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

 

 

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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.

 

 

leading with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’

We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” – but there can sometimes be a lot of “I” in leadership! (And I mean more than just the little one that is the second last letter!)

Of course, leadership by definition is often an individual or solo task. It’s the act of being ‘out in front’; the front bird in the geese formation, the pointy end of the arrow, the cutting edge, the trailblazer, the pioneer – all of these aspects of leadership are true and right. But more often than not, we find that our leadership plays out in teams and groups. There’s limited value in being the trailblazer if no one is actually then walking on that trail – and if you’re flying out the front of the geese formation and there’s no one else in the geese formation? You know what that makes you? That’s right, a goose!

The purpose of leadership is to take others somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. It’s to see things that are not yet and paint a picture in the imagination of others to inspire them towards future possibilities. It’s to champion gifts, skills and capacity in people that they might otherwise not have known they possessed and to lead them into actions, thought and influence that they might otherwise not have explored or experienced.

Language matters.

How we speak as leaders shapes the culture of our teams and contexts.

Here are some things that can happen when we use “we” instead of “I“.

  • We draw people in to realising their part in a broader movement; a greater purpose. We reinforce a culture of collaboration and team work. We allow others to feel part of activity and outcomes that they may not have even had direct involvement in. It generates energy and excitement around the bigger picture and grander vision.
  • We indicate that we’ve included other voices in our thought processes and decision making. It may be our spouse, parent or friend (as opposed to someone within our organisation or team) but it demonstrates a willingness to listen to other opinions and allow accountability to external input to refine and shape our actions.
  • We demonstrate the humility to share successes (that might actually be wholly ours) with our team. The idea might have been ours, the hours of preparation might have been ours, dealing with the obstacles and opposition might have been ours, but the win is the team’s. We also communicate an expectation of humility in others.
  • We create a culture that handles failure in healthy ways. When we communicate a loss in the language of ‘we’, we show our teams that they can explore, innovate and experiment with confidence because we will all share in the loss. They don’t need to fear public correction or embarrassment. Review and recovery will be handled in a shared and sensitive way.
  • We keep a separation between policy, processes and decisions, and people and emotions. The language of ‘we’ draws on a corporate code; our agreed methods of working and interacting. It reminds others of the decisions we’ve made as an organisation that are guiding our choices rather than making it about personality.
  • We reduce the need for personal defensiveness – from ourselves and the team member. This is not me against you. No one is fighting for themselves in this conflict, process or project – we are on the same team.

It’s really important to note – this is not about deflecting personal responsibility when the responsibility is ours. It’s not an ‘out’ for taking ownership of decisions that are difficult for others to process or avoiding ownership of personal mistakes and shortfall. “I” is also necessary sometimes. But our tendency towards that language first can be unnecessarily distancing, hierarchical, and contrary to building healthy team culture.

3 things generations pastors need from their senior pastor

So, you’ve hired (or inherited) a Children’s Pastor, or a Youth Coordinator or an Associate Pastor for Generations (or any version of a Generations staffer) – what do you do next? One of the most significant relationships that will shape ministry effectiveness and a truly generational culture in your faith community is the relationship between the Senior Pastor and key leaders in the Generational ministries.

1. Access

Leaders immersed in ministry to emerging generations (or who are ’emerging’ themselves) will place a very high value on relational connection. Your time, your encouragement, your wisdom and experience, your clear articulation of the church’s vision or direction and the provision of a sounding board for innovative thinking and problem solving will all happen best through growing relational connection.

The offer of an open door is a start – a genuine invitation to come to you whenever they might need to process something, gain approval or seek advice that is supported by the reception they receive when they do.

Better still, a regularly scheduled meeting time communicates a high value from you. It also provides the consistency of contact and interaction that is necessary for a relationship of trust, open dialogue and true understanding to be fostered. Personally, I would be wary of employing someone who was unwilling to meet regularly with me. Just as I would be equally cautious about working for someone who didn’t appear willing to invest the time and intentional development into me as a leader.

Action points: Make space in your schedule for a regular time with your Generations pastor/leader – it doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be too frequent – it just needs to be regular and it needs to be locked in to your calendars as an event (saying ‘we should catch up some’ time really doesn’t count!). Invest time to know your staff personally.

2. Awareness (& accountability)

Generational ministry finds a great deal of its expression outside of regular work or office hours. Youth pastors are doing some of their most intense hours on a Friday (or other) night, Kids Ministry workers are often squirreled away in largely unseen rooms, Young Adult small groups and events happen in evenings or on weekends, team meetings are scheduled outside regular hours to accommodate the volunteers that serve on them and, on top of all that, many Generations leaders are only working part-time hours. Left unchecked, it is easy for Generations workers to operate off the grid for large amounts of time. This is, of course, entirely practical but it is also fodder for doubt or mistrust to form when there are too many times when other staff or members of the church community ask, “Where is Sarah or Josh?” and no one can answer.

This can also extend to the question of ‘what’ – “What are they doing in Kids Ministry?” “What are the Youth studying this term?” “What is the strategy for connecting with families?”. Again, the more times the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ the more disconnected and untethered those Generational ministries can appear. And in time, that appearance can translate to reality.

In the context of regular access and strong relational links, a Senior Leader can be abreast of enough information to feel confidently aware as well as being able to communicate that awareness and confidence to other staff and members of the church community. This also provides a level of accountability to Generations staff as they are required to account for the spend of their time. In this way, they can also be monitored for ‘over-working’ – something that is easily done if their unseen hours aren’t being considered in their work-life rhythm.

Action points: Create a visual or open-access system of sign in/sign out and a way of communicating when staff can be next expected in the office. This is useful for all staff – particularly in environments when many are working part time or irregular hours. (And speaking as a person who lives alone, I like the idea that my work place might notice if I’m not there and check on me at some point!! 🙂 )
Ask for copies of term plans for Generations ministries. Dates of events, themes of study or any other broad information about the activity of a ministry area will help you to ask informed questions when you are speaking with Generations staff.

3. Advocacy

Generations ministry leaders are on the front line of feedback and engagement. Parents love their kids and are often quite zealous in their desire to see programs and opportunities meet their individual needs and expectations. Many people have opinions about how these ministries should operate and will be quick to vocalise them to anyone they deem able to influence a ministry’s direction.

Your Generations Pastors need to know that you have their back. They need to be confident in your confidence in them. They need to be assured that complaints or criticisms are not being entertained by you without you seeking out the full information and without you doing anything to undermine their authority or currency amongst those they minister to.

Raging fan in public – honest critic in private.” This is the mantra of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church staff culture. They covenant to always support one another publically – in the moment of leadership activity and/or to anyone who might take an opportunity to question or challenge. “I’m sure they have a good reason for that decision or action, let me find out what it is and get back to you.” Assuming the best of your leaders is the only way to nurture a trust-infused environment that allows innovation and personal development to take place. Through that lens of trust and belief, honest questions of critique or concern can be processed in healthy and helpful ways.

Action points: Resolve to always have your staff’s back as they lead and when others might come to you to ‘complain’. Affirm the Biblical practice of resolving conflict directly with the person involved rather than permitting a climate of back talking or conflict avoidance. Ensure your Generations leader knows they have your full support in all things and the guarantee of your honest review and feedback. Knowing that no news truly is good news will give them greater confidence to lead boldly. Speak plainly to your Generations pastors about areas of work and create a grace-filled way back after failure or misfire.

***

Of course, all of these actions and ideas won’t guarantee a successful ministry tenure for your Generations leader – but the absence of these things will make it all the more improbable! When a Generations Leader can rely on their Senior Pastor (or up-line) to be available to them, to be aware of their ministry movements and personal development trajectory, and to advocate for them they are best positioned to thrive in their role. And everyone wins when that happens. Senior leadership, the Generational culture of the church (and the many families and young people impacted for the Kingdom) and the Generations Pastor themselves.

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

trump, leadership & the language of abuse


When I was 13 years old, there was a boy in my Year 8 classes at school who would often grab me in my crotch. 

I would get to class quickly and try to position myself between two occupied seats but he was that guy with enough social clout to tap the person next to me on the shoulder and tell them to move or even get that done with just the flick of his head. 

I would sit my school books or pencil case on my lap as a deterrent. 

I remember him laughing. I remember feeling so unsafe. I remember not understanding why – what was he trying to communicate, how was I supposed to feel or respond?

Maybe he didn’t really know either? Where had he got the idea? What goal was he trying to achieve? What did his actions reflect of his understanding of sexuality or intimacy or respect for women? 

And then, then you hear the recording of Donald Trump – a 59 year old man (at the time), successful in business, of high social profile, educated, and relationally and sexually experienced. He is clearly heard to say about women, “when you’re a star …you can do anything. You can grab them in the p—y. You can do anything.” 

So, it’s just because you can? It’s just because no one tells you not to? 

Why is HE doing it? Does he think it’s sexy? Has it worked as a pick up measure in the past? Does he think women like it? Does he consider it foreplay? Does it feel like a conquest?

Whatever the motive and whatever the personal justification, he has ultimately given voice to the misguided behaviour of a 13 year old boy – and males of all ages – that ‘because you can’ supersedes all other filters for choosing a behaviour or action. The lack of respect for others (particularly women), the obscene level of narcissism, the depraved distortion of sexual intimacy and honour of another’s sexuality, the right of another to feel safe in their person – free from the expectation that someone might just grope their genitals at any time …all that and more just falls away. 

This is the fertile soil that nurtures abuse and entitlement and this man has just put language to it. 

This IS leadership. It is terrible leadership – but it is leadership. It is a person of influence using language of permissiveness and dishonour to shape the culture they are leading. 

This really is not okay. 

Our young men need to hear a different narrative and be called to champion a higher standard. Our women need men who will esteem and protect them – for everything they are – including their sexuality and physicality but extending deeper to their mind, their soul; their hearts. Our countries need leadership that embodies respect for every human and renders unacceptable anything that demeans or diminishes. 

Trump’s profoundly inappropriate attitude and words (including his lame charade of an apology) and the response they’ve received ought to be a wake up call for us all. A call to check our language, check our privilege, and check our leadership. 

We can do so much better than this. We must. 

stop saying “they” when you talk about the church

I LOVE the Church! 

Jesus committed to building it and He intends to come back for it and until then it’s the hope of the world! It’s the means by which Christians are built up in faith, pointed to Jesus and mobilised for His mission. It’s a community that can reveal and represent the love of Father God to those yet to encounter Him. It’s a mechanism to mobilise those who’ve experienced the greatest of love, mercy and grace to extend it to the least and the last to bring transformation to the world. I love the Church – even in all her brokenness and dysfunction. 

I am grieved anytime the Church falls short of all it can be and do. I hate when the Church does a bad job of showing Jesus to others and advancing His gospel. I am disappointed when people are let down by the Church. I am eternally frustrated by those within who have such negative and critical things to say about her. 

But then I remember why. 

Because the Church is me. It’s you. It’s not an entity or organisation beyond the people who are in it. You are the Church. You are the “they”. 

Of course, each church will have its leadership and many will have paid staff of varying sizes and makeup, but these roles aren’t the Church. They exist to help you and I to be the Church. 

God calls us to connect to a faith community and invest ourselves in it. He gifts us to serve one another so we might experience and express the fullness of that and so together we might be a force for His Kingdom in our local area and beyond. To see the broken restored, the wounded healed, and the bound set free in Jesus’ name. 

So if “they” are not doing something right, enough or at all. If “they” don’t have suitable programs for specific demographics, sufficient leadership or quality of volunteers. If “they” haven’t got the budget for further facilities or to staff opportunities. If “they” aren’t active enough in the community. If “they” aren’t welcoming of new people. If “they” aren’t providing mentors or developing leaders. If “they” aren’t employing new technologies or advocating for justice or … or mowing the lawns frequently enough! 

Let’s remember who “they” are. 

God gives vision and authority to leadership to guide us. But He gives each of US to our churches to partner with Him in His ministry and mission. When you speak of ‘the Church’, you’re talking about me, you’re talking about you!