Personal Risk Management

November 4, 2011

Somewhere between self-improvement, the feedback process, perception management and total quality management (TQM) is a lesson to be learned and an opportunity for introspection. I want [need] to document a few thoughts about the intersection of these concepts based off recent personal and professional experiences.

Self-Improvement. At some point while serving in the Marine Corps it became very obvious that there were three performance paths: be a bad performer and let the system make your life a living heck, be an average performer and let the system carry you along, be a stellar performer and push the system to its limits and possibly change it. I have always chosen to chase after stellar and it has worked pretty well for me over the years. However, in some professions to maintain stellar status – you have to constantly be seeking self-improvement.

Feedback. The term feedback means different things depending on the context in how it is being used. I find the act of feedback to be challenging both on the giving end as well as the receiving end – especially when it is feedback that is not complimentary. I have had both great and absolutely horrendous experiences – as an actor in both roles. The reality is that having feedback mechanisms in place whether formal or informal is critical to have – regardless of the merit of the feedback or how the feedback was communicated. More on this later when I attempt to tie all of this together.

Perception Management. Perception is reality to most people regardless of the facts. Anyone that is actively managing their career or personal life probably cares about perception. Furthermore, we probably want to be in control of how people perceive our actions, thoughts, attitudes and even mannerisms – lest it be established by others.

Total Quality Management. My current school studies are revolving around operations management. Specifically, quality improvement, TQM, Six Sigma, etc. There are concepts around TQM that can be applied to various dimensions of our lives: personal, professional, ethical, moral, giving, etc. Without going down a rabbit hole, I am convinced that quality improvement concepts allow us to construct guard rails (control limits) for the aforementioned dimensions.

So how does all of this tie together?

If you are serious about self-improvement and managing perception – you have to embrace feedback and take into consideration if you are approaching a quality limit if a feedback opportunity presents itself (me being the recipient). You may not agree with the merit of the feedback or agree with the delivery mechanism but you have to listen – just not hear – what is being communicated. This is really hard to do sometimes and how we react to the feedback experience can destroy relationships and further erode trust. When it comes to constructive criticism feedback – if someone is taking the time to give it – regardless of its validity – could this possibly be an indicator that we are approaching some of our quality limits – whether you have defined them or not?

For example, here are two commonly used rules for determining is a process is out of control:
1.    A single point outside the control limits.
2.    Obvious consistent or persistent patterns that suggest that there is something unusual about the data.

Keeping these two rules in mind, we can go through this exercise of introspection. Such an exercise requires one to put their pride on the shelf, set aside emotions, and really try to flush out the opportunity for self improvement. And, if all this can be done in a manner with a redemptive mindset – the better yet. In the end of such an exercise, there should always be one or more questions we should strive to answer:

1.    Is there something minor I can improve on? Is a slight adjustment needed to pull me back from the guard rails or better manage perception?
2.    Is there something major going on that calls for a massive adjustment? Is there really a fire that is producing all this feedback smoke?
3.    Was I a good partner in the feedback process? Did I listen? Did I have a redemptive mindset?

Hear me folks – this topic and what I have outlined is not something I consider myself to be a stellar example of. However, I do care about self-improvement, managing my perception, and adhering to quality in the execution of my responsibilities and will strive to keep in mind what I have outlined moving forward.

That’s it.