In another episode of Simply Feedback, we speak with Dr. Sacha Lindekens, a Partner with Avion Consulting, as he goes over his research with 360 feedback data and the most important factor for coachees who made the greatest improvement.
Sacha is a Partner with Avion. He advises organizations on strategies to attract, develop and retain top talent and works with leaders to maximize their individual and team effectiveness. He enjoys partnering with clients to create and deliver high impact learning experiences designed for global audiences.
Sacha began his career in psychology, serving as a university instructor and a therapist. In 2001, he transitioned into external consulting.
Sacha has a M.Ed. in counseling psychology from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Florida.
Troy Blaser: 0:04
Hello! On today's episode of Simply Feedback, we are delighted to be speaking with Dr. Sacha Lindekens. Sacha is a Partner with Avion Consulting. He advises organizations on strategies to attract, develop, and retain top talent and works with leaders to maximize their individual and team effectiveness. He enjoys partnering with clients to create and deliver high impact learning experiences designed for global audiences. Sacha began his career in psychology, serving as a university instructor and a therapist. In 2001, he transitioned into external consulting. Sasha has a M.Ed. in counseling psychology from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Florida. Sacha, it's great to have you with us today on Simply Feedback. Thanks for joining us.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 0:54
Great to be with you. A pleasure. Look forward to the discussion.
Troy Blaser: 0:58
Yeah, you and I have worked together for a long time, but it's nice to have an opportunity like this to kind of dive a little bit deeper into the conversation and kind of explore some different things. I'm excited about some of the topics that I think we can discuss today. Maybe just to help us get to know you a little bit. We like to ask our guests, if you can tell us about a time that somebody gave you feedback. Is there a time when feedback that you received had a significant impact on your life?
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 1:29
So I'm a bit of a feedback junkie. I love receiving feedback. I try and embrace a growth mindset and think I can always get better, but I think one of the really instructive, informative and shaping feedback experiences I had, I was doing my doctoral dissertation. And in the process you do an exam called the qualifying exam, right? Which consists of receiving number of written questions that you take a day to answer, and it's basically tests your accumulation of knowledge that you've developed, and then subsequent to that, you do your oral exam. Okay. Which is now you're going, and you're speaking to your advisory committee and they get to ask you questions about a wide variety of topics. And I remember I did, I did pretty well on my, on my written exam. And my advisor at that time, he told me, you know, don't worry too much about the oral exam. Uh, you did well enough that basically the only way you're not going to pass is if you , uh, you curse out the rest of the committee. So being a bit of a naïve 30 year old at the time, I took that at face value. And I didn't really prepare all that much. And in fact, I even saw someone, one of my advisors committee members the day before, and he said, Oh, how's it going? And I, might've been a little bit nonchalant in that discussion in terms of, Oh yeah, it's going well. And you know , not really sweating up too much. Right. And , uh , the next day, I'm in the advisory committee having this discussion and I'm really getting grilled, Troy. And I'm thinking to myself, you know, I start to feel the sweat on my brow. And I'm like, this is a lot harder than my advisor told me it was going to be so things progress. And they keep drilling me with questions and, you know, eventually they say, okay, we know we'd like to discuss this. And so I leave the room and they decide my fate in terms of do I get to move on to starting my dissertation work and finishing up my degree and 20 minutes passed by. And I'm like, man, this is taking a while here. Uh , come back in the room and they say okay the good news is you passed, but the bad news is it was by the skin of your teeth. And I remember being shocked by that. I remember just absolutely it really caught me unaware. I actually couldn't believe that I passed only by the skin of my teeth. So I can remember, you know , reaching out to people on my committee by phone that evening and saying, well, you know , what happened? What did I miss? Uh, really this was a blind spot for me. And just the feedback of you pass by the skin of your teeth. To me, that was a major maturation point in my career because I realized I had kind of winged it a bit, I'd come across as kind of cavalier. And I hadn't given it the level of commitment and seriousness that it definitely demanded. So it was a good maturation experience for me.
Troy Blaser: 4:50
For sure. And it almost seems like there even just the perception to the committee of how seriously you were taking it obviously you took the whole thing very seriously. It's a PhD, but if, if you sort of came across to them as nonchalant, then that sort of raises the stakes for them a little bit too . Like, well, if he's not taking it seriously, then we're going to make it a little more difficult or, you know, judge him a little bit more harshly. But even if that, even if you had had the appearance of, of taking it seriously, even if you'd done basically the same level of preparation, if they felt like, you know, you were, you were very earnest about it, who knows.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 5:30
Yeah, I think that's true. I think probably if I had one thing to do over again, I wouldn't have been as cavalier the day before with one of my committee members, but yeah, I think more broadly the message to me was around I'm an optimistic person by nature. And I have in my career, you know, parachuted into situations and learn to adapt and figure it out. And I think since I've gotten into consulting on the one hand, that's a good thing because as consultants, we don't have all the answers all the time and we need to be able to think on our feet, but, you know, I think this was a good trigger and as influenced me to be more buttoned up ahead of time to do more legwork ahead of time, because I think in that situation, it wasn't just impression management. I probably hadn't reviewed all my notes, whereas I had obsessed over them for six weeks prior to the written exam. I was very optimistic based on what I heard from my advisor and kind of cruised on in.
Troy Blaser: 6:39
So it's interesting as I read your bio and I learn more about you, you started after as a university instructor as a therapist, obviously now you're kind of working as a consultant. Was there a turning point there in your career that made you kind of change direction from that initial work?
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 6:59
Yeah. When I went into the doctoral program, I kind of went in with an experimenting mindset around, do I want to pursue the therapy route, the academic route or the consulting route. And while I, and I , I enjoy things about all three, what really felt like the best fit for who I am personally is the consulting route. And I had the good fortune of working with a sports psychologist back in the day who was doing work with some of the New York hockey team, one of the NFL teams. I was assisting this guy with some pre-hire selection, assessing players, incoming rookies on their psychological profiles. And to what extent they fit the culture of these organizations. And then, you know, so that led into interviewing protocols and it tied in with the psychology, but I liked the applied nature of it. And I liked how I could more freely be myself in this capacity. And plus I like the entrepreneurial spirit of being a consultant, and maybe I'm a little bit of a sicko but I also like getting on a plane and traveling and seeing different parts of the world as well.
Troy Blaser: 8:27
I wanted to ask you in particular, in a lot of ways you are a unique guest for us here at LearningBridge, because I think you've done something very interesting with 360 degree feedback data. As you've worked with Avion Consulting, you guys have done a lot of 360 feedback surveys, participants get their feedback kind of as a baseline, and then you'll come back in later six months or so later to do a pulse follow-up survey and gather some additional on the change that has hopefully happened since that initial baseline. Can you tell us some more about that? I know that you've done a study and a presentation, and I'd love to hear more about that.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 9:06
Sure, yep. So as COVID kicked in and a lot of booked work had fallen off the books and May and April , I wanted to try and be a little bit productive and use the time to good use. And one of the things I had long been wanting to do is look at what is the impact of some of the work that we're doing. Can we quantify it? In particular , Avion Consulting the firm I'm with and LearningBridge your firm, we've partnered together for quite some time in administering 360 feedback. And we've come up with this protocol around administer the full baseline survey and come up with a mini pulse survey, six months later that follows, or that assesses on the target items that the person's working with. And we want to see how much individuals changed over time, right? And not how much did they think they changed? Because oftentimes the coachee in a coaching engagement, oftentimes they think they've done really good work and they've improved. But the true measure is whether others do right, because perception in many ways, perception is reality, particularly when it comes to 360 feedback. So we had 200, about 250 leaders , or in the past couple of years that had gone through a baseline and then a pulse survey and we squished them all into our data file with your assistance. And we looked at how much did they change over time? And the metric that we use Troy was something called percent of possible improvement realized. And what this means is if you started off on your five follow-up items and you had an average of a four out of five, and then six months later, you were able to increase that to a four and a half out of five. You would've made 50% of possible improvement. The total Delta is one and you've moved up point 0.5. So that's the metric we were looking at, we learned a number of things that were interesting. On average leaders who go through a baseline and then a pulse survey through our process improved that they realized 21% of potential improvement, which we thought that's pretty good given the financial investment and the time commitment, that's pretty good ROI. And then we looked at a couple, a couple of different groups within that. We looked at people who received no coaching whatsoever. They just received a baseline report and a follow-up report, and they made sense of it, and they did whatever they were going to do it. We looked at how much they changed. On average they realized 17% of possible improvement so below the average, and then we looked at people who got one 30 minute, 30 to 45 minute coaching debrief after the baseline. So you get your feedback report, you work with an Avion coach to make sense of it, come up with an action plan, six months later then you're off on your own. And six months later, you got a follow up assessment. Those folks realized 23% of possible improvement. So you're already about a third better than the no coach involvement groups . So we thought, okay, that's good. We're doing something well. And they're getting value out of the Avion experience, as well as the LearningBridge experience here. And then we looked at kind of the deluxe group, if you will, the group who , uh , got more of an extensive coaching experience. And I think the criteria that we looked at was at least four coaching discussions over the six-month period between baseline and re-baseline , uh, could be more, but at least four, and that group we were heartened to see they improved the most. They improved 30% , or they realize 30% of potential improvement. So, you know , it was good to see that the more feedback was beneficial in all of these groups. That's not to say every single person got better when on average, every intervention group got better. And it lasted six months after they received the baseline feedback. So this is a pretty long-lasting effect and it wasn't from their perspective, but it was from other's perspective. So I walked away from that experience thinking , Oh, I don't really mean this in a, I guess I kind of do mean in a commercial sense, but I walked away really thinking like 360 feedback is the single best ROI out there as it relates to leader development, because where else can you get between, you know, 23% improvement? I'm sorry, 21% on average six months after a relatively modest investment per liter. A couple other things we found in this all baseline quartiles improved. What I mean by that is we looked at okay, if some of these people had really low scores to begin with. They improved the most, they realized the most improvement, but the second quartile, the third quartile, even the top quartile, they all improved through 360 feedback. And then the other analysis we did is we looked at were certain items, more plastic than others. And I think there's probably more research to do here because once you're looking at 40 some items, then you get sample size issues. But we do have the belief that some of items lend themselves more to change over time than others. And in particular , this has caused us to be more intentional around creating behavioral rather than personality based feedback items, because we think you can change behavioral items, but other items that are more rooted in someone's personality are probably a tough to make change over. So that's a mouthful, but we found the research very interesting, very validating on the work we did. And we were very appreciative to you and your team in helping us pull together that data and manage the complex spreadsheet as I recall that wasn't an easy data project.
Troy Blaser: 15:37
It did turn out to be complex. I'm always amazed at when we first start talking to a client, who's maybe interested in a 360, there's some education that has to happen, because boy, when you get into a 360, there is so much data. If you've got 40 questions and four or five different observer categories of folks from different, you know, your boss and your peers and direct reports. And then you add in there maybe eight dimensions that those items roll up into, and there can, you can really quickly get lost in all of that data. And it was a fun project to work with you on and try and make sense of it. I was really intrigued as we work together to figure out the metrics, the percent of possible improvement realized. It's a really, once you sort of get the concept embedded in your head, it's a great way to think about it, because I like how it puts everybody on a level playing field. So to speak, you talked about the first, second, third, and fourth quartile of leaders. But they all have a hundred percent possible improvement that's available to them, independent of where they're starting. And so that was, that was really cool to work out. I also liked how you just mentioned, you talked about as you focused on the different items, you know, the behavioral versus the personality items. And I guess maybe another way to say that that comes to mind is, you know, what I do is, is probably easier for me to change than who I am. You know, that's really just to say it another way, but yeah. Cause, cause I can objectively look at what I do every day versus you know, who I am. That's I think that's a harder thing to change
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 17:26
And you know, I'm sure you see this in your work with clients. We do as well, particularly when we're leading training programs or dealing with tough coaching clients, Hey, people say leopard doesn't change its spots. So is this really going to be helpful? Is this really going to be worth it? Well, it's great to be able to say, yeah it is. Most people going through this process improve pretty significantly. And in fact, that's one other finding that we found that I didn't mention before. 69% of participants realized at least 10% of possible improvement. And I think 55% over half realized 20% of possible improvement. So you c an see t hat two thirds of people are really getting good value from a development experience. You're really taking advantage of the feedback I think, and doing some things differently. There's no guarantee that everyone's going to do it. We had some, we had some decreases in there. I don't remember what the most noteworthy decrease in effectiveness was, but not everyone improved, but enough improve that that we got these positive averages.
Troy Blaser: 19:49
I was going to ask you too, you talked about sort of those three levels of engagement. You had some participants who got their report, but no calls with a consultant or coach or anything. They just read the report on their own. And then that middle level where they had like a 30 to 45 minute debrief after the baseline survey, and then that platinum level where they had, you know, four coaching calls over the six months. My question was, is there any kind of a sense of a sweet spot in terms of bang for your buck? In terms of, I don't know , is it that middle level that is going to be the most benefit for the, for the best value in terms of what I'm spending or do you have a sense of that?
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 20:35
Yeah, that seems accurate. Premium level, that's more costly. So you do get more of an impact from it, but then there's a question of it's not quite as scalable given that it's, that it's more costly. So I'd rather see 23% of possible improvement realized over, you know, I'll make up numbers here or over 300 liters. Then 30% of possible improvement realized over 70 liters. I don't know if the math exactly works out there, but directionally it's probably something like that.
Troy Blaser: 21:11
I think our experience too has been that having someone to talk to to debrief that baseline report and help to make an action plan is just that single bump up from, you know, no interaction at all, just the report written down to that step of, let me talk for it to a debriefer to help me understand the report just makes a world of difference in processing through all of that 360 data that comes back.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 21:38
Yeah. And I think it does. I think for a variety of reasons, we tend to get locked in our own models of viewing the world and tell ourselves stories about the feedback we get. And it can be useful to have someone to challenge us in terms of how we think about it, or maybe a separate set of eyes sees things that someone wouldn't wouldn't have seen. I tend to believe that one of the values is around being a little bit more provocative and interpreting the results and trying to bring it to life. A couple of years ago did research and wrote a book entitled, How Leaders Improve, where we looked at similar concept around leaders who have made improvement through 360 feedback. But then we went back and did qualitative interviews with them and what did they, what did they do differently from those who didn't improve as much? And we looked at, I think the top 10% there. And one of the things that we heard consistently was those that improved the most had received a penetrating message, a message that bugged them, a message that really stood out to them. A short phrase that like, what'd you hear on your 360 feedback? I heard this, you know, and because it stuck with them, that's an emotional, emotional valence to it. And I can absolutely think of instances as a coach and as a coachee, frankly, on the receiving end you know by the skin of your teeth being one example that I've shared with you that stuck with me, that bugged me by the skin of my teeth.
Troy Blaser: 23:27
That was a penetrating message. Yeah.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 23:30
Like you got lucky buddy. So I think that's one of the values that a coach can bring is help push through some of the, I don't want to get too psychological, but some of the defenses that people may be putting up with some tough love at times . So I think one of the big reasons that having a discussion with a coach has impact, we haven't talked about this yet is having follow-up discussions with your feedback providers is very significant. There's a lot of research out there. I know Marshall Goldsmith and a former business colleague of mine guy named Howard Morgan wrote an article called Leadership is a Contact Sport. And they looked at the process of following up on feedback and found that that was a major determinant in terms of who is perceived to improve. If you don't follow up with your feedback providers, it's the data shows it's about a 50/50 chance that people will see you making any improvement at all. And if you do, you know , and it goes up from there. So that has always really struck me. It's tough to argue with that data because it's thousands and thousands of data points. It's a large data set and that's always resonated with me. So I'm always certain to talk to feedback recipients in my coaching with them around. Okay, it's one thing for you to hear the message, but now you need to figure out how do you let your audience know that you've heard it and how do you have those discussions and you don't want to come across wounded or defensive. So how do you have that discussion in a constructive way? Even if you have questions , you know , you can ask questions, you just need to do that maturely and confidently.
Troy Blaser: 25:24
Yeah . Even just starting with a simple, thank you for the contribution. Thanks for your feedback. It goes a long way. It opens the door to more conversation, but it lets the feedback provider know, oh they got the feedback that I left, you know, the loop was closed there and they received it. Okay. I wanted to ask you about the 360 instrument that Avion has put together, the Leadership Effectiveness Assessment. Can you tell us a little bit about it? What it is, why did you create it and what your plans are?
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 26:00
Sure. Yep . We were happy to work with LearningBridge. We've worked with you in customizing instruments for our clients oftentimes around their cultural values or around their leadership competencies. But we wanted to come up with our own instrument that really built off the intellectual property that we've been developing over the past six years as , as a firm. I mentioned, we wrote a book called How Leaders Improve. We've written other books on coaching effectiveness, one called Ready, Set, Ripen. Another book we released last year called the Five Coaching Conversations. And we wanted to have an assessment that measured people on these concepts that we think are critical and important and that linked to what we're often talking to them about or teaching in our classes. So that was a big point of emphasis in terms of why we developed our own instrument. Also, you can imagine I've been in the field for 20 years. Some of my business partners have been in the field for 30 years. You develop fairly strong points of view around what you want to see in a 360 instrument. What does the report look like? What sort of written comments do you want to be assessing people on, how many dimensions and items? As I mentioned before, how do we steer clear of the personality based items? One of the things not with LearningBridge, but one of the things we've seen in some folks' 360 instruments are multi barreled items that are complex, you know, so , uh , where you're asking two things in one item, and that's a bit of a pet peeve of ours. So to keep it really clean and straightforward on the behaviors that we're measuring that linked to our view of what it means to be an excellent leader. So that's the spirit of why we partnered with you all in developing this. I think another thing in our Leadership Effectiveness Assessment, another thing that , that we looked at that many instruments don't is business effectiveness. So we wanted to look at both left brain and right brain aspects of leadership effectiveness. So in other words, we don't think it's just soft skills. We think there are some important more concrete, hard skills that can be assessed in a 360 feedback. And those are often in our opinion, underrepresented in feedback instruments. So that was the spirit there. One of the things we've done that we're doing a bit of an experiment here , I'll be excited when we've got another 250 people to conduct more research with is we have also built a chat bot that we now what's the right term for it release or launch. So let's say you get 360 feedback and you get a coaching session with an Avion coach, one low cost that we think it'll be high impact intervention that we could do is have you receive texts on your phone that are related to your 360 feedback on a periodic basis to keep it front of mind for you around what are you working on? And what are the commitments last time you said you would have this conversation, have you had it? So it really pushes people to act on the feedback, right? To honor the commitments that they had when they received the feedback. Because I think that's often what happens is we get the feedback with the best of intentions and then life happens. So our approach is we, they get customized messages because they're entering in what they're working on. So it's a standard question. It may be, Hey, what are your priorities? What item do you most want to focus on? And then two months later, the bot may say, Hey, remember you said you wanted to work on delegation, and you said you really needed to work on delegating. You thought maybe you could delegate something to Johnny, how did that go? So it's reminding them of what their commitments are. We also have a couple of videos that we filmed of ourselves teaching some of our core concepts. We've got some questions, you know, a true and false, rate one to five questions. So it's very quick hit. It takes about 20 seconds to go through the reminder, but the goal is just to keep it front of mind for them a little bit more front of mind.
Troy Blaser: 30:56
It's kind of a nudge, you know, down the road. Hey, just a gentle, friendly reminder about this thing that you were really excited about before and keeping it, keep it front of mind, like you said.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 31:07
Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Troy Blaser: 31:10
You shared a story at the beginning with your oral exams and just passing by the skin of your teeth and how that was kind of a penetrating message for you. High-impact message. As a coach, is there an experience or a time that you can remember when you've seen feedback cause a point of inflection in someone's career or in their life as you've worked with them as a coach?
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 31:34
Yes, plenty of times. I'm reminded, I had a conversation with someone today, someone that I just had a 360 feedback debrief with maybe five years ago. And I remember going through this person 360 report and the messages in the report, or like what an Eeyore this guy was, what a negative, low energy person. And that's what I remember of it it's five years ago, but that's what I remember is I remember he came into the room and he was not at all what I expected him to be, based on the report, just his body language and how he looked. And I remember saying to him, Hmm , I expected you to be older. He said, Why? I said, well, you know, based on the feedback, you know, the low energy, the negativity. I had the impression that you were like burn out at the end of your career and sick of it. And that message, that was a penetrating message to him , around, wow, I got to work on my energy because he hadn't read the feedback in that light. He had read it and it caused him to think about, oh, well this person said this because of that. But that reflection that I give him around, that it really snapped him out of it. And he made significant changes. I think that was a penetrating message for him. He had some tension on his team that he was getting stuck in the middle of. And I think what he ended up doing is focusing on team development, promoting open dialogue , not getting triangulated in some of the conflict, but rather he invested in skill building for the overall team in terms of, okay, how do we provide each other with feedback? How do we navigate conflict? What standards do we want to hold ourselves to as a team and let's do that. So he stopped being , he found ways where he ended up not being where all the mess ended up, if that makes sense. And he got the team to be self-monitoring and demonstrate holding each other to higher standards. So that was a big thing that he did. Yeah. But I think that the biggest message is he decided to be more of a influential leader with the team and help the team help itself rather than a place where people came to complain.
Troy Blaser: 34:42
Sort of said, I'm going to lead you all to a different space than where we're at now. And in doing so that sort of raised his own energy or changed his own outlook because he was, instead of looking, maybe looking backward at the team, he was looking forward to where are we going next? Maybe something like that. I don't know.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 35:01
You should be a coach. That's exactly,
Troy Blaser: 35:05
It's much easier for me to sit here and listen to you, talk about it and try to piece it together.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 35:11
Yeah. And so he had hope he had optimism. He realized, let me push this back to the team rather than shouldering all the responsibility. I mean, he was responsible, but he couldn't fix everything. He had to get the team to fix it , you know, to be more self-monitoring and committed. And he did that.
Troy Blaser: 35:33
That's cool. That makes sense.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 35:35
And I spoke with him earlier today for the first time in probably about a year, we stay in touch with one another and he had a laugh, he had a laugh about that particular piece of feedback. So I think that was something that that's an example of a penetrating message that someone really acted on and made meaningful, meaningful improvements on. I think yeah, honestly, I think there's an element of courage that I encourage your audience to keep in mind when they're debriefing feedback. You want to be respectful, but courageous, because I think you want to have things come to life for the feedback recipients. So because people may get kind of locked into their own perceptions of things and you want to challenge them, but in a respectful way,
Troy Blaser: 36:37
That makes sense. Well, I could talk to you all afternoon. That would be awesome. But we probably need to kind of bring things to a close here. I did want to ask though, if people want to know more about team development or any of the things that we've talked about today , is that something you're open to, what should our listeners do if they're interested in continuing the conversation
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 36:58
For sure. Yeah, that that would be great. I would love to hear you hear from you. You can reach out to us via email. Or you could look us up on our website and there's a Contact Us button there. It's Avion Consulting and reference this podcast, let us know how we can help. We'd love to be of assistance.
Troy Blaser: 37:27
Well, Sacha, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been a pleasure I've really enjoyed the conversation and the different topics that we've covered and perhaps we'll have the chance to do it again sometime. Thanks so much for your time today. I appreciate it.
Dr. Sacha Lindekens: 37:39
Thank you, Troy. Great speaking with you and good job with the provocative questions here. I'm typically very shy and you drew me out of my shell. Thanks. Appreciate it.