What’s for Breakfast?
Making Feedback Part of Your Diet
By Jerry Graham
What did you have for breakfast today? Someone once said that feedback was the breakfast of champions. (Incidentally, if you know who that someone was, I would love to get an email from you...I have been looking for the source of that quote for years.) Well, if feedback is truly the breakfast of champions, why does it seem that so many people skip breakfast? Why are so many people resistant to feedback? How about you? Is feedback a constant part of your diet?
As you undoubtedly realize, but maybe never considered, feedback goes two ways. A champion needs to know how to give feedback as well as how to receive feedback. Ever notice how so many more people are specialized? That is, good (at least in their view) at giving feedback but not so good at receiving it? Can a specialist ever qualify to be a champion?
Let’s look at receiving feedback first. How many people have you ever been led by or worked for who were good at receiving (and responding to in a godly manner to) feedback? I’ll bet it’s been precious few. Why is that? In an attempt to help you rise above the fray, allow me to offer a few tips to improve your ability to receive feedback.
First, realize that feedback is not the “Truth!” It’s only someone’s experience or viewpoint. It may be helpful or it may not. As the old cliché goes, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” Recognize that even when feedback is intended for harm, there may be some life-giving meat on them bones. Feedback says nothing about you. It merely describes someone else’s response to you. Feedback is simply information. It should not be taken personally or it can all too easily spawn a bevy of negative emotions, e.g., resentment, defensiveness, anger, et al.
Second, it is a good practice to seek multiple sources of feedback. This gives you many differing viewpoints upon which to base any change in behavior. Another thing to remember is that if you are making everybody happy, you’re probably not leading very effectively. In fact you may instead just be following the crowd.
There are a couple of hints for how to give feedback as well. Remember that a true champion is a switch-hitter. Since giving feedback, even with the best of intentions, can sometimes offend—why take the risk? Realize that every time feedback is not given, someone is denied important information that could help him or her make better decisions. Do you want your people withholding information from you? (Insert the Golden Rule here.)
First, focus on making a contribution with your feedback. As a leader, you have a responsibility to be a catalyst that gets people to do things they may not otherwise do. The purpose of leadership is not to win friends...but to influence people...although a true champion often does both.
Be mindful that just because it is your opinion, it is still just an opinion and not the “Truth!” Therefore, you should offer it as just your opinion and totally (as much as possible) detach yourself from the reception of your feedback. Don’t get caught in the trap of trying to convince someone of something. Just offer your viewpoint. No more, no less. No judgment allowed!
Brian Klemmer, from whom much of the above was taken, wisely wrote, “Being able to give and receive feedback places you so far ahead of the nearest competitor that you might wonder, ‘Are we in the same race?’” Feedback is all about you being the best YOU possible...about you becoming everything that God intended you to become. Truly the breakfast of champions! Are you one of those champions?
We have found that one’s ability to give and/or take feedback is usually not something that can be self assessed...it’s usually a blind spot. Coaches are trained to be mirrors that can help you see those things that those around you see so clearly but too often are reluctant (afraid?) to mention. So this week, what’s an intentional step you can take to help your clients add feedback to their diet?
Jerry Graham is a certified coach and coach trainer who helps pastors and ministry leaders become the leaders they were meant to be. Meet Jerry at www.TheCoachingPair.com or www.CoachingPastors.com/Graham.htmll.