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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

your teen needs you!

There are times in the parenting (or leading and teaching) journey when this feels far from true. Your teen may not LOOK like they need you, they might not ACT like they need you and they may even SAY they don’t need you! But they do.

The cry of the teenage/emerging-adult heart is for relationships and community where three things are present – Trust, Respect and Belief. Sociologists report this drive as the key factors behind gang or ‘bikie’ culture. Such is the need of the heart that it draws a person to connection and belonging ANYWHERE these things are present. It’s true of adults too – but (hopefully) there is a greater degree of discernment to determine whether the presence of trust, respect and belief outweighs any negatives about the people or culture who are offering them.

Let’s unpack these three factors further.

TRUST

What they want …Teens want to be trustworthy but they also want to believe they are capable of trustworthiness and so will crave actions and communication that demonstrate this trust and confidence.

What they fear… Questioning their decision-making skills, their ability to consider all outcomes and options, or their self management or control, translates as an absence of trust.

What to try…

  • Give ample time and opportunity for your teen to explain what they do know and what they have considered (rather than assuming they haven’t really thought things through).
  • Ask questions or use hypothetical scenarios to extend  their awareness of potential outcomes and concerns and grow their consideration.
  • Express your desire to ‘assume the risk’ for the unknown or potential consequences of a decision rather than burdening them with that when their experience or vision is limited. In other words, sometimes a parent needs to be the one who decides because the decision and its outcomes are too weighty for a young person to have to bear.

BELIEF

What they want… In the face of sometimes crippling self-doubt, insecurity, fear of the future and competition teens will gravitate to people and places where they are encouraged to dream big dreams and imagine an extraordinary future.

What they fear… Youth are constantly wondering if they really have what it takes to succeed in life (aren’t we all!). They don’t have the history or experience of seeing how things will play out and so their capacity to predict the future is limited. They are highly sensitive to any inference from adults in their world that what they hope for or are aiming for in their future is not possible.

What to try…

  • Check any language that overloads current decisions or actions with future impact (“if you don’t do well at school you’re not going to have opportunities in work later”). Of course all choices and actions have consequences but then all consequences have options, grace and capacity for recovery. Finite, exaggerated or fatalistic language will scream dis-belief.
  • Encourage aspects of character, attitude and heart that, if they continued to develop them, will open up a world of opportunities to live a productive and impact-ful future.

RESPECT

What they want… As teens transition into adulthood, they are super sensitive to insinuations of immaturity. While they fight for independence they want adults around them to start seeing them as emerging adults and treating them accordingly.

What they fear… Commonly the language and tone we use when talking to young people is quite different to how adults would talk to peers. We can present as quite condescending and they feel that we are unable to see them as anything other than a child.

What to try… 

  • Ask the question “How would I handle this situation if this were a co-worker or peer rather than a teen?” (For example, if a coworker knocked a drink over at a meal table we’d probably be quite quick to help them feel ok about the mishap rather than chastise them for their behaviour.)
  • What actions or statements can you change or add to your interactions that communicate respect of their property or privacy, of their opinions and perspectives, and of their insecurities and fears?
  • Consider how you could deescalate a situation by prioritising respect – both given and received.

How about you?
How have you seen this need for Trust, Belief and Respect manifest in your teens? What do you recall of your struggle with this in your own journey into adulthood? How might you leverage this knowledge to bring greater connection with your teen?

 

an invitation to a sacred space

“Can I ask your opinion on something?” 

Just like that. Sitting across a cafe table. An invitation was extended to enter a very sacred space. 

Asking for another’s opinion is an act of great humility and vulnerability. Inviting someone’s comment on a decision, trusting someone with the concerns of your heart or mind, giving permission for another’s assessment of options you’re weighing up – these are all risky endeavours. 

You open yourself up to disagreement or conflict. You hand over your ability to claim ignorance on a different perspective. You reveal to the other that you know there’s a decision to be made. You invite a potentially higher degree of scrutiny of your actions on the issue. 

Invite others’ opinion. It’s an act of wisdom to seek wise counsel. Ask people who you trust to help you process decisions. Their distance from the issue can provide a more emotionally sober and unbiased perspective. Their wealth of experience and knowledge can be a great resource. And significantly, when opinions are invited they are likely to be more considered – minus the frustration of someone not feeling they have a chance to input. 

Recognise the sacred trust. If someone asks your opinion they have bestowed a great honour. They are communicating trust in you as a person and value in your wisdom. Tread gently, speak carefully; listen as well as speak. And be grateful. 

why we MUST embrace conflict

I really don’t like conflict. In fact, I don’t think anyone does. 

Those who say they like conflict are either bullies who love a good fight OR are actually referring to the outcomes of conflict rather than the conflict itself. 

I love what healthy conflict accomplishes. 

Conflict achieves better results. 

Conflict ensures that all aspects of a decision, event or direction have been fully considered. When ideas are up for debate and discussion we refine and clarify them for best outcomes. Conflict means that we haven’t just settled for the easiest way or the idea that was presented first or loudest. 

Conflict refines our character. 

No one wants to be told that they’ve behaved inappropriately or that they’re being received in an unpleasant manner – but surely we’d rather the chance to change that through awareness and assistance rather than persist in ignorance? Conflict is necessary to acknowledge our sharp edges and give us the chance to smooth them down. 

Conflict strengthens relationships. 

Conflict builds trust. In relationships where hard conversations are lovingly navigated, misalignments recalibrated and, ways forward together are negotiated intimacy and trust are grown. Willingness to identify and endure conflict communicates a depth of commitment. Pressing in through the tough times is what forges strong relational connection. Ignoring issues over fear of conflict creates emotional distance, mistrust and, ultimately, separation. 

So how do we conflict well? 

HEALTHY CONFLICT – 

  • Debates issues not people.

Finding the best outcome means separating an idea from the person who presents it – otherwise we have to go with the decision that belongs to the person we like most or are more afraid of upsetting. We also have to be okay with our idea being trumped by a better one or refined by other thoughts without taking it personally. 

  • Is best when invited. 

Creating an environment where conflict is welcomed – through invitation and self-control in our responses – can diffuse some of the tension and apprehension. Giving others permission to speak frankly, critique honestly and call us to bigger and better in our behaviour and ideas won’t make conflict fun but will make it more healthy and edifying. 

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU – #3 Grow in Understanding

I spend a lot of time thinking, reading, learning and writing about relationships because I find that most of my own personal challenges manifest themselves in that space but also the majority of the kinds of things I find myself talking to others about come back to the area of relationships too. Whether I’m speaking to children or parents about family conflict or frustration or people who are struggling to connect well with others in their ministry teams or people having difficulties at work or school – I find myself constantly needing to process with people a greater understanding about themselves and then about others.

Prov 4:7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you get, get understanding.

Other translations say, “though it cost all you have, get understanding/insight”.

I can’t even number the times I’ve made bad calls or responded inappropriately because I haven’t fully understood where another person is coming from – what their motives or intent are, what information they did or didn’t have, what other factors are influencing their behaviour or choices. I, like you I suspect, can be quick to assess and quick to judge because I automatically think that they know everything I know – in which case, there’s no excuse for their behaviour. It happens too often – hopefully less often – but too often.

Likewise, I could write pages about the number of times I’ve been misunderstood and judged accordingly – and critically. Whether a motive of mine has been questioned or I was saying something in jest and it was taken seriously or someone thought I did something that I didn’t … and then I’ve had to receive the hurtful rejection or criticism … and it’s hard!

Relationships take a beating when people don’t take the time to understand or have the grace to give others a chance to explain.

“Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.” Never let your decisions – particularly of the negative kind – be made on the basis of presumptions and assumptions. Do whatever it takes to understand fully so any response or reaction is based on truth.

  • START at “I don’t understand” – don’t finish there!

When you come to that place in an interaction that you exclaim (or even just think) “I just don’t understand you!” you have arrived at a great place to START to really work on that relationship. When we acknowledge that we don’t understand we are best positioned to clarify misunderstanding and misalignments. “I don’t understand” is the gateway to “help me understand” which is the key to unlocking all sorts of wonderfully healthy things needed for your relationships to flourish.

  • Choose to fill the “gap” with TRUST.

At our Kids Min Team Retreat I made a commitment to my team that I would always seek to fill the gap of understanding with trust. That when I don’t know why they did or didn’t do something, or when I hear something about what they’ve said or done, or there’s a chance for disappointment in an unfulfilled expectation … I would presume the best until I knew otherwise. I committed to trust that whatever I didn’t know or understand would be enough to have me not need to react … so I will wait.

It’s really hard to do – but it’s really worth it. It can save us a whole lot of unnecessary hurt and set us up in the right position to move forward in our relationships.

As far as it depends on you … how much energy do you invest into understanding others? What would it look like if you were to let “I don’t understand” be the starting point for relational interactions? How might things change if you were to fill any gaps in your understanding with trustinstead of suspicion, doubt or judgement?

#1 As Far as it Depends on You (read now)
#2 Grow in God’s Love (read now)
#3 Grow in Understanding
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)