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!)
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    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.

    creativity inc. – book reflections

    Disclaimer : This is not a book review, it’s just some reflections. I listen to books (via Audible – get on it!) and I listen to them at 1.5 speed (if the narrator’s pace allows). I can’t highlight or underline and, as I’m usually driving while listening, I don’t get to take notes. I listen for big ideas, not details. I listen for concepts rather than quotes. So here are some reflections on a book I recently finished.

    Creativity Inc. Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.

    by Ed Catmull

    Ed is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. A computer scientist by training, he initially created software to assist in computer animation but went on to co-found Pixar Animation Studios and create some of our best known and loved animated movies.

    This book was fascinating. As a lover of animated movies (particularly Disney & Pixar) I was intrigued to get a behind-the-scenes look at all the processes and decisions that go into the making of the movies whose quotes make up around 50% of my general daily dialogue!

    It’s quite a long read but it has so much in it. Beyond the intricate insights into how characters, plots and contexts were researched, created and refined I was intrigued by the leadership lessons learned and shared. And particularly challenged and inspired about how intentionally they focused on creating, communicating and maintaining a vibrant, creative and productive culture.

    Some stand out take-aways for me…

    Easy is not the goal.

    Disney & Pixar exist to make excellent movies. The book references the thousands of decisions that are made, the distractions that need to be avoided, the challenges that need to be overcome and the budgets that need to be managed in order to make an excellent movie … and then to make another one. Every system and process is painstakingly analysed to refine speed and quality of production, staff satisfaction and overall outcomes. But Catmull was keen to point out that in amongst all of that, ‘easy’ must never be the goal. Sure, the easiest way to accomplish a goal is the goal but the goal is never about ease. He warned about how allowing a culture to be shaped around shortcuts, quick fixes and ‘that will do’ is toxic first to excellent outcomes, but ultimately to team morale and momentum. He gave multiple examples of how high calibre workers are motivated by the challenge to create outcomes of significance not mediocrity (however that might be measured in a given field of endeavour). I loved thinking about how that might translate into other leadership and team environments. I resonated profoundly with this idea.

    A culture of feedback is essential.

    Catmull details the processes of feedback employed at Disney & Pixar and they are elaborate. Organisationally, they continually spend a great deal of resource (man-hours, money, energy) on extracting, collating and responding to feedback on all aspects of their film creation. The level of humility demonstrated by senior leadership sets the tone for this. And the intentionality around establishing and maintaining a culture where feedback is genuinely welcomed and valued is incredibly high.

    A loose paraphrase of a quote – “You don’t want to be in an organisation where the level of candour is higher in the corridors than it is in your meetings. In rooms where ideas, policy and best practice are being hashed out you want to only be hearing the truth – the whole truth.” And he goes on to articulate how it is that they monitored and responded to this. He shares not only his repulsion at the idea that people might withhold their honest opinions because they want to appear amiable to their up-lines, but the acknowledgement that they could never be their best or do their best if these honest opinions weren’t being heard. So they went about developing clearly communicated and curated methods for extracting feedback at every level of their organisation.

    Sections of this book read as a master class in how to create and nurture a culture of feedback. I suspect I’ll be revisiting it for this purpose. It’s crazy inspiring.

    Failure is essential.

    Feeding into the value and success of a culture of feedback is communicating (in word and deed) that there is a way for failure to be processed and recovered from – a way back. In fact, Catmull asserts that failure is to be expected because it’s a “necessary consequence of trying something new”. An organisation can’t be hoping for innovation and progress without giving permission to experiment – which innately opens up the potential for failure as risks are taken.

    Healthy team culture deals with failure in predictable, articulated and honouring ways so as to re-embolden a team member (and those watching on) for continued creative endeavours.

    What TRUST really looks like.

    I thoroughly appreciated the repeated references Catmull made to the importance of trust – but also how he defined it. He asserts the necessity of trust for healthy team culture, releasing the creative and innovative, and ultimately for generating best outcomes. Further to his observations on failure, he posits that performance failure can’t be a reason to withdraw trust. “Trust doesn’t depend on a person not messing up – it means that you’ll keep trusting them even when they do mess up!” (paraphrase).

    Trust is about trusting the motive and intent of a person – they were thinking this would help and achieve what we were hoping to achieve, it just didn’t work out that way. Rather than assuming the worst of a person – they wasted time and money on a method that was useless and now they can’t be trusted with that level of autonomy or creativity again. If failure is a necessary consequence of trying something new and you want your people to try new things then they can’t be penalised if that attempt wasn’t successful. Trust gives a person confidence to make their best effort and offer their best ideas knowing that you are behind them and for them and will help them find their way back if things go wrong.

    Lots of other things.

    There’s more. You might want to read it yourself. If you’re keen on learning more about developing great organisational culture – this book could be for you. If you’re particularly fond of Buzz & Woody and all their other mates, then you’ll love it too!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    5 ways to build up your kids min team


    Kids Ministry is an exciting and exhausting place to serve. Those who do it well will absolutely love it and give their all to it – but that doesn’t mean they are immune to feelings of doubt or fatigue.

    Here are 5 very simple yet super effective ways you can make your Kids Min Team better – building them up in their sense of purpose and energy to continue to invest in our kids and community.

    1. Thank them

    Give them a high five at sign in. Tell them you appreciate their commitment to your children. Help them understand the impact their serving has on you and your family. Remind them of the important part they play in your church community. Drop them a note, give them a FaceBook shout out, or speak it out loud.

     

    2. Know their names

    Make the effort to learn and remember their names. Get to know them. Find out what year they’re doing at school, what they’re studying at Uni or where they work. Try and discover what they do for fun, what their favourite chocolate is, what music they listen to or what sport they follow. Your effort will communicate such high value to them.

     

    3. Bring them coffee

    Because Sunday mornings are hard y’all!! Surprise them with coffee or breakfast donuts and fruit. Buy the night team a pizza for supper or bring slurpees on a hot day.

     

    4. Give them feedback

    When your kids remember something they learned at Kids Min or when they tell a story about something their leader did – pass it on. Help them understand how their influence reaches beyond the scheduled ministry times. Encourage them to know the impact they are having in your kids’ lives.

     

    5. Serve with them

    Join the team – Kids Min teams ALWAYS need more members – and multiply their ministry effectiveness by adding your own gifts and skills. If you can’t be part of the scheduled ministry times, find ways to serve from home or during the week.

    PICK ONE (or more) – and do it NOW!