Tuesday, May 21


Feedback is the breakfast of champions Ken Blanchard

Without honest and timely feedback your personal and organisational growth is always limited Craig Groeschel (who I can credit for a lot of the research for this blog).

We are all blind to certain areas of our lives, performance or behaviours. We don’t know what we don’t know.

This has been proven time and time again when observing the attempts in the early audition stages of The Voice, or other reality TV competitions. We all have winced for the person who clearly has no self-perception concerning their talent, and clearly no kind friend to tell them this is not the area they are gifted in!

Why is it 90% of managers think they are in the top 10%? Because no-one has helped them through coaching and feedback.

But many of us don’t know how to reach out for and receive feedback. Even though it’s actually around us all the time. Someone’s body language, a throw away comment, a decline to a suggestion, a smile, a lack of a smile, a folding of the arms, a hesitation, and so much more, are all ‘everyday’ gestures of feedback to us.

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s book Thanks for the Feedback unpacks a whole lot more on this subject.

So let’s talk about how to receive all types of constructive feedback so it benefits our personal growth. 3 simple things to consider:

1. Embrace it

Feedback does not have to be something we hate or even simply tolerate, it can be something we choose to embrace.

I have learnt that I need feedback to navigate what I do successfully.

I get insecure if I don’t invite feedback on things I am doing, or how I am doing. I feel more equipped with the voices of others speaking into my ‘patch’. This is not me having an insecurity crisis, this is me wanting to be wise about the what and how we do things around here.

So I try and open myself to feedback regularly. I need my team’s feedback on proposals and ideas, sermon series’, choices of people in positions, on events and much more. Many of these things have my personal and emotional investment. It’s a feedback on me, and on us as a team.

I’ve learnt to take hints, watch reaction, read signals and survey the engagement and reaction of the community.

For example, I can be quite spontaneous, so there have been times I have made decisions without the thorough consultation I now go through. I used to notice a little resistance, or a lack of adoption, to these decisions. Upon reflection of these ‘feedback signals’ I realised I needed to be more inclusive in the decision making process, to enable a sense of ownership.

It is not always easy to receive feedback, so I have to determine my posture to receive, by deciding I want it.

It is always easier to embrace feedback when my motivation for long term success becomes more attractive than short term pain and I want to avoid the embarrassment of being that person closed, blind, or not malleable.

We embrace feedback because the dream matters.

2. Seek it

A step beyond embracing feedback is seeking it out. This helps us position ourselves to want it. But it also helps the person giving the feedback.

It’s not always easy to give feedback, so as the one receiving feedback, if we seek it out, ask a question, open it up, we make it easier for the feedback giver.

I seek feedback not just from my team, but also from other leaders who are visiting our Church, from an outsider’s point of view; I ask what they think we or I could do better in certain areas. I realise this is a ‘snapshot in time’ feedback, but all feedback is helpful.

I have sought feedback on my preaching recently, and this proved extremely helpful, not just for my preaching skills, but the feedback had ripple effects into how I communicate generally.

Don’t simply ask general questions – do you have any feedback? Ask specific questions : About what you’re wearing? About your marriage? Or your communication and so on.

And ask clarifying questions: Can you give me an example that helps me understand? Can you help me understand what I could do better next time? What do you do that helps you think that way?

Instead of responding defensively ask : Tell me more or help me understand Seek feedback ahead of time if you can.

Seeking feedback before an event, a presentation, an interview or any activity will help you perfect it or even drop a decision you were going to make.

And of course, after each activity you have played a role in, seek feedback from your leader or your team, and come with questions.

3. Don’t let it get too personal

Often a reason we don’t like feedback is because we think it’s a critic of who we are. But it’s not, it’s a critic of what we do, of our performance and actions.

Craig Groeschel puts it like this : We separate the do from the who. If we translate feedback as a personal critic or attack, we easily get defensive.

When you find yourself getting most defensive, that is when you really need to listen. It indicates a vulnerable area which gives you the most opportunity to grow.

When we receive feedback we can’t afford to be fixed on how it is we do things. Our actions can change.

Feedback is not about who you are, but it is helping you get better every day. Helpful and timely feedback is the only way to become what you need to become, and values those who are around you

“Leaders who don’t listen to others will eventually be surrounded by leaders who have nothing to say” Andy Stanley