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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

married at first sight & back to school photos

One of my favourite times on the Facebook calendar is back to school week. My newsfeed is flooded with naaawwww-worthy photos of ‘firsts’. First days of school (massive backpacks on little legs and hiding under seemingly enormous sun hats; school dresses triple hemmed and ‘shorts’ that reach down to mid-calf), first days in a new year level or a new school. Last first days for those at the other end of their schooling. Some show the side by side photos of the changes made across the years – tracking the inevitable growth and accompanying differences. Moving from teary hugs and farewells at the classroom door to the increasing independence that sees a child walking or riding off on their own or with friends.

I love it! It marks a new season, acknowledges the passing of another year, signifies for the family yet another shift in life stage and rhythm and celebrates the success and potential of movement through education and other life markers. And it’s pretty stinkin’ adorable, too.

Running parallel with that this year, was the start of another season of Chanel 9’s super successful ‘reality’ show, Married at First Sight. “Successful” in terms of its ratings, not in regards to its success in bringing couples together who actually stay together. It’s a psychological and relational train wreck that produces fascinating television viewing and boosts the social profile of those who participate (surely that’s part of their purpose for being there, right?). But it also highlights underlying cultural and personal expectations that the narrative of a ‘normal’ or ‘fulfilling’ life is centred around finding your soul mate and living in marital bliss.

In the lead up to the show’s airing, one participant, Sarah, recorded a sound byte that played on repeat,

“I’m 38 years old and I have nothing to show for my life.”

As she looks at her life and she applies the known methods for measuring it, she finds herself with nothing to show for it. This comment (and the fears and feelings that framed it) represent her justification for applying for the show. She’s 38, she’s not married and has no children – time is a’wasting! It’s time to employ emergency measures!

At a cursory glance, this comment is dismissible as untrue. Without knowing anything much about her we could readily identify things she might have to ‘show’ for herself. Lives invested in, experiences she gathered, career and other successes she’s enjoyed. But I think we need to listen to what she’s saying. To lean in a little more and seek to understand more fully what her comment is echoing of a message society sends (in both subtle and more overt ways) of how a life should be measured and celebrated. And particularly how that translates for a Single and/or childless person.

For those who are married, each anniversary is an opportunity to reflect with gratitude and celebrate the achievement. High five, us! We made it through another year! Social media gives opportunity to publicly affirm one’s spouse and for the couple’s community to congratulate and encourage them.

For parents, milestone days – the birth of children, firsts of all kinds, ‘before & after’ pictures denoting achievements, changes and growth, performances and of course, birthdays, engagements and weddings – all bring opportunity to gather friends and family (in real life or online spaces) to again, celebrate, and encourage. To reflect on the journey till now; to dream and plan together for the future.

To use Sarah’s language, these are many of the things you have to “show” for the years you have lived, the transitions you’ve navigated and the impact you’ve made on the earth. These are the things publicly celebrated. They are acceptable, anticipated and even requested opportunities to share with others the rewards of the labours of time, money, energy, expertise and sacrifices of all kinds that bring about these moments.

So, if you are not married and don’t have children – how does your life’s journey get marked and acknowledged? In what moments are the community of a Single person called to gather to celebrate, publicly affirm and encourage, to invest advice and energy, to reflect growth and change, to honour success and draw others in?

Commonly, Singles report that attempts to share moments of celebration, difference or success are often perceived as self-absorbed or self-promoting (“why are you making such a big deal about your birthday?!“) or met with jealousy (“I wish I were Single so I could travel more!“).

The success stories told usually include friends, colleagues or family stepping in to facilitate those celebrations and affirmations. My friend Nancy is a champion at this! She enthusiastically and creatively celebrates the birthdays, new jobs, buying a home, graduations, return from holidays and moving days of her Single friends to ensure they’re well marked. And to draw his or her community into expressions of encouragement and celebration.

Think about the people in your world (specifically but not exclusively Singles and/or childless). How can we act to ensure they know what they ‘have to show’ for the life they’re living? What moments of reflection, celebration, affirmation and gathering can we be part of facilitating?

why you should send handwritten notes


In my box of treasures I have a handwritten letter from September, 1984. 

In the weeks before I received it, my grandparents had been tragically killed in a car accident. They were beautiful, Godly, much-loved people and a great loss to our family and their wide circle of friends. 

Enid was an older friend of our family. She had taken the time to write so that I would get a letter of my own in the midst of all the fall out for my parents and others as they processed what was needed to deal with both their grief and practical needs. 

It was special at the time and every time I come across it I am reminded again of the gift it was to me. 

I was recently chatting with a group of school teachers with many years of experience. We were swapping stories about our students and also our own teachers when one shared a story of connecting with a 26 year old ex-student who remembered receiving a “welcome to our class” letter from her 21 years earlier

In quick succession we all shared stories of letters given or received that had continued to be significant decades after they’d be written.

An encouragement note exchanged on a youth camp. 

A letter of condolence or care from a time of particular difficulty. 

A card of congratulations for an achievement or milestone. 

A note to commemorate a special experience or occasion. 

The more stories we shared the more we were compelled to go home and pick up a pen. 

How about you? Have you kept handwritten letters that have particular significance for you? Who could you drop a letter to today?

3 reasons you need a mentor


     So you make new mistakes. 
We do some of our best growing and learning from failure. Although none of us would ever seek it, we recognise that it is one of our greatest teachers. That being said, someone else’s failure is far less painful for you and yet the benefit can be just as great.

A mentor who is willing to expose their own mistakes and short falls and who has done the work of processing where things went wrong gives you the chance to get all the upsides of failure without the personal consequence.

It is the height of foolishness to repeat the avoidable mistakes of others and yet it happens often because we don’t lean into the wisdom and experience of others who’ve been there and done that.

     So you don’t walk alone. 

Whether a leader in business or ministry, a parent, a student, a full time worker – we are all prone to feeling isolated in our roles. We can fall to the belief that we are the only one doing or experiencing what we are doing or experiencing and bare an unnecessary weight in that.

When we reach out to mentors we ensure that we are not left to those feelings very long – if at all. The investment of encouragement and support from a relationship that is articulated and reliable gives us a sense of partnership that sustains and empowers us.

     So you give yourself every chance of success.

A well chosen mentor is a source of great wisdom and insight. Because of their own experience, qualification or status in their specific field they are situated to give great advice and direction. You tap into a breadth of knowledge and awareness that is well beyond your own abilities thus building your capacity at a rate you couldn’t achieve alone.
In a relationship of trust, correction and redirection can happen. Guidance can be given. Problems can be solved. Difficult conversations can be prepared for. Courage to do the hard things can be fortified.

What would you add from your own experience? What are the benefits you’ve reaped from a mentoring relationship?

Next in series 

/3 things to look for in a mentor
// 3 reasons you should be a mentor

how bright can you shine?


This is one of my all-time favourite quotes.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

I find it deeply challenging on a personal level and I think, if we truly absorb its message, it has much to say to us all. It is a commentary on culture as much as it is an encouragement to an individual.

Three thoughts …

  • “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.”

In some ways, I think we can make an idol of timidity and shyness. It’s something that we not only excuse but sometimes even hold up as a virtue to be valued or aspired to. But it doesn’t serve the world. Holding back your gifts, your thoughts, your capacity or your passion because of shyness or some sense of self-consciousness or fear is robbing the world of the reason you are part of it! “You are made to SHINE as all children do – it’s not just in some, it’s in everyone!” This is not about arrogance and self-advancement, it’s about a genuine recognition that we all have something to offer the world and the capacity to make it better – for one, for many, for all. Playing small serves no one. Step up and bring your best. The world needs you.

  • “There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

In relation to my ‘single’ status, a well-meaning friend once said “Perhaps you’re too intimidating!? Maybe guys are put off by how confident and capable you are?” Really? So, what exactly ought I do about that? ‘Shrink’ so that I’m less intimidating? That’s not me, that’s not who I am, that’s not the best version of myself. But that IS what we can find ourselves doing and it is an expectation that we can – intentionally or not – convey to others. What might it look like to create a culture where no one has to shrink? Where everyone is championed for their unique capacity to contribute beauty, creativity, joy and wisdom as they are able. Where each of us deals with our own jealousy, insecurity and intimidation rather than allows those things to inhibit our celebration and support of others.

  • “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same… our presence automatically liberates others.

I am so thankful for the people in my life who have given me permission to shine my light and foundational to that, helped me identify what that light actually looks like or the potential for influence and impact it contains. I have been inspired by the example of other ‘light-shiners’ and encouraged to be one who gives others permission to shine brightly. Getting alongside others in similar life circumstances to those I’ve experienced, championing young people as they wrestle with the challenge of their emerging adulthood, encouraging others in identifying, developing and employing their gifts and skills; intentionally liberating others to shine brightly. I get excited when I imagine communities full of people doing this for one another. Not just ‘unconsciously’ but with great purpose.

Are you a ‘shrinker’? What can you do to shift your posture and boldly shine your light? Are you ‘insecure’? Preventing others from shining too brightly lest they push your jealousy or intimidation buttons.
Are you a ‘permission’ giver? How are you encouraging those around you to shine at their brightest?

#4 when encouragement is a casualty 


My sister-in-law is a really good cook!

Back in the day, I would find it really hard to encourage her when she cooked something nice. To actually articulate “this tastes great” didn’t seem to roll off my tongue very easily. It took me a while, but I worked out I feared that by saying HER cooking was good I was saying MY cooking was inferior. That innate in complimenting her was an element of putting myself down or somehow lessening my own abilities. So the combination of my pride and jealousy stopped me from encouraging her, fearful I would somehow diminish myself by affirming her.

You’re all shaking your heads and ‘tutting’ quietly to yourselves right now … “that Kim sure has problems, who would do such a thing?” YOU WOULD! Go on, admit it, you do it! Or you’ve done it. Or you know someone who has done it. Continue reading