Lisa Johnson (00:00):
Most managers do not like communicating feedback for various reasons. They just don't like it. And to the extent that they prepare and then apply. 'cause We know that practicing makes you more comfortable, just keep doing it. That helps to lessen that angst. It helps lessen the lack of confidence, and it builds their skill. They get, they get better and better at it.
Troy Blaser (00:29):
Hello and welcome to Simply Feedback, the podcast brought to you by LearningBridge. I'm your host, Troy Blazer. It's great to be with you today. Our guest today is Lisa Johnson. I'm looking forward to our conversation with her. Let me just tell you a little bit about Lisa as a human resource professional, as a public speaker and a communications coach, Lisa Johnson works with busy organizations to build leadership skills and reduce people risk. Her philosophy is grounded in the message that bringing humanity and consistency to daily interactions is key, not only to personal growth, but also to greater organizational productivity. She's a contributing author of the book, imagination at Work, shifting Boundaries in the Workplace. Lisa, welcome to Simply Feedback. It's so great to have you with us today.
Lisa Johnson (01:19):
Thank you, Troy. It's a pleasure to be here.
Troy Blaser (01:22):
I'm excited for our conversation. Maybe just to get things started and to help us get to know you just a little bit, I wonder, could you tell us about a time that somebody gave you some feedback in your life that maybe had an impact on your life, on your career, but maybe was a important bit of feedback for you?
Lisa Johnson (01:40):
Yes, Troy. A freeing moment in my life where I received feedback came from a supervisor who pulled me aside and told me, gave me some great advice that, Lisa, when you're in the spotlight and things don't go according to plan. Mm-Hmm. shake it off and keep it moving. And the reason he said that was that he noticed that my demeanor had changed. The light had gone outta my eyes. There was a little slump in my shoulder. I wasn't as chatty. And his point was, nine outta 10 times, folks aren't going to know that there's a problem, but they'll know there's a problem by your demeanor. And I could not have known then when he told me that, how many times I would actually be in a spotlight, let alone literally metaphorically, you know, with events and projects. And so it has been invaluable feedback to think about my, how I appear and my demeanor and how I move forward.
Troy Blaser (02:43):
Oh, that's cool. It it reminds me of in junior high school, I was in the orchestra. We were all beginner musicians. Right. But we were constantly getting the advice from the conductor, if you miss a note, leave it, drop it, keep, keep moving forward. Right. And we missed a lot of notes in junior high school, that's for sure. But, but I really like that idea of you know, the audience is queuing into your, your own reactions. And if you are going on as if things are going swimmingly, they're gonna think things are going great. But if you get concerned, then they're gonna be nervous. Right. Wait a minute, I missed something. Exactly. Oh, that's fantastic. And that's, like you say, you've, you've been able to use that, whether you're literally in a spotlight or metaphorically in the spotlight standing at the front of the room, presenting, teaching, and whether that's a technical problem or you know, something just in the content, or it's not landing with the audience the way you had hoped or, or whatever it might be.
Lisa Johnson (03:41):
It's true. And, and as a perfectionist, it's even more important because, you know, I, I tend to have these exacting standards, and so it doesn't take much, you know, for me to become crestfallen. And so I, over time, I have just really managed that out. And it's been life changing, really.
Troy Blaser (04:00):
Oh, that's cool. I, you know, you do spend time. You're, you're a public speaker, a an HR professional. Is that something that you've always wanted in your career? Was there a turning point? Maybe you were going down a certain path, and you turned a corner to lead you to where you are now that you could tell us about?
Lisa Johnson (04:18):
Happy to. There was a turning point. I, I've been a lifelong HR professional working in the corporate world. And I was primarily manufacturing. And you may or may not know, manufacturing historically has had a lot of ebbs and flows, a lot of fluctuation. And I've navigated those pretty well. But I, I ran into a point in my career where a company that I was working for was undergoing some dramatic changes. And I sensed that the definition of the HR function was, was shifting. And the priority of what the HR function was doing was shifting. And for me, it was a moment where I had to sit down and do some self-reflection and think, is this direction I wanna go or not? At that time, I decided that with all of the skill and knowledge that I have, I have the wherewithal to start my own business and become a professional coach and consultant. Something that had really had been a goal long-term for when I retire. But seemed like the immediacy of it was more appropriate. So I took the plunge, and that's how HR knowhow came to be. And so it was a pivotal point for me in becoming a business owner and a professional coach and trainer, and now speaker.
Troy Blaser (05:31):
Yeah. And I imagine there's a whole set of new skills that you need to pick up as you leave the, sort of the comfort of a corporation and strike out on your own. Is that right? You
Lisa Johnson (05:42):
Better believe it. And one of the things that I had learned was to surround yourself with people that you trust and who can give you good advice. And that was one of the first things I did was put a lot of research into it, including people research.
Troy Blaser (05:57):
Oh, that's cool. And, and sounds exciting too. It sounds like something that you're passionate about and has led in a lot of different directions than what otherwise would've just been, you know, inside of a company.
Lisa Johnson (06:08):
Yes, it has.
Troy Blaser (06:09):
That's really great. I know that you were a contributing author for the book that we mentioned there, Imagination at Work: Shifting Boundaries in the Modern Workplace. This was a little bit new to me. So tell me about this book. It sounds like there were maybe multiple contributors to it. Is that how it was set up?
Lisa Johnson (06:28):
Yes. And I will tell you, Troy, this is a good example of one of the things that was not on my radar when I was reflecting. I said a coach, a consultant. You did not hear me say writer in there anywhere. Yes. It was not on my radar. And a friend, Vivian Blade introduced me to a business book strategist. Didn't even know there was such a thing. Her name is Cathy Fyock, and she acclimated me to the idea that a book could be my business card to my new business. And I'd seen people do that before. Like, I got my book, you know, and it's, it's so impressive. Never thought that would be Me. But she had an anthology series, it's called the @Work series, and she was working on the last edition. And it's basically a collaboration of authors from different areas of the HR related space that would come together and each contribute a chapter. And the last book was called Imagination @Work. And I'm contributing with four or five other authors, and it became my business book. And it has helped me tremendously in promoting my business.
Troy Blaser (07:42):
And what was your specific topic that you contributed to the anthology?
Lisa Johnson (07:47):
So my topic was about managing compliance with Confident Communications. Now, this was early days, so I did not have the nice branding of the terminology. So it was, it was a, a mouth mouthful, you know. But it all comes back to helping managers communicate with their employees and a confident way that will help reduce people risk, those difficult conversations that we know they have. Performance, personality conflicts, policy violations. How do you do that in a way that you feel confident and you're keeping your organization compliant
Troy Blaser (08:23):
And all of that under the title Imagination at Work. So yes, you've, you do that in a creative sort of imaginative way, but still be compliant. Yes. Can you just help me out? What do you mean by reducing people risk? What does that mean?
Lisa Johnson (08:39):
So, what I have come to realize over my career is that when I see compliance issues, legal issues, people raising things to third parties because of how they feel they've been treated within their organization, that's the risk that organizations have. Okay. Because with that comes the risk of reputation, the risk of fines, you know, all of that. The risk of culture and climate and all of that. And so that's what I'm talking about is the employee relations risk that comes with folks that are displeased with their work environment, how they've been treated.
Troy Blaser (09:15):
That makes sense. So you just, now you've got me thinking about our podcast, simply feedback. As you are working to reduce people risk, I imagine there must be some amount of feedback back and forth. How are, you know, checking in? How do our employees feel? Do they, are they happy? Are they displeased? Are they going outside to other third parties to talk about some of these issues they're having? Or are we able to deal with them internally? Is there some amount of feedback that goes on there as you work on that?
Lisa Johnson (09:43):
Yes. Yes, it does. My angle in all of this is before a person ever feels that what you've just described is going to where these things first take their root, which in my awareness and learning is that it takes root in the day-to-day interactions that happen between employees and other employees, between employees and their managers. That's where it takes root. Somebody said something that someone didn't like, they were treated differently. Someone intimidated someone, someone got a bad performance review, somebody was treated unfairly. It starts in just those day-to-day things. Often that happen many times a day. Yeah. That then, if they're not handled appropriately, escalate into these other issues. Now, one of the ways that companies can help identify those is of course, through feedback, like your engagement surveys and, and having your, your town halls where people can ask anonymous questions and things like that. Those are wonderful tools. I tend to focus on helping managers so that on a day-to-day basis, they're helping to minimize it from ever happening.
Troy Blaser (10:55):
Is there a tip, like, you know a great, that kind of that first top of the list kind of idea that we could pass along ways to help managers be more confident in their, in their employee conversations?
Lisa Johnson (11:08):
Preparation is a key. Okay. Preparation and application. So what I have found is that most managers do not like communicating feedback. Yeah. For various reasons. Yeah. They just don't like it. And to the extent that they prepare and then apply, 'cause we know that practicing makes you more comfortable, just keep doing it. That helps to lessen that angst. It helps lessen the lack of confidence, and it builds their skill. They get, they get better and better at it. So when I say preparation, I don't mean that it has to be this lengthy, arduous process. There are some fairly efficient and effective measures you can take that can change things like immediately. And that's what I tend to that's what I navigate in that space.
Troy Blaser (11:55):
I love that. I, I really liked as I was reading through your bio and getting ready that you have in there bringing humanity and consistency to daily interactions. And I thought, you know, that's, that's so important. That idea of all of, all of us as employees, we're people first, right. We're humans. And so keeping that humanity in those daily interactions between a manager and the people that the manager's supervising, you know that really is so important. I think
Lisa Johnson (12:26):
That gets yousuch a long way towards the reducing people risk. Just those two things.
Troy Blaser (12:34):
Oh, that's fantastic. Now, you said earlier you didn't have it on your radar to be an author, but I understand you've got a new book coming as well. Tell us about that. What's the name of the book and, and the topic, and how's that coming?
Lisa Johnson (12:47):
I'm very excited that I am about to publish getting ready Solutions for the Well-intentioned Leader. And the first of all, I was like, well, I've done a chapter. I need to just do a book. Right. I gotta own it. If I'm gonna be a real writer, let me just have my own book. So, sure. Solutions for the well-intentioned Leader and Leader, the whole concept is the theme of No good deeded goes unpunished, and managers will know exactly what I'm talking about here. Somewhere in their, in their working life, they've had a situation I know where something that they attempted to do with the best of intentions went awry. And in this book, what I'm focusing on are specifically in their dealings with people. And also when the thing that goes awry leads to potential risk and compliance for the organization, the things we were talking about of es it gets escalated, conflict gets escalated, or somebody's going to complain to an outside party or what have you. Yeah. These things happen, and they happen due to those day-to-day conversations that take root. So this is what this book is about, and it provides tools, insights, best practices to help managers avoid them,
Troy Blaser (14:04):
Avoid that, those kinds of again, reducing people risk.
Lisa Johnson (14:08):
Troy Blaser (14:09):
That's fantastic. We were talking earlier about spotlights. And, and you've even been in a literal spotlight because you've been able to participate in the TEDx sort of experiences in, in giving a talk, the, a TEDx talk called, "Moving Beyond Implicit Bias I had the chance to watch that. I thought it was fascinating. Could you share with us an idea or two on that topic of that, of that TED Talk that you did?
Lisa Johnson (14:36):
Thank you very much for the compliment. I'm so pleased that you viewed it. The TEDx, I did that for, for Lewis University. And I think in the vein of what we're talking about today in regards to feedback. Yeah.
Lisa Johnson (14:52):
For me, this talk, "Moving Beyond Implicit Bias," it was one of self-reflection. And so it was really about self feedback. Having the wherewithal to realize when there is an internal conflict, what I am saying does not equate to what I am doing. Yeah. I am participating in some hypocritical behaviors, and I'm recognizing it, and it's causing me some, some internal angst. What can I do to address this? And as we know, we all have implicit bias, and so the talk takes us through steps of how we can deal with that internally so that we're walking the talk, but also we're modeling behaviors that are gonna help others. And so it's really the importance of being able to be self-reflective and have self feedback moments.
Troy Blaser (15:45):
I really like that it, it resonated with me because there have been times in my own life where I've sort of stepped aside and said, now, hold on. What you just, the, the pattern you were just thinking doesn't match with what you say you want to be thinking, you know? And yes. And that can be a challenge to recognize if, if the bias is implicit, that can be very subtle or un subconscious. And that can really be a challenge to recognize. Are there any ideas or tips that you would give for managers or others who are in the position of giving and even receiving feedback around recognizing implicit bias? You know, maybe if we're in the position of giving feedback, or if we're receiving feedback that may be coming with some implicit bias, are there things that we can do to recognize that and, and, and work with it?
Lisa Johnson (16:37):
You know, it's, it's a tricky conversation and, and it's twofold. You know, that's, it's when we're doing it, but it's when we're also observing others. Right. Yeah. And, and what I find is that an approach a very one thing that you would not want to do is have an, an aggressive approach, because as we've just discussed, particularly if it's implicit bias. Yeah. people really may not have any clue of what they're doing. Okay. So, for me, I think this is definitely an avenue where empathy and, and asking questions and getting the person to talk, and then helping them to understand and see the impact of whatever it is, the comment, the behavior, or what have you. One of the things that I, I tend to go to is the fact that really this, how different is this person from you when it comes to the things that matter, the things that matter. We, you know, we want to, that person loves their family as much as you do. That person wants to come to work and be productive just like you. You know, they have dreams and aspirations. Yeah. And, and, you know, that, that commonality. So those are some of the methods that I use, depending upon the situation to help get that conversation going.
Troy Blaser (17:51):
I love that. It goes, we were talking earlier, it goes back to we're all humans and, and treating each other as humans, as, as, like you say, we have a lot in, a lot more in common that we need to remember about. And, and keep in mind, yes. I really like that. I I did, I watching your Ted Talk. I won't spoil it, but you start with a, the beginning of a fantastic and compelling story. And I'm like, I, I wanna know the end. What's the end of the story, and is she gonna get to the end of the story? And you did, but it, it was well worth the wait through the talk. So it was just interesting to me to I thought you had set that up very well because it made me just on the edge of my seat the whole time. .
Lisa Johnson (18:34):
I was hoping that would work. Troy. Thank you. .
Troy Blaser (18:36):
Well, it worked for me. I'll say that for sure. Lisa, as you've stepped, you know, you, you made that transition from transition from HR officer in a corporation and now into your own sort of business, your own sphere. I imagine you have the chance to work across many different organizations and different kinds of organizations. What are some of the biggest challenges that you see as you encounter all of those different
Lisa Johnson (19:05):
Organizations? One of the common themes that I now navigate with organizations, whether it's healthcare, educational facilities, financial organizations, it's that whole thought of managers just aren't comfortable giving feedback. Okay. And that's a broad spectrum. And it includes, for example, the fact that it can, can create a demoralizing culture. You know, not providing constructive feedback to somebody who's not performing, whether that person's a poor performer and who's getting by, or whether that person's a high performer and their bad behaviors aren't being addressed. So that's one sphere that tends to come up consistently. And then another, to a lesser degree, but still comes up, is being able to provide people with constructive feedback that's positive in a way that's going to be effective. A lot of organizations recognize that they don't have nice, not necessarily formal, but sometimes formal, but programs in place to make sure that people are acknowledged mm-hmm. in an appropriate way. And for me, what that comes down to, 'cause once again, I take it down to the day-to-day Yeah. Is how can managers give feedback in a way that doesn't necessarily break the bank, but on a day-to-day routine basis. Because that's another angle of it that, that elevates morale. So those two things kinda keeping with the feedback thing Yeah. Consistently are areas that I find where there are obstacles. And once again, it comes back to communication. Always needed.
Troy Blaser (20:47):
And, and also I was thinking as you were talking about that, I thought also the practice part you know, as a manager gets more practice in giving feedback, whether it is that constructive, you know, here's some things that you could improve on, or the positive feedback and the sort of the kudos. Here's what you know, you're doing great. Keep doing more of this. The more practice, the, the easier it gets.
Lisa Johnson (21:11):
It truly does. You, you, it's almost you know, like anything, when you practice, you start to realize, Hey, this wasn't as hard as it was before. And all also, I'm having more success with this than I Yeah. Than I was before. Yeah. It, it really does build upon itself. And, and it, it really changes. It changes, first of all, how you look at things because now you've consistently started doing it, but it changes how other people see you because now you're employing practices that you hadn't before. That's making things better.
Troy Blaser (21:42):
Yeah. Well, it, it changes how they see you and it, and they, they feel seen by you as the manager because they're receiving that feedback as well. Yes. For sure. I like that. You mentioned earlier, we asked you about a time when you had received some feedback in your coaching and, and the work that you've been doing. Can you share with us a, a time or an experience when you've sort of seen feedback cause a point of inflection in someone's career or someone's life where you've kind of maybe played the part of a coach?
Lisa Johnson (22:13):
Yes. And this really is one where you know, in the line of human resources, you can imagine, right? Right. These things are, and I, and it's always a powerful moment when you can see a change, a shift, a pivotal move. That's almost like an epiphany. Doesn't happen often enough, but when it happens, it's wonderful. Yeah. And I think if I were to, to give an example one situation that I had was a person and it's usually behavioral. So a lot of times I'll be dealing with high performers. Okay. But there's some behavioral issues where they're just not connecting with team, things like that. Okay. And I had a situation where that happened with a person who was in a, a fairly fairly high on the hierarchy, but was struggling with the, the team standpoint. And we had some coaching sessions.
Lisa Johnson (23:03):
And once again, the self, you know, just advocating the self-reflection, showing empathy, you know, all those things that we've been talking about, listening, et cetera. And a little tough love in terms of how they're being perceived. You know, A 360 will do that every time, you know? Yes. That, that will definitely shed some light Yes. 360 feedback survey is what I'm referring to. Yeah. And to see a person decide that they're gonna own it mm-hmm. and make the turn and employ the feedback from that is just, I mean, that's, that's why I'm here. It's just a wonderful thing to see. And of course, you know, you've accomplished it. First of all, if the person's happy that you were coaching, but also their supervision is happy. Like, I see a change. Yeah. This is good. It's like, man, it's a great world.
Troy Blaser (23:49):
, we have here at LearningBridge, we have a motto. We, we talk a lot about feedback but we talk about receiving feedback graciously and acting on it visibly. And you kind of hit on those two things exactly. Right. That the person you were coaching decided to own it. And probably then, now there's some graciousness in accepting that feedback, saying, okay, I, I'm, I believe this feedback that I'm getting. But then the act on it visibly, that gets reflected because the supervisor is happy. Right. The supervisor says, oh, I can see that they, they received the feedback, they made some changes. And, and it's visible. Those changes are visible enough that I can see a difference.
Lisa Johnson (24:28):
Troy Blaser (24:30):
I imagine it can be, sometimes it can be a challenge coaching those high performing individuals because they are doing so many things well, and, and they get a lot of positive feedback for the things that they're doing. Well, that can be difficult sometimes then to say, you're doing fantastic. Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind. Do you find that to be true?
Lisa Johnson (24:52):
Yes. It is a challenge. It's probably one of the biggest challenges because if the person doesn't have a good dose of self-awareness, uhhuh, , that is, that's, that's a barrier. And you almost, if, if you can't break down that self-awareness barrier, the op the opportunities for success have been greatly reduced. Yeah. And so trying to bring that piece in into play is important. And also even from a higher viewpoint, organizations tend to be shy about trying to address those individuals because after all, they are high performers. Right. So one of the messages I do a session on leadership plus awareness equals success. And that's tailored directly to more senior levels to show that you really need to tackle this issue because you don't realize the damage that is being done by this wonderful high performer because of their behavioral tendencies. So those are some of the things we encounter with that.
Troy Blaser (25:47):
Any tips or guidance on ways to break down that to, or I guess to raise the self-awareness for those individuals as you start to coach and work with somebody what are some ways to help them become more aware?
Lisa Johnson (26:02):
I really am an advocate of 360 feedback I mentioned before. Yeah. And I know that there are a lot of opinions about 360 feedback. For me, the power of a 360 feedback comes, first of all, you have a coach who can utilize it effectively, because if it's used as a weapon or it's used as an intimidation factor or something like that, it's, it's not gonna work. Yeah. But if it's used truly in the sense of how it is supposed to be intended, which is we like you as an employee, you are stellar, you're great. Here are some things that you need to work on 'cause it's causing problem. That can be a game changer. And if you can com couple that with the self-awareness piece. And that would be like a self-assessment for the person, right. To help build their wellness awareness. Those two things together tend to have more of an opportunity for success, that type of formula.
Troy Blaser (26:56):
I like that. So you get you know, if you do a 360 degree feedback survey, you get the report and, and you, the inevitably there will be a section in there saying, here's what you thought. Here are the biggest gaps between what you thought in your self-assessment and how the others rated you. And that can definitely bring some awareness of, oh, I, I never thought of it that way, or I didn't realize it that way. Right?
Lisa Johnson (27:20):
Yes. It's very eye-opening. And that's really where the coach is just central, because how that person receives it and what they do with it, the coach can have some guidance and influence there because it, you know, could definitely go south. Yeah. Right. And so having a good coach that can help the person in interpret mm-hmm. what they receive and, and manage in such a way so that there is a positive outcome is really important.
Troy Blaser (27:47):
And I suppose there's also, sometimes awareness needs to be brought in terms of the difference between the feedback from your manager and the feedback from your direct reports can be very different. Right? If you manage up Yes. Or you manage down and, and understanding that and being aware of that difference and mitigating it if, if needed to say, okay, I need to pay more attention in the direction of my direct reports or, or to my manager, you know? Yes.
Lisa Johnson (28:13):
And that can be very stark in a 360, which is why I love the tool. Yeah. It will definitely highlight, okay, you have a great reporting relationship with your supervisor, but look what's happening here in this quadrant with your direct reports. Yes. Right. it can be, it can be extremely helpful Also I, I'm MBTI certified. Okay. And that's another, you know, those, those kinds of assessments, they have a fun component, but can do the same thing. It highlights where there's differences in how a person what their tendencies are and how there can be conflict based upon that. Yeah. So anything that highlights those gives you something to start the conversation.
Troy Blaser (28:52):
I love that. We've done the MBTI as a team and, and I found that very valuable as well to think, okay, how do I work with my team? Understanding their personalities better now really helps me know how to work with them and, and, and how my own personality sort of meshes in with theirs. I really like that.
Lisa Johnson (29:11):
Troy Blaser (29:12):
Well, Lisa, you've shared a ton of thoughts, a ton of advice, guidance, tips. Is there anything else in terms of advice that you would share with our listeners in terms of the work that you're doing or, you know, things for them to be aware of as they're working in their own environments?
Lisa Johnson (29:28):
One thing that I think that is underutilized and can make immediate change is listening skills. And how many times have we heard listening, right? Yeah. How many times do we think we're good, good listeners? But what I'm saying is, the next time that someone is talking to you and sharing with you, put down the phone, turn down volume or what have you, listen to the person and, and don't, I'm, don't interrupt with solutions. Well, what you ought to do is this, or have you thought about this? And, and you know, don't interrupt with, oh, well this is, this is what happened to me. And then next thing you know, you're off with your segue. Listen to the person and ask them, am I understanding you correctly? You're saying this, and is this what I'm hearing correctly? Let them know that they're being seen, that they're being heard, that you hear them.
Lisa Johnson (30:25):
And then what you will find is there'll either be an uncomfortable silence when they stop because they'll pause or they'll start to ramble because now they're nervous. Yes. One of those will happen. Most likely that is your opportunity, because what you say in that moment is a powerful moment. That's where you have sway because you have shown that person that they're being heard, and now they're waiting to hear back from you. And you can have influence in ways that you haven't imagined. And so many times we just don't, we don't listen to people and hear them out.
Troy Blaser (30:59):
I love that. And, and it gets back to the theme of bringing, bringing that humanity to the interactions, right? We're all here in a, in a corporation or an organization as employees, but we are humans first. And we need to remember that in our interactions. And, and, and like you say, someone who feels heard, feels like they've been listened to, is now in a position to hear back whatever the response is gonna be. I, I love that. That's, that's great advice. Thank you. If, if somebody wants to know more, if they've been intrigued by the conversation that you and I have had today are you open to continuing that conversation with them?
Lisa Johnson (31:38):
Absolutely. Absolutely. My company is HR Know How, so you can find me on any of the major social media platforms. Okay. I have a website, you know, if you google HR Know How, hrknowhow.org, that's me. My information is there, email, phone number, and I welcome the opportunity to engage with anyone who is wanting to further their leadership skills.
Troy Blaser (32:04):
Cool. HRknowhow.org. I think that's a fantastic name for your company too, by the way. Thank you. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us for our podcast today with Simply Feedback. It's been a pleasure to chat with you and get to know you a little bit and hear your ideas and your thoughts. Thank you so much.
Lisa Johnson (32:20):
I have enjoyed this tremendously. Thank you, Troy.