Activity: Helping Students See the "Gift" in Feedback


Young people can be very hard on themselves. Under even the best of circumstances, they can be very quick to judge. And when it comes to reviewing their Student Leadership Practices Inventory (Student LPI) results, this can present some unique challenges for you as a coach or facilitator during your debriefing session.
 
Your ability to position the Student LPI report as a development tool, rather than a test score, is key to helping your students interpret the results in a positive manner. Here are a few tips on how to move through the process to achieve a positive outcome.


1. Start by having your students identify one thing from the report that they notice. Do they express it as a failure or as something they don’t do well? If so, that's your signal to remind them that this is about frequency of observed behavior, not judgment of their abilities.

2. Because of the way the assessment process works (self-assessment first, then feedback from others), students can build up expectations and anxieties about their results. A helpful metaphor that can provide a frame of reference can be “it’s a snapshot in time.” Like any snapshot, there is some truth in it but there is much more that is unclear or out of the picture frame. You might joke with them about seeing a snapshot of themselves when they thought “Ugh, I look awful!” or “Wow, I look great!” It’s not the picture that matters; it’s what you do as a result of seeing it. Students may need help thinking through the emotional reaction they have to the data.

3. Another helpful tool for facilitators is to think of this process in the same way one might receive terrible news. The acronym S.A.R.A. is derived from the work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and can be very useful in understanding what some students might go through when reviewing their feedback for the first time:

Shock: The first response to the news one finds unacceptable.

Anger: “This isn’t fair, and it’s not right!” or “There must be a mistake!” A common response at this stage is to focus on the messenger, not the overall message. You can remind students of this when questions arise about data that seems out of line to them.

Reflection: With time to reflect, people can begin to understand the implications of the news and move to the next stage.

Acceptance: This is the stage when students come to fully understand the feedback and take ownership, accepting that the responsibility to change lies with them.

As students move through each of these stages of S.A.R.A., they often have plenty of questions and need coaching and support to make a successful transition. From our experience, here are some of the most common questions and responses that may be useful as you prepare for your Student LPI debriefing sessions:

What are the right answers?

There are no universal “right” answers when it comes to leadership. Still, the research indicates that the more frequently student leaders are perceived as engaging in the behavior and actions identified in the Student LPI, the more likely it is that they will be perceived as effective leaders.

Should my perceptions be consistent with the ratings other people give me?

The general answer to this question is yes, although there may be understandable exceptions. You will have an opportunity to discuss this in more detail with your students when you look at the actual data. The usual response is that student leaders are more effective when their self-perceptions match the perceptions of them provided by others.

Can I change my leadership behavior?

To this question the answer is categorically yes. Leadership is a skill like any other skill, which means that, with feedback, practice, and good coaching, people can improve at it. However, few people improve their skills dramatically overnight!

4. It is important to respect the personal and sensitive nature of these reports, particularly when they are reviewed for the first time. We recommend that you carefully consider how and when you deliver the reports and where you conduct the debriefing sessions. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are considering how you will distribute the reports:

How can you best support students if the report contains information that is very difficult to accept?

Do you have the opportunity to review the reports prior to distributing them so you can be prepared to field questions and concerns that arise?

Can you give them the reports with time to review them in private should they choose?

Does your plan for distribution and review minimize the potential for a competitive atmosphere where scores are compared?

We have found that students need support and coaching in order to fully understand their feedback in a positive way. To provide that support, we find that we can achieve a more positive outcome when we establish a time for the one-to-one session first, and then deliver (by email, for example) the report to the student. Students need time to review the report but require immediate follow up to help them manage their response to the information.

5. The biggest challenge students face is pressure to perform above their peers.  Especially for students whose scores are not as high as they expected, it is important that they don’t feel pressure to share their scores, except in a safe environment. You are the one who creates that environment.

Remember, the goal is to have students inspired to “do something” with their Student LPI results. All these are options to consider for helping them absorb the feedback in the most positive way so they will eagerly begin their leadership journey.

 
Beth High is president of HighRoad Consulting, a leadership development company, where she focuses on the challenges of leading effectively in the virtual environment and creating tools to help maximize the power of The Leadership Challenge, including her most recent product for ongoing practice, FollowThruOnline. She is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge Workshop® and a facilitator for the Student Leadership Challenge  Certified Facilitator Training Program. She can be reached at highroadconsulting@gmail.com.

Category: Activities

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