your single friends need you (probably more than you need them)

A few years ago I was sitting with my housemate and we both got a text message from a married friend. She was letting us know that she’d had some medical issues arise. There’d been some preliminary testing that was either worrisome or inconclusive enough to warrant further investigations. So she was going to have more tests done and was asking for us to be prayerful.

My friend and I both thought to respond in the same way and I sent a message back including “I hope you have some friends journeying this with you”. We later discovered that this was considered to be a strange kind of response. There she was informing us as her friends and inviting us to be part of the process – why were we questioning whether she was including her friends? Ultimately as a married person the need to contact friends was triggered far later in the process than it might have been for a Single person. A Single person who is experiencing negative health symptoms would probably contact a friend straight away. A Single person would seek the opinion of a friend or family member to know if they should go and get that checked out. A Single person might let a friend know that they’re going to a doctors appointment and perhaps even invite them to come along. So by the time further testing was required a Single person may have included their friend/s a lot more in the process. The reality is that for the married friend she had been processing all that with her husband up until that point.

Single people can have different expectations and requirements of friendship.

For a Single person, their friends are the entirety of their network of advice giving, problem-solving and listening. For those who are married and in a family environment a friend serves a different purpose. If circles of trust were to be drawn a spouse might find themselves at the very core and then friends at varying stages of distance in the widening concentric circles. For a Single person without a spouse at that core, often friends are drawn into a place of higher trust, of higher reliance; of higher connectedness.

What this creates is a potential power and need imbalance in friendships. Where the Single person requires more of you than you require of them. Where your name would be listed closer to their inner circle than their name would to yours. A friend of mine recently recounted a revelation she’d had of this when her Single friend asked her to come around to look at her new flooring. She thought it was an odd request until she connected with the fact that she would have had numerous interactions with her husband over new flooring and not felt the need to tell others – whereas her Single friend might not have had any engagement about her floors with anyone else. Perhaps a trivial example, but a helpful illustration of the different experiences.

This plays itself out in many ways, including socially. Where a planned social gathering might be additional to your weekly social calendars and fuller household, it can be the entirety of a Single person’s social connectedness. Where a cancelled dinner or a lack of invitation might result in you having a more quiet night at home, for a Single that could equate to being completely alone.

My friend Nancy and I talked about this recently as we sat across from one another at dinner. I made the observation that I needed that interaction more than she did. She’s married and is also a mum and as we talked some more she reflected, “I don’t think I had ever really considered how much my relational tank is filled incidentally and how that shapes how many friends I need, what I need from them, and the time and space I have to give them.”

What that means is that a Single person needs to maintain a lot of relationships to ensure their input and output are sufficient to experience the human connection we are built for. Even for me, as a highly extroverted and socially and relationally competent person, that can be EXHAUSTING! There’s a lot to balance to ensure that there are enough of those once a week, once every fortnight, monthly catch up types of relationships to spread across the day to day of life in order to keep the relational tank at a healthy level. That need makes us vulnerable. There’s great risk attached to this reality that we probably need you more than you need us.

Singles, identify and own this reality. You need others. It’s risky. It’s exhausting. It takes intentionality and purpose but you can create the kinds of relationships that will allow you to give and receive the love, belonging, serving, fulfilment, purpose and joy that you need.

And for you non-Singles, maybe you could do a self-audit like my champion friend Nancy, to recognise the level of relational filling you operate out of before leaving your house or making any extra effort. It might increase your sensitivity to the needs of the Singles in your world and grow your understanding of the neediness they experience and the risk they take to stay relationally engaged.

they win • you win • we win (the power of fundraising)

In December, I donned a dress as the “uniform of an advocate” to participate in the dressember campaign. Every day for the month I wore only dresses. The rules are clear – no skirts, dresses – with the exceptions of activewear, sleepwear and a uniform if one is required for your work.

Founder, Blythe Hill, started the movement in after hearing about the issue of human trafficking (listen to her TedXtalk here) and desiring to be part of the solution. She started as just one but now the movement is “a community of international advocates utilising fashion and creativity to help end human trafficking”. To date they have raised over $5m!

Social media has provided a platform for increased capacity to raise funds and awareness for a plethora of causes. In fact, sometimes it can feel like there’s an overload of people seeking support or finances. There is no shortage of need and no limit to the creativity of people seeking to get cut-through in a crowded platform.

But I am a big fan. And that’s because of the multiple layers of impact and change that are realised through fundraising.

THEY WIN. YOU WIN. WE WIN.

Everyone wins!

they win

The most obvious winner in any fundraising process is the recipient of the funds! Organisations the world over are financially resourced for their endeavours for change. Research is commissioned, staff are released, consumables are purchased, people are reached, enterprises are launched, education is provided, lives are saved, campaigners are energised and real difference is made possible.

Through ever-increasing processes of accountability and community pressure for transparency and integrity around the appropriation of monies raised, people are able to give confidently and often see the stories of immediate impact and transformation.

Even the very act of liking or clicking-through on a post about an event or a cause can translate to financial support as corporate sponsors respond to the potential for increased public (positive) profile.

you win

The general premise of a fundraising event often pivots on a participant sacrificing something of personal value. Fasting from food or technology, participating in a gruelling physical activity or moderating one’s dressing habits all require a degree of sacrifice and personal cost.

It’s hoped and/or assumed that this physical stretch will fuel a degree of personal engagement with the cause that’s being championed.

For me, the daily task of facing a restricted scope of choice when dressing for the day is a prompt to remember that even in that very moment there are millions of women across the world who have no choices at all. Children are capture, abused and exploited. Labourers are working at threat of their own lives. I have autonomy. I am spoiled for options. I am free.

It’s a great way to stay mindful of your privilege and to be prompted to gratitude for your own circumstances when you are caused to step outside your comfort zone, to give something up; to act without personal reward.

we win

A while back I decided on the practice of giving to every campaign that came to my attention on social media, in my workplace or church. Every one.

I am wealthy. Like, actually rich. And before you get excited about hitting me up for a loan, chances are pretty high that so are you! (If you earn the average Australian salary you are inside the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world!) And every time a fundraising campaign comes to my notice it’s an opportunity to check that reality again. And I welcome the challenge to my otherwise well-developed ability to think only of myself and to want to keep what’s “mine”.

The amount I give is inconsequential, and sometimes it’s probably quite literally inconsequential in terms of the difference my meagre offering could make – but I win every time I am given the choice to choose others over myself.

We win as a society when we are allowing ourselves to be oriented towards the other. To consider those less fortunate, to champion those attempting something they couldn’t do without outside support, to encourage those seeking to make the world a better place; to give voice and advocacy to those who might otherwise not be heard.

So, do Safe Water September, or Frocktober or Ride-around-the-bay. Read books, walk laps, sleep on the streets, play Ping Pong, wear your footy colours to work or wear a dress (or tie) every day for a month. Do something.

And commit to give. If it can’t be your money, give your support, your influence, your like or share, or the time to become more educated on a cause that addresses a need in our world.

They win. You win. We win.

reflections on gratitude (2019)

I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Jar for several years now. It started as an intentional practice to invite ongoing joy into my life and as a discipline to choose to filter a day through the lens of what it was rather than what it wasn’t.

(You can read about the why here – disciplines of gratitude)

My Gratitude Jar is a collection of small, dated pieces of paper sorted by month and waiting for me to write a reflection for every day. My practice has been to do it as part of my end of day routine. To pause and think of a couple of sentences worth of things to be grateful for. Sometimes the words flows freely and the page is too small. Sometimes the blank space is something of a taunt as I sift through a weary or sad heart to find something to write. I’ve found over the years that just the act of walking past its spot on my dresser is enough to activate the mechanism – and even if I don’t write it down, my heart is turned to gratitude. The habit of that has been a gift to me. As my friend Mel says, “I’m grateful for the gratitude.”

At the turn of the new year it’s time to dive in and read them back. I love to gather them in groups to see those things that get some more regular mentions – names that are repeated, evidences of themes and affirmations that are finding deep roots in my soul, the number of times I can be “surprised” by something before the language turns to that of expectation or acceptance.

2019 was a year of stark contrasts for me and my notes reflect the extremes. There were so many aspects of my life in 2019 that were beyond anything I could’ve imagined but simultaneously this ran parallel with times of deep loneliness and grief.

From the highlights column – some general themes.

Loving my work –

I am so grateful for a work context that has such a healthy and empowering culture. Not only do we get to do meaningful work together, we also celebrate well and have heaps of fun. I feel highly valued and appreciated, and totally resourced to be a blessing to all those I meet and minister with. I constantly reflect on how perfectly Kimmy-shaped this role is – where all of my gifts, skills, passions and experiences are utilised and where there are no limitations to exploring all God would lead me to do and be.

Amazing ministry opportunities –

Both inside and outside my BUV role, I am grateful for all of the ways I’ve been able to minister this past year. I’ve been in some great locations – locally, interstate and overseas – and in a variety of contexts – podcasts, preaching, workshops etc. I’ve spoken to some fabulous groups and been honoured by the trust of others expressed in mentoring and one-to-one moments. I’ve been encouraged again and again by the continued ministry impact of my book as it keeps finding its way to the ears and hearts of those most needy of it. I saw the amazing impact of the KidsHope relationship (and did the sad farewell to my special friend as well as ending my 13 year involvement in the program). I was blessed again and still by my involvement in the Arrow Leadership community.

Friends & family –

I regularly marvel at the high caliber of people I know. As I travel the country (and parts of the world) I am convinced I know all of the best people in those places! I say it again, you should be my friend just so you can know my friends. I am truly blessed by those who invest into my life, welcome me openly and allow me the privilege of loving and serving them. Amazing people who nurture my soul by seeing, knowing and championing me to be the best Kimmy I can.

We also welcomed a new niece-husband, 2 niece-babies and a nephew-fiancée into our family. It was so great to christen the new home with a family Christmas gathering on Boxing Day. So exciting to fill the space with stories and memories and laughter.

A refreshing church –

In 2018, it was prophesied to me that OneHope would be a church of refreshment. That I would go out (to minister beyond my previously understood boundaries) and come back to be refreshed. And that has definitely been my experience. I’ve been so blessed to truly find a home amongst the people of OneHope. A place to exercise my ministry gifts and capacity with maximum impact. A place of honour and embrace. A place of relational engagement across generations and with a diverse spread of people. It wasn’t an easy process – settling in a new church is hard work! But the rewards of persistence have been many. I’m excited for what this next year will hold – especially now that I’m living 2 mins from my home campus.

Baking and making –

There was a repeating thread throughout the year around my love for baking and making. I love the process of creating (made in the image of a creator God!) and love, love, LOVE the opportunity to bless others with what’s produced. I need to do more of it. Does anyone need some cupcakes? Or a crocheted something?

Adulting –

I did some pretty grown up things in 2019.

Like renovate my bathroom, toilet, en-suite and laundry. Of course, I didn’t actually do any of it – but I did do all the deciding and 100% of the paying!!!

But it turned out to be a well-chosen investment into the value of my home that facilitated me buying another property in Geelong. Again, I didn’t do much of the actual things but, again, I decided and paid!

#choosinghowtolive underscored all of that process. I’ll reflect more at another time on all of the aspects of lifestyle and posture that God laid on my heart that have culminated in the new iteration of The Tent (read here why I (happily) live in a tent).

The process of decluttering (I estimate I reduced the amount of things I own by more than half!!!!) was a sometimes traumatic but ultimately rewarding process. I’m glad to start here free of a lot of unnecessary things and having blessed a whole lot of others with items they’ll be making much more use of rather than them sitting in my cupboards (or in piles randomly scattered throughout the house)!

From the lowlights side of the ledger.

I struggled with living disconnected. My work was over there and my church community was over there and I was in the middle. After 18 years of living, working, churching and playing in the same area it was a massive adjustment. And, ultimately, I was just sleeping at my house. It did pretty much zero hospitality – which is what it was consecrated for – and not enough hosting of life, activity and ministry. Sure, some of that is just geography but with it came some grief for all that had changed and had been lost – and some hurts that still attach themselves there – that made for some pretty low times.

My health was a challenge. “The change”, as we delicate women-folk might reference it, has been a significant physical challenge as well as an emotionally difficult thing to process.

Also, on reading back through the gratitude notes, I’m reminded of the battle I (largely) lost to regain my confidence and rhythm in writing. It was going to be my year for getting back on the writing horse, but I didn’t manage more than a few rides before I was bucked off – and for the most part, I didn’t even mount up! I could keep the analogy going but that would be like flogging a …

gratitude in 2020

So, the jar has been reset. The first 7 days have been logged. There is great expectancy as things rev up for the new year.

My usual questions for end of year review

  • How is my relationship with God?
  • How are my relationships with family and friends?
  • Am I remaining open to “relationship”?
  • What new things have I learnt or experienced in ministry?
  • What “project” did I complete?
  • How is my health and fitness?

..are all mostly answered in the above reflections.

I’m excited for new opportunities at work and in ministry. For a new local neighbourhood to explore. For a new era of “Tent-life” to unfold – including an extension and some extensive renovations! For improving health and fitness. For deepening relationship with God and with my family and friends.

I will keep inviting and welcoming joy into my life by CHOOSING GRATITUDE.

you are more than what you look like

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come off a platform – after preaching, singing or leading – and the first comment to me has been something about my appearance.

Sometimes it’s almost comical the people who will make a determined effort; interrupt a conversation, come from across the room, or wait patiently to get the chance to make a comment on my dress, my shoes or how I’ve styled my hair.

After a recent preaching engagement, at the end of a very detailed and authoritative review of my outfit (the colour, the suitability of the style to my figure and the context, the appropriate choice of sleeve and hem length, my choice of accessories, and even my fingernail colour) someone said “Oh, and what you said was good too.” I replied “I’m glad to hear that because I spent many hours working on my sermon and far less than that on my outfit selection!”

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate others’ appreciation of my appearance. I do put a fair amount of thought into it. Presenting from the platform requires a bit of thought for females. Not being over or underdressed while being mindful of potential distractions – ribbons coming untied, frills flapping, earrings clinking on headsets, necklaces reflecting light, bracelets that jingle, hair that moves … all of the things. Not to mention tech related issues like having a collar for a lapel mic to clip to or a waist band to hold the wireless pack. And of course, the general goal is to look “good” when we’re out in public, so no one is above the affirmation that she’s succeeded.

In my experience and observation it’s only women who do this to women. Men will very rarely comment like that to a woman. And I’ve not heard many stories of men receiving comments like that at all. In fact, in a recent gathering of leaders, the females were sharing some of these experiences and the men in the group were incredulous to discover this was even a thing.

Ladies!! Why do we do this to each other?

Can I suggest something of a self-audit and some further thinking before we’re tempted to perpetuate the narrative that our appearance ought to be what draws greatest attention and reflection?

  • Before (or instead of) commenting on a person’s appearance – offer meaningful encouragement for the function they performed or the presentation they offered. Pause to purposefully reflect on what you observed, received or appreciated in what they shared or did and tell them that! We’re all fighting fears and self doubts to get up before a group of people to speak (or present) and we can be one another’s greatest advocates in standing up in the face of them.
  • If you do want to comment on something aesthetic – make sure you emphasise the insignificance of it in comparison to what they’ve given of themselves in presentation or preparation. Add it as your “by the way” rather than making it the headline news.
  • This used to be a point of comic reflection for me. I’d roll my eyes as I recounted another story of smiling graciously as someone gushed over how well my shoes coordinated with my dress after I’d poured myself out in a sermon or worship time. But the more I speak with women who are struggling to find their place of comfort and authority in upfront roles, the more I see this as a tool to sow doubt and to cause us to take our eye off the ball.
  • Let’s get intentional about our peer support and advocacy by keeping the main things the main thing.
  • (Suggested replacements for “you looked great” include – you looked comfortable, confident, radiant, joyful, expressive, strong, or welcoming or you were articulate, dynamic, compelling, knowledgeable, gracious, or convicting or thank you for what you brought, how you prepared, your vulnerability, or your authenticity or good job you for overcoming everything that presented itself as an obstacle to you getting on the platform!)
  • how to RECEIVE feedback 4of4

    A culture of feedback is one that nurtures a healthy level of trust, self-awareness and continuous growth. Groups and teams where feedback is asked for and given with clarity and in grace will thrive together while supporting individual flourishing. The final piece of the picture addresses the posture of those receiving feedback.

    Don’t be defensive!

    The first (and potentially most important) consideration when receiving feedback is to regulate our natural response to defend ourselves. In our words, our posture or our facial expressions (especially for those who, like me, have a particularly ‘loud’ face!) we can communicate a reactivity or negative response that will derail the effectiveness of the process and potentially cause that person to hesitate to give feedback in the future.

    Look for what is helpful (even if it’s delivered badly).

    Our tendency is to hone in on the points of feedback that are incorrect or communicated poorly. When a reviewer uses exaggeration (such as always or everyone), when they are aggressive or dismissive in their language and tone, or when they make comments that you know to be completely untrue we have a choice in how we respond. The most productive option will always be to find what is true and helpful in what they’ve said and allow that to teach us. There will always be fault to find in the delivery but your choice to overlook that for the purposes of the growth potentially contained in what is being shared will firstly, nurture that healthy feedback culture and secondly, lay a stronger foundation for addressing any changes you might suggest to their mode or method at a later time.

    Clarify and identify.

    Ask questions to be sure you’ve understood what the reviewer is meaning to convey. “When you say that the presentation was hard to follow are you referring to the structure of the notes, the order of the content or another aspect?” Don’t walk away with disclarity. It essentially means the feedback has been wasted. You don’t know what you can do differently in future (to course-correct or continue to improve) and the reviewer’s time has been without purpose.

    Be sure to quickly identify points of the review that you can agree with or acknowledge fault in. Apologise for anything that was missed or that had implications for others. (Eg, “I’m sorry I forgot to mention …” “I’m sorry my disorganisation impacted other things.”)

    Say ‘thank you’!

    Even if the feedback has been difficult to receive, thank your reviewer for giving it. Thank them for the risk they’ve taken to share, for the time they’ve taken to articulate their perspective and for the part they’re playing in your ongoing development. Expressing appreciation will keep them on the journey with you.

    Circle back.

    You don’t have to implement every bit of feedback you receive. Some of it can be readily discarded; some will need to be verified and validated by others. When you do take some feedback on board be sure to let the reviewer know that you are  (eg “After your comments I’ve started doing that a different way.) and what the implications were (eg “My team have noticed a real difference”).

    This can be the most effective culture shaping step in the process. When individuals feel the benefit for themselves and when teams and organisations notice the impact collectively, there will be a natural drive to repeat the process. The culture of feedback becomes self-perpetuating once people recognise that, without it, they will be missing opportunities for greatest productivity, excellence, development and impact.

    READ THE REST OF THE SERIES :

    let me give you some feedback
    how to ask for feedback 2of4
    how to GIVE feedback 3of4

     

     

    how to GIVE feedback 3of4

    When looking to create a culture that is defined and informed by healthy review and encouragement it starts with asking for feedback. Leaders go first in demonstrating a posture of humility and a desire for continuous growth. What must we consider when it comes to giving feedback?

    Giving helpful feedback requires THOUGHT and PRACTICE

    Having an opinion is easy – communicating it in ways that are beneficial to the receiver is not. At least, not without some intentional consideration of language, purpose and context. It is completely unhelpful (and potentially destructive) to give feedback that is unprocessed.

    Train your BRAIN!

    There is no such thing as ‘constructive criticism’!

    Criticism is the expressing of disapproval in response to someone’s faults or mistakes. It’s about de-construction not construction! Constructive critique? Yes! But not criticism. There’s no place for criticism in a healthy culture of feedback.

    We need to intentionally train our brains to look and listen for opportunities to affirm, encourage and build up. When watching others in action, attending events, sitting in meetings, hanging out with family and friends … wherever!! …the question on our minds should be, “what can I appreciate about what is happening here?”

    Leaders tend to look more analytically at things – which is part of what enables them to lead change and increasingly better outcomes. Left unchecked, this can lead to being highly critical, negative and fault-finding.

    Encouragement is by far the greater tool for emboldening people for their best contributions and positioning them for maximum growth and development.

    Stop at ENCOURAGEMENT.

    People are often quite aware of their weaknesses, they trip over them every day.

    We need to recognise that most people are their own worst critics. The internal dialogue of many is a replay of all that has gone wrong, could go wrong and is going wrong. The last thing they need is to have those thoughts verbalised externally and in the voice of others.

    Personally, encouragement around what I can do and what is working has made the greatest contribution to my growth and improvement. I see this repeatedly in those I mentor, lead or train. Encouragement provides a core foundation for future development, a strong base from which to launch into addressing those areas of weakness or skill deficiency. When a person is confident in your confidence in them they are best positioned to tackle difficult stretch and growth.

    A “PRAISE SANDWICH” needs more bread.

    The old ‘praise sandwich’ – one piece of criticism sandwiched between two positive comments – is a good start, but research tells us that this ratio is inadequate. Most studies indicate that the ratio is more like 6:1 of positive words or experiences to counteract the negative for a person to reflect on an encounter, relationship or overall experience as ‘positive’.

    Always ASSUME the BEST.

    When giving feedback after failure or that requires a degree of rebuke, always assume the best. In trust-filled environments we must start with the belief that others intend for positive outcomes rather than assuming intentional failure or shortfall.

    “I know you were hoping the game would include everyone but there were too many left on the sidelines.” as opposed to “Why wouldn’t you play a game that included everyone?”

    Not only will it nett a more positive response, it’s a reflection of your own heart, attitude, focus and discipline to have gone to the best case scenario rather than assuming the worst.

    Assuming the best positions us alongside someone in their fight for greater personal character and outcomes rather than in opposition to them.

    Distrust is cancerous to healthy culture and relationships. Choose trust.

    Give an ACTIONABLE take-away.

    Ensure that your feedback conversation lands in a way that the receiver can walk away with some practical next steps. What can they do differently? How can they address the shortfall? What might they think about for next time? Who could they enlist to help them toward a better outcome?

    Some situations are so specific and unique that they are unlikely to be repeated but there are always principles within them that can be adopted and transferred. Constructive feedback will help tease those out and highlight them so that a person feels they’ve added extra tools to their belt.

    STEWARD the moment with care.

    Remember, when your feedback is invited or required you are given incredible power. Another person is submitting themselves to your opinions and your words – this is incredibly sacred ground and is a position of high vulnerability for them.

    Regardless of the intensity of the situation, don’t forget you’re dealing with a person.

    In a healthy environment you might establish capacity for more robust levels of feedback and review but this is developed gradually and gently.

    In the rush of a moment or the busyness of personal or organisational life, we can be careless with our feedback. We can flippantly throw out observations that carry great personal impact to others. Or, we can neglect to take the time to speak encouragement. Often in meetings where time is short, we focus on what needs to be fixed as it seems most pressing – but sometimes, the greater investment might be to celebrate what ought to be affirmed so that it will be repeated.

    Read more in the FEEDBACK series – Let me give you some feedback, Asking for Feedback … stay tuned for Receiving Feedback.

     

     

     

    how to ask for feedback 2of4

    Feedback is an essential component to personal and organisational growth and success. In part one – let me give you some feedback – we looked at how feedback helps answer the question “How am I experienced by others?” and is essential for improvement, self-awareness and for nurturing an environment of high encouragement and trust.

    INVITED feedback is always best.

    If you’re asking for feedback you are already in a better posture to receive it than if it was offered unsolicited. You’re somewhat in control of the timing, the circumstance and the framework of the feedback. Inviting feedback also serves the person giving the feedback. If they don’t have to find a way to raise a difficult topic with you or overcome any barriers to delivering encouragement they have emotional energy free to direct in to giving helpful feedback.

    Choose WISELY.

    When you’re intentionally seeking out feedback for growth, choose people who are FOR you and are onboard with the purpose of your work or with the direction of your character development. Choose people whose wisdom and honesty you can trust and rely on. And those who are willing to journey alongside you rather than just ‘dump and run’.

    In some situations it might be most beneficial to ask someone who is well-educated or experienced in the area you’re looking for feedback to inform their reflections. Other times, you might be looking for the observations of people who aren’t as involved or aware to get a more clear ‘outsider’ perspective. Choose appropriately.

    Ask a LEADER.

    Leaders have opinions on everything!

    The nature of leadership is that they are actively engaged in making things better. They’re constantly reflecting on best practice and looking for the best way to lead others towards great outcomes and what is most likely to cause people and organisations to flourish.

    Be SPECIFIC about what you want reviewed.

    Particularly if you’re in the early stages of actively receiving feedback (or the person you’re asking is in the early stages of giving it) narrowing the focus of review can be beneficial and provides a softer entry. Specific questions or a more narrow field of focus eliminates the distraction of the irrelevant.

    Identify your own INSECURITIES.

    What am I afraid to ask and why am I afraid to ask it?

    Previous experiences of failure, doubts about our own abilities, and just our general desire to succeed and be approved of shape our attitude towards feedback. Often, it makes us fearful of any kind of review because we don’t want our negative internal dialogue to be given an ‘outside’ voice. Identify that with the person who is reviewing with you. In doing this you empower them to be gentle with you and to stand with you against your fears and insecurities, and in bringing those into the light they can be somewhat diffused.

    Go FIRST.

    If you’re looking to shape a healthier culture of feedback in your relationships, families, teams or organisations you need to model what it is that you are wanting others to value.

    Leaders go first.

    The temptation to go first in GIVING feedback must give way to modelling the RECEIVING of feedback.

    For more in the feedback series – read “let me give you some feedback“. Stay tuned for posts about GIVING feedback and RECEIVING feedback.

     

     

    let me give you some feedback

    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words feedback and review?

    For some, it might be a sudden bolt of terror as you consider being on the receiving end of a rant about your inadequacies. For others, it might remind you of awkward moments of forced encouragement sharing around the boardroom table. For others, it might be more about overly long meetings that meander around, are unnecessarily drawn out and don’t always have any tangible impact. Or a combination of all that and more.

    When I read the words feedback and review I think necessary! 

    Feedback is PERSONALLY necessary.

    External feedback and review is essential to personal development and discipleship because it answers the question (we should all be asking), “How do other people experience me?” You know your motives, you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you know your intent but what you don’t always know is how those things are received by others. Feedback is the key to discovering that and to inviting the wisdom and perspective of trusted others into your personal and character development.

    Feedback is essential to IMPROVEMENT.

    If your team or organisation is wanting to do things well (and if you’re not, what are you doing them for at all?) and to do them the most effective and efficient way (and if you’re not, you’ll be frustrating and burning out high capacity volunteers and staff) then you need to know what is good about your good so you can keep doing it!

    You can’t improve what you don’t review.

    Even if something is going well, you need to know WHY so you can continue to do what made it work in the first place. Without reviewing to identify the key components to your success (in anything – a project, strategy, team meeting, performance or service provision) you may unwittingly attribute that success to the wrong thing and neglect to focus on or repeat those factors that led to the success. Furthermore, your capacity to turn good into excellent is thwarted when you don’t know why it was good to start with.

    If you don’t know why it’s working when it’s working you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.

    Feedback is essential for SELF AWARENESS.

    Ignorance is not a virtue. Feedback is the anecdote to that moment of revelation when we discover something about ourselves that we previously hadn’t known. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The people around you know your weaknesses and strengths – they are on the receiving end of them everyday. There is no benefit to remaining unaware of the impact we make on others and how we are perceived and received.

    We want to learn from those who love us so we won’t be unnecessarily shocked by those who don’t.

    As Proverbs 27:6 frames it “Wounds from a friend can be trusted…”. We want to invite healthy and helpful feedback from those who love us, are for us and who are onboard with the mission and vision we have for our life or our organisation and will help us to head confidently in that direction.

    No one has been fired for asking for feedback but many could’ve avoided being fired if they had!

    Feedback given well results in profound ENCOURAGEMENT.

    People need more encouragement than we think they do – and sometimes even more than they think they do. For the most part, many of us live in the void of knowing how we positively influence people or contexts around us.

    We are never in the room when we are not in the room so we don’t always know the impact we made on the room!

    Feedback is the vehicle to help us understand the unique offerings we contribute to relationships, to teams, to projects and to environments.

    Often, our greatest strengths and our most unique capacities feel so natural to us that we don’t realise the impact of them on others. You might observe this for yourself, often when you affirm an attribute in someone they’ll respond with “yeah, but anyone could do that.” – when the truth is no, anyone could not do that. The fact that it comes easily or naturally to you doesn’t make it universally common.

    Intentional feedback gives opportunity to highlight and celebrate strengths, talents, skills and gifts in others. Providing great encouragement and fuelling ongoing engagement.

    Feedback shapes a healthy CULTURE.

    When feedback becomes part of your culture (in relationships, as a family, team or organisation) it is self-determining. The more we give feedback, the more aware of self and others we become and, the more aware of self and others we become, the more feedback we will be led to offer.

    When feedback is expected it is more accepted.

    The more we engage in intentional feedback; the better we get at giving and receiving it and, the more we anticipate that as the natural process of living our best lives. Feedback culture creates pathways for feedback to be given – intentional processes and opportunities for feedback to be invited, offered and received. These pathways are predictable, accessible and supportive of the easy exchange of ideas and review. A culture of feedback also shapes language that makes this feedback most useful.

    A simple example of this is the use of the word ‘because’. “I liked your presentation this morning” is a nice pat on the back but holds little value. What did you like about it? What’s your idea of a good presentation? What are you comparing it to? What did you get from it? How has it impacted you?

    “I liked your presentation this morning … because …” You used great visuals to support your point. It was really engaging. You helped me understand something new. You brought a fresh perspective … you get the idea.

    Empty praise is not accepted in a healthy feedback culture.

    TRUST is required and nurtured.

    A key component in a strong and healthy Feedback Culture of a team, family or organisation is trust. When feedback is part of natural rhythms and interactions it builds trust.

    We can trust the motives of those who would give us feedback. We can believe that they are all about working towards our shared goals or for my personal benefit.

    We can trust the silence of others because we know if there was something to be said they would have said it. Feedback culture means that there is as much honesty in the meeting as there is in the hallways (or the “meeting after the meeting”). We don’t have to fear what is not being said.

    We can trust how we are being spoken about because of how we are being spoken to.

    A healthy culture of feedback will nurture high trust and shape an incredibly healthy work or relational environment.

    ***

    Let’s keep this conversation going – watch out for future blogs in this series about the necessity of Feedback. We’ll look at asking for feedback, how to GIVE it and how to RECEIVE it. Stay tuned.

    talking about divorce

    “The reason there are so many divorces is that we live in a throw away society and no one is willing to work to fix things.”

    You’ve no doubt heard a version of this statement before, or possibly even repeated something like it yourself. It is often followed up with comments that start with “in my day” or “I was raised to believe that …”

    Yes, the statistics on divorce are alarming at worst, disappointing at best. But not just because they seem to increase or because they might reflect a shift in attitude to marriage (or any other cultural trend that we might point to) but because each of those numbers represents two broken people, maybe a broken family and a whole lot of implications for those in the sphere of this couple … forever!

    Divorce is devastating. Divorce is sad. Divorce is taking a ‘one’ that has been created by the union of two and tearing it in half. God says He HATES divorce (Malachi 2 :16) and I can totally understand why. It’s messy, it’s hurtful and its consequences are far reaching. I know this from my own experience – both as a child of divorced parents and as a divorcee myself. 

    It doesn’t matter how bad a marriage was, a divorce is never good.

    Our language matters.

    We need to be more careful in how we talk about divorce – because, again, we’re talking about people. Not just a social trend or statistic. People. On the end of every one of our generalisations is a person who has been impacted by divorce in ways that flippant language not only fails to consider but may also compound. As I move around I hear so many stories of people being unnecessarily wounded by the careless words of others and see the easy traps people fall in when speaking about divorce. Our language matters.

    No one gets married intending to be divorced.

    No one.

    Even people who don’t do anything to make their marriage work aren’t expecting that it won’t! Anyone who finds themselves divorced, even if it was them who initiated and actioned it, is living a different future than they expected. It might be better (safer, healthier, necessary) to not be in the marriage anymore but it still isn’t anyone’s goal to be divorced.

    Divorce isn’t the easy way out.

    Even when the pathway to divorce is clear – an abusive partner, an unfaithful spouse, untenable circumstances – divorce is not an easy option.

    It is practically taxing. Division of assets, closing and opening bank accounts, relocating (for one or both), potential custody considerations and all manner of things required to detach and then re-establish independently and recover financially. It’s emotionally devastating. Even the most amicable of separations are founded on a level of relational fracturing that carries all sorts of implications for a sense of self and one’s view of the world – a life story is forever altered. 

    It may seem easier than staying. It might seem like a cop out. But it carries its own consequences and challenges that can’t be underestimated (by those considering it or those journeying through it with others).

    “We just never gave up” only works if it’s truly ‘we’.

    Often, when asked the secret to a long marriage people respond “We just never gave up”. Which is undoubtedly true. Sticktoitiveness is one of the essential ingredients to longevity in anything. But it’s important to emphasise the ‘we’ in that statement. It requires BOTH people to have not given up.

    The old adage applies that if only one is paddling in a two person canoe it will just go around in circles. Some divorced individuals never gave up. Some fought harder to compensate for another who didn’t fight. In the end one can’t be married alone.

    A high value of marriage should be second to a high value of people.

    Many people stay (or are counselled to stay) in abusive or destructive relationships because of the emphasis placed on the value or sacredness of marriage. Well might we benefit from a greater honouring of and investment in marriage – your own or those of family, friends or church community around you. Let us be champions of marriage – encouraging and supporting in anyway we can. But let that never be at the expense of the emotional or physical safety of the people in it.

    Our language matters.

    How you speak about divorce – in public forums (the platform at church, social media or other communications) or in casual conversations – matters to those impacted by divorce. Let’s be mindful to consider the people the statistics are referencing when we make observation of cultural trends or shift. Let’s be champions of people and places where healing and support can be sought and experienced rather than (perhaps inadvertently) communicating judgement or exclusion to people already navigating a difficult life experience.