When I was in graduate school, Phil Daniels, then a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, taught us about a feedback mechanism he called the SKS form. It was simply a process whereby we would ask others what we should stop (S), keep (K), and start (S) doing, given a particular role we might have as a teacher, friend, spouse, father, mother, etc. People are asked to fill in the blanks, limiting their entries to no more than three bullet points under each subhead.
Eventually, I introduced the SKS process into faculty evaluations at universities, as well as performance appraisals on Wall Street. I've found it helps me, as well as others, avoid living in our fantasies of who we are. The specificity of knowing what we should quit, continue, and start doing anchors us in reality.
Asking others for feedback using SKS can be important to professional growth. I urge you to tell your support people about the SKS process. Ask them to evaluate you using SKS regularly and hold you accountable for what they list. It's a simple tool, but a highly effective one. Too often, we may tell ourselves that we have to quit being such a micromanager (for instance), but our resolve to stop micromanaging gets lost in the activity of daily events. By having your support team respond to three simple questions, invaluable feedback can be obtained. The questions are:
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I keep doing?
- What should I start doing?
The SKS also counteracts our tendency to avoid seeking out other people's opinions of our attitudes and behaviors. When you are feeling the worst about yourself, you don't ask for more feedback. You don't want to know. You use the excuse that you are already being tough on yourself, so you don't need anyone else to be harsh. This rationale creates a vicious cycle where there is no need for you to learn of other views or ask for help. If you don't hear the hard truth from others, you don't have to acknowledge that it's real. The SKS process breaks the hold our illusions have on us.
When you have your support people do an SKS, use the following questions to help you identify the behaviors that are keeping you stuck and the behaviors that will help you move in new directions:
- Are you hearing that you should quit doing something that you feel is a skill or strength?
- Is your first response that quitting this behavior will have catastrophic consequences?
- On reflection, is it possible that you've fallen into a behavioral rut? If you stop doing one thing, might you have an opportunity to try something new and different?
- Is there something you're doing right that people feel you should do more of?
- Have you been dismissive of this particular behavior or skill for some reason?
- What might happen if you used this "keep" more? How might it impact your effectiveness and satisfaction with your job?
- Are people recommending you do something that feels foreign or scary?
- What about it makes you anxious? Is it because you are afraid of looking like you don't know what you're doing?
- Why are people suggesting you start doing this new thing? What benefits do they feel will accrue to you, your group, or your organization?
We know feedback is seldom as bad as we have imagined in our heads. The key is to begin the process sooner than later.