Who is in charge of your development?

In today’s rapidly changing business environment there is a strong need for continuous development, which means acquiring new knowledge, skills and learning new effective behaviours and approaches.

Some companies have centralised or local-level development plans for their people, increasingly there are committees who meet to discuss their employee abilities and the future need for development within the organisation. Are you one of those people who hope that one day they (the committee) will discover you, you hope they have a development plan for you?

These meetings are backed up with yearly appraisals, thus meaning you need to wait for one whole year to get any information on how you are progressing, and then get a year to work on your development plan and improve on the skills/competencies identified in the appraisal.

What if a soccer team thought in the same way “Let’s play the game for one year and then we can meet to discuss how we are doing and come up with some improvements that we need to see during the next year”!

You may already work for one of those companies that already have identified a need to keep up with personal development changes in your field/position, this would then be recognized through:

  • A clear personal development plan, on-the-job as well as off-the-job training
  • Clear improvement targets
  • Regular feedback
  • Monthly appraisals
  • Within your team – learning from each other

If you are not that lucky or want to keep a parallel track on your development then there are many things you can do to ensure that you yourself are in charge of your own development.

Eight things you can do to stay in charge of your own development

  1. You are not sure what you are interested in

Take 15-30 minutes a week and watch one video that you find on TED Talks, YouTube or do a Google video search on a specific topic that you might be interested in. After one year you have then received insights on at least 40 new subjects that might in-turn give you an interest for your future path. It might happen already after 20 clips and then you can move on to step 2.

  1. I know what I want to learn more about, but can’t afford any training

Join a class on iTunes U or YouTube from a free online training provider – When you find one check for references and reviews before you start, some of the classes on iTunes U are from highly ranked universities. Then join a forum on LinkedIn and share/discuss your findings. If you have colleagues that are interested in the same areas you could discuss together and then share your findings and learnings.

  1. I don’t know my strength and weaknesses

Ask your colleagues and subordinates for feedback. Don’t ask what you are doing well, but instead ask very specific questions like:

  • Based on what you have seen so far – what do you think I should do more/less of or maybe change in order to improve in my job function?
  • Based on all the changes going on, and the needs in this company/position what advice would you give on what and how to improve?

Find the questions that make the most sense for you.

Cultural differences may not make it easy to ask subordinates, so then ask your manager, colleagues or maybe friends that know you well. See feedback as a gift, even if you don’t like what you receive – just say thank you! Otherwise you will stop people from giving you gifts (feedback) in the future and hence not get any information on what you need to improve. Think about an athlete trying to improve, without feedback would he or she become among the best?

I don’t have a budget

Search for free personality test/indicators – you will find several online tools available to explore your personality for free such as:

  1. www.similarminds.com
  2. www.feedbackonline.com (free demo mode)
  3. www.brighttalk.com
  4. www.queendom.com

Remember some of these tools are just an indicator, but if several tools are pointing in the same direction then it may be something to think about.

I have a budget

Call a consultancy company to get a more professional assessment carried out, be clear about why you are doing it and what you need. This might include: Psychometric assessments, interviews, reflection and 360 assessments.

  1. I know what I want to improve and “learning by doing” works best for me

What do you want to learn more about? Language, IT, Finance, leading people, project management, digital marketing …..

Think about what projects or activities would give you more knowledge on the topic; is this project available within your organization or outside?

Since it is an investment in your future you might need to do this outside working hours, waiting for the company you are working for to act may put you in a situation where the train has already left the station.

Outside working hours

Help out with your kids soccer team or whatever interests your kids might have (if you have kids). There are a number of different things you can practice from finance to team building etc. And yes it is ok to practice what your kids are doing, so you also become a role model for them. You can’t learn anything without practice and failing, learn from it and improve and do better next time.

Or join a charity and ask for a position where you can offer support and at the same time develop and learn about what you are interested in.

Remember that feedback and reflection are two important companions when learning from doing. So ensure that you ask yourself “what has gone well today” and “what could have been improved”, focusing on what you can do differently rather than what everyone else would change

Within working hours

Come up with an idea for an improvement project and ask for the resources to do it, if you can combine an idea for improvement with a clear realistic business result (i.e. this will make us save or this will help us to earn) you may have a good case. Remember to sell in the problem before you sell in the solution and ensure that the people you need to convince have a similar view of the current situation before you present your idea.

  1. Find a mentor

One way to acquire knowledge is to find yourself a mentor, who do you know that has the knowledge you need? Ask him or her if they would be prepared to meet, for example, 5 times per year to discuss specific topics and where they share their knowledge and experiences of what worked for them and what did not.

I know it is a big thing to ask, but all the people that I have recommended to take this route have always found a mentor after one or two attempts.

  1. Change job

If your current position is not giving you new challenges and the training you need to stay attractive in the market and your employers don’t react positively when you initiate a discussion about it, then It might be time to leave (Check with someone you trust to give you honest feedback if your demands are realistic first).

Some things you can do in order to get started:

  • Create/Update your profile on LinkedIn to get relevant offers and join relevant networks
  • Contact head-hunters/agencies and present your CV
  • Activate your network and be active within the network
  • Practise interview techniques with a trusted friend/colleague


  1. Build and invest in your network

In today’s job market it is common that a lot of vacancies are filled through contacts within networks, these may be digital, school, job or private networks. Make sure you are keeping your network up-to-date and nurture it with material, knowledge, meetings, lunches, support etc. to ensure people in your network want to support you when you need it. You need to invest before you can harvest.

  1. Nothing of the above works for me

Ask yourself – Do you really want to develop?


Remember very little development happens in your comfort zone, in order to learn to ski well you need to dare to take a fall. The same thing goes with any development; you can’t do it without failing now and then – Be sure to fail fast and fail cheap and recover quickly. Then ask yourself 2 questions; what did I learn and how will I deal with it next time.

Did you learn to walk without taking a tumble?

Enjoy your learning journey – Stay in tune and make sure you sustain your market attraction and lastly – don’t expect someone else to do it for you.


Mastering the Feedback process: Part 2

Part 2: The Feedback session (Approx. 40-50 min)

Begin by showing and explaining very quickly how to read the report. This should not take more than 2-4 minutes. This is to avoid any logical confusion. Even if the report is very simple, people can sometimes misunderstand things! Then check if the person understood it all.

Next: Ask the person to read the report for 10-15 minutes or so, uninterrupted, in solitude. In the meantime, you’re quiet, doing something else. You can even leave the room if you want to (but don’t go too far away).

After 10-15 min: Ask the client for the report, close it and ask: “If you never were to see this report again, what would you remember from it? What in the report made you glad, surprised etc., and, if you were to be rated again on these statements in six months time, are there things in your current report (showing the report) that you then would like to see differently in the ratings or in comments?”

This will help you see if the person is stuck with something (positive OR negative) and you can then tailor your questions to deal with this, from here, you can proceed with your facilitation. If you are new to these types of facilitation sessions it would be helpful to brush up on coaching techniques such as GROW, Appreciative inquiry etc. Basically, this part of the session aims at helping the client see important patterns and to unlock any defense mechanisms. You, as a professional facilitator, should avoid being prescriptive during this part of the session and mainly use open-ended question techniques!



Defense Mechanisms are what we use to protect us from what may cause (emotional) pain, which feedback some times does! Examples of some common defense mechanisms – in no ranking order – are:

Humor: Joking about it (Trivializes the subject)

Denial: Typical response: “They (the others) are wrong”

Intellectualization: Finding a seemingly logical (often wrong) and intellectual explanation to why the others have rated you in a certain way. i.e. “It must have been because they did not understand the question” etc.

Projection: “They gave me this rating because they are even worse at…” etc.

Blaming: “The reason I behave in such a way is because the organization/my manager does not give me sufficient time/training/support/…” (fill in blanks)

The art of dealing with people’s defense mechanisms is by no means easy in a feedback session. This guide is too short to discuss how to spot any defence mechanisms with the client and how to unlock them but practice – combined with a good theory understanding – makes perfect as the saying goes!

Finishing the feedback session:
In finishing and rounding off the feedback session you may want to tick off a few but important things with your client such as:

• “What are your takeaways from this session? Aha:s, insights and more…”

• “Is there anything you learned about yourself and how other people perceive your behaviors that you want to start/stop/change or develop further?” (Try to pick two)

• (On each of the two behaviors selected): “What are you going to do – concretely – that will make a positive difference and a movement into the direction you want? How will others notice this?”

• “How do you intend to thank other people for their contribution? What will you say to them about your insights about yourself and your personal commitment to develop yourself further?”

• “When will you do this?” Finish the session by asking the client to what extent the session fulfilled the expectations/purpose that you discussed in the very beginning of the session.

After thanking the client, you should allow yourself 30-45 minutes before you take on the next session. Typically no more than 5 feedback sessions per facilitator in one day is recommended in order to keep high quality standards.


Part 1: Setting the scene

Mastering the Feedback process: Part 1



This guide provides some valuable insights on how to conduct a professional feedback session with a client who is about to see his/her 360 degree report for the first time.

The guide walks you through an easy-to-remember process with some key milestones and hints, it also talks about some common defense mechanisms you may encounter as a facilitator during the feedback session.

Finally, this guide supports you in keeping your eye on the overall objective: That the client – receiving feedback – should get some tangible and valuable insights that he/she can transform into positive actions and behaviours.

Although the guide is detailed in some aspects, it is recommended that the professional facilitator use this guide as a handrail and not as a handcuff. Each session is unique – and so is the style of the facilitator!

Part 1: Setting the scene (Approx. 30-45 min + 10 min)

People usually experience mixed feelings before and into a feedback session. Before the actual session is about to begin – with you as the professional facilitator – many people feel a mix of curiosity, awkwardness, excitement or even worry. Therefore, your first task as a facilitator is to bring down any tension as fast as possible to increase the client’s listening ability and overall receptiveness for feedback.

Here are some milestones:

1. Your preparation (app 30-45 minutes pre-work): Make sure you come well prepared to the meeting. This means having read through the client’s report and memorized some key points such as:

a. Exceptionally high or low scores (absolute comparisons)
b. Notable discrepancies in scores from managers vs. colleagues vs. subordinates (relative intra-group comparisons)
c. Notable deviations, positive or negative, in self scoring vs. others scoring (self-image validity)
d. Any comments in the open text section that support your findings under (a-c) above
e. Any patterns that run through the report i.e. are specific behaviors or competences interlinked in
this report in any way?


2. Introduction with client (app 5 minutes):

a. Starting from the client’s state of mind: The feedback session is conducted in a quiet room without interruption. No office landscapes, mobile phones ringing or people entering asking questions etc. Before starting the actual session, try to gauge the client’s state of mind to ensure attentiveness and low stress levels. Simply asking: “How are you today” or: “What were your feelings/thoughts before coming to this session today” will give some hints to whether the client’s mind is receptive or occupied with other things. Also, asking: “Tell me a little bit about your raters and why you chose them” is a good way of exploring relationship status before the actual feedback session starts.

b. Purpose: State the purpose of the session i.e. “That you will get insights to what your strengths are and that you will leave with two things for personal development to work on”. You should also ask the client: “What would YOU like to get out of this session?” At this stage in the feedback session process it is important to point out to the client that there is no competition in the numbers, it’s all about personal development!

3. Practical but important data (app 5 minutes): Last thing before you enter into analysis of the report together, communicate some practical data to the client such as:

a. The session is expected to last… (i.e. 50 minutes)

b. “My role in this session is being a coach. I will not tell you what is right or 
wrong, but I will work together with you so that you can see the themes 
coming through in the report and therefore draw your own conclusions ”

c. “I (the facilitator) have no idea who – apart from your manager (who is not 
anonymous of course) – gave you what rating/comments in the report”

d. “I operate under strict confidentiality i.e. what you say to me will not be 
told further to your manager, HR or anyone else. However the aggregated and anonymized results of all participating rated persons will be compiled into a report for…” (fill in blank)

e. Communicate to the person what will happen after your feedback session i.e. “The aggregated information will be used for….”

f. Say to the person that it is “up to you to keep your report as confidential as you want to, but since a number of people have put their best efforts and good intentions into rating you, our recommendation is that you say ‘thanks’ to these people and also communicate something on what value/insights/ideas for action their feedback triggered with you”

Part 2: The Feedback session