Tag Archives: culture change

How to receive feedback from your peers

One of the most critical features of a High Performing Team is the ability of the members of the team to be able to give and receive feedback.

If you think giving feedback is hard, how would you go when it is your turn to receive it?

Would you take it personally? Would you get upset? Would you want to get back at the person who gave you the feedback?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn order for peer-to-peer feedback to be effective it must have a context. The only reason for providing feedback to each other is so that the person who is receiving feedback has an opportunity to help them be the best that they can be for the team. All team members need to share in their understanding of this reason for giving feedback to each other. Secondly, feedback is only ever based on opinion and should be supported by evidence. But evidence is subject to interpretation which is why the folk providing the feedback must understand that there may be other valid ways at looking at the evidence that they are using as the basis for their opinion.

Next, feedback is a two-way conversation. Too many people believe that because they have provided a peer with some feedback then that peer should immediately respond and change their behaviour. Treating feedback as a two-way conversation helps to keep the purpose of feedback in focus (to help the person be the best that they can be for the team) and allows a shared understanding to occur. Once my direct reports told me that they believed that I wasn’t a very good example of life balance, one of our agreed behaviours. Specifically they felt that eating my lunch while continuing to work put pressure on them to do the same. After I thanked them for their feedback and made sure that I fully understood what they had told me, I explained that the very reason why I ate my lunch at my desk was because of life balance. At the time I had three young children and as often as possible I wanted to be home by 6:30pm to have dinner with my family and then bath my children. There were certain tasks of my role that required that I was on site and I couldn’t take the work home to do after my children had gone to bed. So I had made a conscious choice to eat my lunch while I was working so that I could get home by 6:30pm.

The two-way conversation resulted in my direct reports having an increased understanding of my behaviour. It also raised another issue. My team wanted more social contact with me instead of everything being work oriented. At the end of the conversation we agreed that I would continue to eat my lunch as I had done, but that I would make more effort to have some social interaction with them.

A challenge when receiving feedback is not to be defensive. This is why it is important to make sure that you fully understand what you have been told, and the evidence used to support what you have been told, before you explain why you have done what you have done. Which, by the way, won’t always be possible. Sometimes you will receive feedback that is a surprise and while you may understand what you have been told, you may need some time to process it.

Your mindset when you are receiving feedback is to consider the feedback as a gift. When you have this mindset then you will be open to discovering what your gift is. Some gifts are great and expected, others are wonderful and unexpected and some gifts are for the giver of the gift, not the receiver of the gift (like the PlayStation I gave my wife for her 30th birthday many years ago…). No matter what sort of gift you receive, the first thing to say is, “Thank you.”

Many people are worried about receiving feedback because they are concerned about what they might say if they receive some feedback they don’t like. This is why having a mindset that feedback is a gift is so powerful. You always know what you are going to say after hearing the feedback. Once again what you are going to say is, “Thank you”.

Finally, I am a fan of the process of group feedback than too much one on one feedback. In a group feedback process the group should only report what behaviours they unanimously agree that you should cease, commence or continue. One on one feedback can result in personal issues being over emphasised and the status of your peers being under or over emphasised. Weight of numbers is what matters. That is why when my entire team of direct reports told me that they didn’t think I was a good example of life balance it was critical that I understood what they were telling me and why they were telling me. The two-way conversation enabled me to re-enforce that I didn’t mind that they had lunch breaks – what I cared about was results.

In summary:

  • Feedback must only be provided to help peers be the best that they can be for the team;
  • Have the mindset that feedback is a ‘gift’;
  • Always say “Thank you” after receiving your feedback;
  • Unanimous group feedback is more powerful than too much one on one feedback; and
  • Feedback is a two-way conversation.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

A massive career development opportunity

In July 2010 I released my first printed book, “What Really Matters For Young Professionals! How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career“. Despite releasing my book I had a problem (fortunately it wasn’t selling the book). You see  I had originally written over 600 pages of content for my book but the market was saying that people wouldn’t buy a 600 page book.

YFCS Colour logoASo I trimmed my book down to 128 pages and even included a number of pictures to help the reader get from cover to cover. This meant that I had just under 500 pages of high quality content that hadn’t been used. Why not create an online course to support the book?

Did a better way exist to share my knowledge? At the time I couldn’t think of one. My work had seen me bridge the gap between university student development programs and corporate staff development programs. I was addressing educational needs about what to actually do in the real world that wasn’t being addressed at university. Time and again students (from both undergraduate and postgraduate programs) and graduate program employees would tell me, “Gary, we just don’t get taught this information at university. I know what you are teaching isn’t rocket science, but I didn’t know about it before and I wish I did. At least I’ve learned it now and can use this information about developing my employability skills to my advantage.

As my work evolved into Executive Coaching roles, even these people would tell me how they found the material enlightening and helpful in their roles, even though I hadn’t written the book or designed my course for them.

I’ve now been delivering these programs for over eight years in university faculties and schools as broad as business, law, education, pharmacy and even higher degree by research programs.  Universities don’t keep asking people who are teaching non-academic programs to come back year after year if the program isn’t any good and isn’t getting outstanding feedback from students.

At the start of 2013 I launched the Yes For Success Platform and included a new version of my book’s online course on that platform, except this time I gave it a makeover and called it Yes For Career Success. The course now includes 21 Modules, the extra five modules all being designed to help folk improve their formal leadership skills either at work or outside of work. You see, leadership is one of those skills you can’t learn by theory alone, you must do it. So I show people how they can develop their leadership outside of the work environment if necessary so that they can advance their career over time. I provide the tools so that you can consciously rather than unconsciously develop your skills. Conscious skill develop outstrips unconscious skill development any day of the week!

Those of you who know me personally will know that I genuinely want to help people to be the best that they can be. I am literally putting my money where my mouth is to back up that statement. For less than the price of two coffees I am providing as many people as possible (including you of course) with the opportunity to get access to the entire 21 Modules of the Yes For Career Success Program for under $10 for a full 12 months. Just the content on Systems Thinking is worth many times your fee to get access to this content. If you aren’t aware, Systems Thinking is a critical leadership skill that despite being identified by the Australian Government, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as an essential skill for effective leadership, is not being taught in any academic programs of Australia’s Group of Eight Universities, arguably the top universities in Australia.

This means that my program is providing you with an opportunity to master critical skills that aren’t being taught anywhere else. Clearly this gives you a significant advantage over your competition.

My offer is valid until midnight on Friday 31st January, 2014 and once again I am offering you 12 months full access to the entire 21 Module Yes For Career Success Program for just $9.97.

You can download the entire Course Outline here.

There are no bells and whistles about this offer. No marketing hoopla. It is a straight offer and that’s it.

I’m not going to repeat this offer again (those of you who know me will know that statement is true too). Click here to accept this offer.

Finally, too many people leave the responsibility for their development to someone else. Please don’t be like them. Take control of your career and learn how to master the employability skills that will separate you from the rest and enable you to have the career you desire.

If you have any questions or comments about the program, please leave a comment below.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

Fun Is An Important Ingredient For High Performance

This morning I read with interest Australian Cricket Vice Captain Shane Watson sharing his thoughts on Australian Cricket Coach Darren Lehmann. Watson reported that a big reason for the Australian Team’s Ashes Whitewash over England was the fact that Lehmann had created an environment where the players were having fun. Watson believed that this key element had been missing over recent years.

Big group of young jumping people.Fun. The word itself makes you smile!

International cricket is serious business. Whole nations thrive on the success of their sporting heroes. The media presence and diagnosis of performance is never-ending. While success is public, so is failure. You could easily understand that ‘fun’ was something you did outside something so serious.

Yet humans yearn for fun. We love it.

When I work with teams one of the first questions I ask them to discuss is, “If we were a high performing team we would…?”.

The vast majority of teams have included ‘fun’ as part of their answer to this question. To be clear a high performing team does not exist to have fun. Rather, having fun is one of the critical elements that contribute to creating a high performing team.

The fact remains that if you are not having fun, at least some of the time then you are unlikely to be a high performing team.

When was the last time that you and your team had some fun? If it has been a while, do something about it. A simple suggestion is to celebrate your successes.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

Creating Life Balance in 2014

Life Balance should be judged over a year. Not over a day. Not over a week and not over a month!

Hopefully you are using the festive time of the year to take stock and re-energise. Reflect on your successes, achievements and challenges from 2013 and then look ahead to 2014 and beyond.

14No doubt many of you have created New Year Resolutions. If creating more Life Balance is one of those, here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.

1. Understand that in creating Life Balance you have many periods of being ‘out of balance’
When you judge your Life Balance over a year you will be okay with the fact that at various stages you will be ‘out of balance’ for periods of time. If you have been in a job for a while, or are studying then you will know the peak periods for your work or study. During these periods going on holidays is out of the question and your social life may take a backward step too. This is okay. Take note of when those ‘busy’ periods will be occurring and plan for them. In doing so you can be proactive with your friends and let them know that you may be hard to catch for the time that you have identified.

2. Book and pay for holidays in advance
I learned this tactic back in the late 1990s when I was suffering from overwork and fatigue. At that time of my life I used to wear my unused holidays as a badge of honour. “Look everyone. I work so hard I haven’t taken holidays for years!” As it turned out it was a silly view of the world to have as I was tired and lacked the energy to do my job properly. A good friend explained to me how he managed his energy by booking for and paying for his holidays in advance. That way both he and his family had something to look forward to throughout the year and because the holiday had already been paid for, it actually happened!

In activating this tactic I also learned that amazing deals are on offer providing you book and pay during the Xmas – New Year period (your holiday doesn’t have to be during this period, you just have to have booked it for some time during the year and have paid for it). This has literally saved me thousands of dollars – which contributes to the financial aspect of my Life Balance too!

3. Set physical goals

Lots of people set weight loss goals at this time of year. Unfortunately most people don’t get anywhere near their target weight because a specific weight is the wrong goal to have as your main goal. It is far better to set a goal that involves the achievement of a physical activity such as playing a sport on a regular basis, completing a hiking holiday or  completing a 20 kilometre walk. This year I will be supporting my wife Michelle as she prepares for her third Oxfam 100 Km Trailwallker in May. As one of her training partners I will be doing a lot of walking with her.

To enhance this tactic have ‘rolling goals’. Set multiple goals that will require you to have to keep fit so that you can achieve them. This helps to cut the risk of achieving a physical goal and then slipping back into bad habits after the goal has been achieved.

Use these three tips to help you to create the Life Balance that you desire. If you would like to learn more about creating Life Balance please visit here.

Leadership and Peak Performance Insights From Steve Moneghetti Recording



Steve Moneghetti is a world-renowned marathon runner who represented Australia at the sport’s highest level over many years.

Steve MoneghettiWhilst competing at these major championships he held a number of leadership roles within the team structure.

Since retiring at the Sydney Olympics he has held management roles at the Victorian Institute of Sport (Board Chairman), Australian Commonwealth Games Association (Mayor of Melbourne Games Village and Chef de Mission of Australian Team in India) and Athletics Australia (National Selector and National Team Manager).

Steve shares his insights about Leadership, Teamwork and High Performance.

Video length: 59:24

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

Leadership and Peak Performance Insights From Steve Moneghetti

Steve Moneghetti is a world-renowned marathon runner who represented Australia at the sport’s highest level over many years.

Steve MoneghettiWhilst competing at these major championships he held a number of leadership roles within the team structure.

Since retiring at the Sydney Olympics he has held management roles at the Victorian Institute of Sport (Board Chairman), Australian Commonwealth Games Association (Mayor of Melbourne Games Village and Chef de Mission of Australian Team in India) and Athletics Australia (National Selector and National Team Manager).

With a degree in Engineering and education qualifications he is now the Director of a successful sports consultancy company.

Join Gary Ryan from Organisations That Matter as he interviews Steve to explore leadership and the achievement of high performance in all aspects of your life.

This is a free online event.

Date: Tuesday 17th December 2013, 10am – 10:40am (ADT GMT+11)

Register now as seats are limited.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

LinkedIn For University Students


LinkedIn isn’t just for people who have started their careers. Used correctly, LinkedIn can help university students to jump-start their careers.

In this video Gary explains how to set up your profile, how to give and receive endorsements and recommendations, how to properly connect with people, how to use the group function effectively and how to build online to face to face business relationships.

While the video is tailored to university students, the tips and step by step guides are useful for anyone who wants to improve how they use LinkedIn to advance their career.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

Do High Performing Teams Accept Unacceptable Behaviour?

Whenever I conduct leadership development or my Teams That Matter® program I ask, “Do high performing teams accept or reject unacceptable behaviour?”.

The answer arrives with a resounding chorus, “They reject it!”.

Yet how can people reject unacceptable behaviour if the team hasn’t made explicit what behaviours are acceptable and unacceptable?

For example, is answering a phone in a team meeting acceptable or unacceptable behaviour? What about not speaking during team meetings? Or the leader who is always late to meetings? No doubt you may think that these behaviours are clearly unacceptable – at least from your perspective. You might hold the view that ‘everyone knows‘ that these behaviours are unacceptable.

The evidence is overwhelming that ‘everyone doesn’t know‘. The fact that these behaviours exist indicates that not everyone shares the same view that you have.

Teams need to have an explicit agreement about what behaviours are acceptable, and what behaviours are unacceptable. So how do you make these behaviours explicit?

You host a series of conversations.

First ask, “In any team of which you have been a member, what team member behaviours have really annoyed you because you believe they have detracted from the team’s performance or potential to perform?” Collect the responses and name this list ‘Hindering behaviours‘.

Young business colleagues showing unityI have never had a team not be able to answer this question! Unfortunately this indicates that people like you have experienced your fair share of annoying team member behaviours – which is why the list is so easy to create!

Next ask, “What behaviours should we adopt to help us to be the best that we can be?” Collect the responses and name this list ‘Supporting behaviours‘.

Each list usually has six to 10 behaviours.

Your last question is, “What will we do if we believe that we are seeing the unacceptable behaviours?

The power of this question is that it allows you to define the process that you will take when an issue arises. Yet, because you are having this discussion when there isn’t a ‘live’ issue it enables you to keep the emotion out of this conversation.

When you believe that you are seeing a team member do one of the hindering behaviours, it is important to keep an open mind to their side of the story. Over time I have learned that many people actually believe that they are doing a supporting behaviour when others see it as hindering behaviour. 

These conversations don’t take a lot of time to complete, yet most teams don’t conduct them. Be bold. Be different. Have the courage to make your acceptable and unacceptable behaviours explicit as they will make your challenge of creating a high performing team that much easier!

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good®.

Multi-tasking is about focus

Creating both personal and professional success requires the ability to make things happen and to get things done.

Being ineffective with your use of time is not an option. Yet there is so much that needs to be done.

Surely learning how to get more tasks completed at the same time is the most important skill that you can develop. And isn’t that what multi-tasking is all about? The truth is, it isn’t.

The most important skill that you can develop is the ability to focus on one task at a time.

iStock_000008217437SmallRecent research conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) highlights the importance of focus. This is especially true if you are performing complex tasks. The more complex the task, the larger the negative impact of letting yourself be distracted. Even small distractions as little as 2.8 seconds, such as checking a buzzing smart-phone, has dire consequences for your focus and your ability to complete complex tasks. Results indicated that error rates doubled even when these extremely short interruptions were present.

Multi-tasking is about your ability to focus on one task at a time. Then, as soon as you have completed that task or finished the time that you had allocated to that task, you quickly switch to another task and shift your focus to that task.

This means that you have to be pro-active and minimise distractions. Turn off your smart phone. Shut down your email application. Turn off your browser (unless you need it for the task you are completing) and explain to colleagues that you need a set period of uninterrupted time to focus on completing a task. If you have the option to work from home (assuming your home office provides an effective work space) complete complex tasks there, distraction free. This may be especially important if you work in an open space environment where staff interactions may generate a lot of distractions.

Train yourself to be a disciplined multi-tasker. Mastering this skill will have those around you wondering what your secret is. You’ll know that the answer comes from mastering a skill and that it doesn’t have anything to do with secrets. Just plain old focus and a willingness to be disciplined.

Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.

Lead by giving up control

Captain David Marquet spent 12 months learning every pipe, the procedures, the people, computer programs and the layout of the USS Olympia. Two weeks before he was to be deployed he was assigned to a different submarine, the newer nuclear powered USS Santa Fe. Upon taking command of his ship he did what every good naval Captain did. He gave orders.

“Engineer, start-up the reactor.” “Aye Captain!”

iStock_000002959290Small“XO make preparations to get underway.” “Aye Captain!”.

All was as expected. He was expected to give orders and the crew expected to follow orders.

On the ships first day at sea he decided to test the technicians, so he ordered the crew to ‘fake‘ a fault that would shut the reactor down. The engineers had the task to restart the reactor as soon as possible. When this occurs the ship operates from its backup battery engine. In an effort to create urgency, Captain Marquet ordered his Navigator, the most experienced sailor on board the USS Santa Fe to, “Go ahead two-thirds.” “Aye Captain! Helmsman, ahead two-thirds!”

Such action would drain the back up batteries at a faster rate, placing time pressure on the technicians to restart the reactor so that the main engine could return to operation.

“Aye Nav!” called out the helmsman.

But nothing happened. The vessel did not increase in speed. Even Captain Marquet could tell that nothing had happened. Yet the order had been given.

Peering around the telescope at his helmsman, Captain Marquet could see his hunched shoulders, indicating something was wrong. So he walked over to his helmsman.

“Helmsman, why hasn’t the ship proceeded to two-thirds?”

“Sir, there is no two-thirds speed on this ship.”

Captain Marquet had made a mistake. As all ‘good‘ command and control leaders do in such a circumstance he covered up his mistake.

“Good job Helmsman, you passed the test!”

He then questioned the Navigator. “Did you know that this ship could not proceed at two-thirds on battery power?”

“Yes.” replied the navigator.

“So, why did you give the order?” queried Captain Marquet.

“Because you told me, Sir.” came the reply.

Here was the most experienced sailor on the ship passing on an order from the most inexperienced person aboard the ship that he knew was wrong and he did it purely because of rank. He did this even though they were aboard a nuclear submarine where the consequences for errors are potentially catastrophic.

In that moment Captain Marquet knew that something had to change if he and the crew were going to make it safely through his captaincy.

He realised that even if he had been given the USS Olympia, the complexities involved in running a nuclear powered ship were such that it was ridiculous to think that any single person could know everything there was to need to know to properly run the ship. The command and control model of leadership was flawed.

So he met with his senior crew and they discussed their dilemma. They resolved that he would no longer make any orders (although he did keep the authority to launch weapons as he felt that because they could kill people it wasn’t appropriate to pass that responsibility on to someone else).

To support this change in behaviour they changed their language. The navigator would say, “I intend to submerge.” Captain Marquet would reply, “What two questions do you think I have in my head?”

“Is it safe and is it the right thing to do? Both questions are affirmative.”

And the Navigator would submerge the ship.

Captain Marquet decided that as far as possible authority needed to be given to where the information existed. So the crew in the engine room were the best placed to know when to replace the filters because they knew the engine and they knew when the ship needed to be quiet because of what it was doing and when it was okay for it to be making more noise, which it would be doing when maintenance was taking place. For such a system to run successfully two pillars need to be present.

1. Competence. Each crew member had to be competent at what they were doing. They had to be trained and be ‘expert’ in their role.

2. Clarity. This was provided by the answer to the question, “Is this the right thing to do now?”

Upon deciding to take this action improvements were made in 24 hours. It took under three years for the culture to be fully imbedded throughout the 135 crew on board the USS Santa Fe. Their results included the highest assessment score for any naval vessel in the history of the US Navy and the highest re-enlistment score of any submarine, which meant that the sailors wanted to continue to serve in that high performing environment.

The biggest challenge that Captain Marquet faced? Himself. His own need and desire to be in control was his biggest challenge. But he managed to resist his own needs to become a better leader.

If such a culture change can occur in the navy, why couldn’t it occur in your organisation? The lessons here are self-evident. Give control to where the information is; make sure your team members are competent in what they do (which includes selection and training); and make sure your people understand the ‘big picture’ so they have the ability to work out if their actions are the right thing to do at any moment.

These are powerful lessons on leadership. Give them a go. The results will astound you.

View a short video of a TEDx Talk that Captain David Marquet gave here.


Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.