Saturday 21 July 2018

Why I Stopped Seeking Acknowledgment

One of the biggest improvements I made as a leader (and probably a work colleague!) was to stop seeking acknowledgment from others. I used to be one of those annoying people who would call out a shortcoming (or opportunity to improve) and talk about it with someone until they acknowledged that the issue existed.

We don't like admitting when we are wrong, I'm sure you can think of your own examples, be it with children abdicating any involvement, be it car accidents and traffic infringements, or at work when mistakes have been made.

As a result, these interactions were very frustrating for me, and I'm sure that they led to resentment towards me by these individuals.

I'd love to tell you an awesome story about how I reflected on these interactions and intentionally experimented with different ways to make these conversations more effective, but that wouldn't be true.

The real story is that I was having a conversation with a member of my team and something came up that wasn't working. I forget the topic now, but when it came up the reaction from the other person was very defensive. We were interrupted before I could delve into the excuses and blame that the person expressed (of which I thought there was plenty!).

To my surprise, the next week I observed the person changing the way that they worked, and I had the change that I had been seeking!

This was the moment that caused me to reflect and question the way I had been behaving and what my real drivers were.

It is quite uncomfortable (but probably not that surprising) to acknowledge that even though I saw the change that I wanted occurring, I still felt that something was missing because there had been no acknowledgment. My instinct was to bring it up with the person in our next catch up, and it was very hard to fight that strong desire.

This was a turning point for me, and I intentionally changed the way I offered feedback so that I fought against the urge to seek acknowledgment that an issue exists. This has led to a significant increase in the adoption of behavioural and technical suggestions by those I manage, mentor, and/or coach.

Even though it has been many years, and the desire to push for acknowledgement is long gone, it still feels nice when acknowledgement occurs. Maybe I am not fully cured after all!

I have since applied the same approach to organisational and product improvement suggestions, but I'll write about that in a future post.

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