more informally.

Plus as a special bonus to Your Changing Direction readers Jonathan is offering a free copy of his Truth Detection mp3′s with your booking. To make sure you get your copy make sure that you quote my name (Jen Waller) and ask about the bonus – If you let me know as well I’ll double check that you get your bonus :)

Click HERE for full details about the course including video clips showing the change in previous participants.


“What Did You Say?”

6 05 2009

“Our language is funny – a fat chance and slim chance are the same thing”. ~J. Gustav White

I have to give the IT support team, where I used to work, credit. They would be quite use to me calling to say something highly technical like “the thingy-ma-jig isn’t working” (which of course is different to a what’s-it). The team were very good at interpreting what I was talking about and provide me with a solution.

The ones who were really good, and provided easy to follow instructions, were the ones who stepped into my world and used little or no technical jargon in their answers.

I was reminded about this recently while working with someone wanting to change their career. This individual had lots of relevant experience, the industry that they were in used different “labels” to describe the same actions and responsibilities that the new career required.

One of the first things that we did was to amend their CV so that the language used matched the labels in the new industry. We kept the facts the same. This automatically helped the potential employer see the match between the experience and skills and what they wanted in that role.

Both of the above are examples of using the other person’s language to communicate more effectively. The IT team to communicate a solution (and possibly get some peace from me :) ) With the CV example it was about strongly communicating how well the candidate matched what the potential employer wanted.

Sometimes a person’s language can also be an indication of the individual’s interests. For example, you may find that there is a lot of sporting references in their every day language – “moving the goal posts”, “letting the side down” or “a clean sheet” being phrases that can often be used and all originate from sport.

On other occasions it may be a cultural reference – it was interesting to see a localised family run business merge with a multinational company and see both sides adapt to the language and jargon that both cultures regularly used.

You may have noticed that when someone is describing a situation they paint a picture with their words so that you get a taste of what they are talking about. Sometimes you may only get a whiff of what they meant. How much you feel that you understand may be an indication of how successful the message was communicated. People often do this by using words that make use of the senses.

For example, some words and phrases that make use of the visual sense are: image, illuminate, hazy, bright, unsightly, focus, big picture and green with envy.

Some words and phrases that make use of the auditory (hearing) sense: buzz, dialogue, discuss, ring, tone, off-beat, tune in-to, clear as a bell and speak your mind.

Some words and phrases that make use of the sense of touch and feelings*: grasp, lukewarm, nudge, painful, sense, cool customer and hold on a moment.

*(This can also be referred to as kinaesthetic – but that is still just a label to aid communication in certain groups/fields of knowledge)

Some words and phrases that make use of the senses of taste and smell: acidic, choke, digest, savour, gut feeling, tough to swallow, nosey, odour, pungent, reeks, sniff, I smell a rat and a sweet smell of success.

You may notice that in certain situations and instances that a person may use words that predominately make use of one or a few of the senses. Just like in the example where we matched the same language for the CV etc it can help your communication to match words using the senses that they used when you notice them.

(Remember people do change over time so don’t automatically presume that because a person used visual or auditory words for a situation on one occasion that they will still use those to describe it on another. It is wise to pay attention to see if it has altered)

If there is someone you would like to communicate more effectively with I invite you to play with the following. It may be an individual or group.

1. Notice the language that they are using.

2. Pay attention to how it is different to the language that you use.

3. If you have detected a difference in a “label,” you may want to check to see if your understanding of what they are saying is actually what they mean.

4. Just for fun, what happens if you adopt their language?

Use your own judgement with what and when you choose to do this. Sometimes it can seem “clunky” when you are getting used to doing this and there may be certain circumstances that you don’t want that to be the case.

Have a lovely week




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