Become a Feedback Guru

feedback photo 2.jpgFeedback is a powerful tool for growth, learning, and life change.

Feedback helps us grow and develop personally, and it helps us focus, change, and/or re-direct our efforts for greater productivity and fruitfulness.

As part of my job, I recently prepared a project called “30 Days of Feedback“. The goal was to help people improve in giving and receiving feedback. Co-workers and friends were encouraged to sign up to receive posts of encouragement, tips, and simple activities they could do to build a culture of feedback at work, on a team, and in their families.

The project was a great learning experience for me. I enjoyed reading books, articles, and blog posts about feedback. I searched for videos to communicate key points. I organized the content into a month schedule and asked for lots of feedback 🙂 from others as the posts took shape. One of my favorite parts of the project was creating the graphic design memes for each day together with my very artistically talented daughter.

feedback memesThe posts covered both how to offer (give) positive feedback and how to invite (receive) constructive feedback from others.

After the 30 days, some of my co-workers asked if we could make the content available all together, so we created an eBook. The eBook will be helpful for those who want to continually review the ideas and practice the tips and activities with others.

I’d like to offer the eBook as a resource to you (click on the photo below)! I hope you will find it helpful. Feel free to pass it along to others also.

30 Days of Feedback COVER

I’d love to hear your feedback on the book! What is something new you learned about feedback?

a heart check-up for leaders

You can’t lead if no one follows.

On the other hand, a lot of people don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a business title or position, but others are watching them and following their example all the time. We can all learn to lead better.

I had the privilege last week of attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Summit, spoke first. He shared three hard-fought leadership lessons from his experience. This is my adaptation of his first point:


“Oftentimes, leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest awareness of the spirit of their team.” ~ Bill Hybels

Leaders can get so fired up about their vision and strategies that followers begin to pay the price. The leader starts to view everyone else as caring less about the goals than they do. The leader then determines that if the followers don’t care about the vision, then the leader doesn’t have to worry about the followers’ heart… and those followers become expendable.

This attitude may not get expressed out loud, but everyone can feel it.

Some ways to protect against this error and truly care for your people:

  • Do an objective/outside evaluation. Bring in a professional team, get a coach, ask a friend. Find out what your followers are thinking and feeling. Have someone else give you honest feedback about how you are treating your team (or students, or children…) with your attitudes and actions.
  • Make sure the leader and team “own” the desired culture. If the leader does not lead by example, others will get frustrated with the hypocrisy and not embrace or apply the culture either.
  • Get serious about training the leaders who manage other people. Some people simply should not lead. If others are continually getting hurt, discouraged, held back, or frustrated by a leader – do something about it! Hybels said, “People join organizations, but leave managers.”
  • Increase the level of candor in evaluations/reviews. An easy format to use is the Start, Stop, Continue categories… and be specific! People (including children!) want desperately to know, “How am I doing?” They can’t get better or grow in areas, if they don’t know what it is that they need to improve.

The kindest form of feedback is the truth. 

  • Practice a ruthless commitment to conflict resolution. View conflicts not as burdens, but rather as opportunities to strengthen the relationship. (more on this area in a coming post!)

WOW! I have plenty to work on here… and that was just his first point! I’ll write about more of the sessions in upcoming posts.

Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you care about the heart and spirit of the people who follow you?

do you work in a team or a family?

I have worked in Latin America for many years. I love the Latin culture – especially the emphasis on relationships: relaxed meal times, fiestas for any occasion, inter-generational activities, inclusion of children at events, incredible friendships and loyalty. These characteristics provide an incredible richness to my life.

However, any strength – at its extreme – can also be a weakness. I was often uncomfortable when our organizational staff claimed that we were a “family”. I knew that, although I cared deeply for many of my co-workers, they were not a real family for me. I also knew that we did not treat each other like we would members of a true family. There was something I didn’t like or agree with that statement, although I couldn’t put it into words.

Today I read a blog post by Mark Miller that clarified this exact issue for me. His post helped me to understand that when we view our team through a family perspective, we often allow performance to suffer. This is a common problem for non-profits and religious organizations. I remember many times when we erroneously did not confront poor behavior, implement consequences, or even ask someone to leave the organization… because we did not want to lose a “family” member. This distorted perspective means that we postpone and avoid crucial decisions that often cause great harm to the individual and to the organization. 

This wise comparison comes directly from Mark Miller’s post:

team or family

Mark clarifies that many of the “family” characteristics are great additions to a healthy and fruitful team environment. Applied correctly, these elements create community, which leads to greater trust, shared responsibility, and performance. A sense of community on a team is beneficial, but as Mark says, “However, unlike in a family, to be a member of the community is conditional.”

Does your team work like a team or a like a family?

*** For excellent content on leadership, follow Mark Miller’s blog, Great Leaders Serve, at:

how to know yourself better

reflection morguefile webDo you like homework? Neither do I… usually.

However, this fall I had to do a homework assignment for our Global Leadership MA class that I want to recommend to you. It was, by far, the most encouraging homework assignment I have ever done. The exercise is called “Your Reflected Best Self” (RBS), and it is fully described in the Harvard Business Review article, “How to Play to Your Strengths” from January 2005.

The exercise is not designed to build your ego, although it might do that. A while back I wrote about how we often receive six comments of negative feedback to one positive. The RBS is a systematic tool that balances out that ratio by discovering or confirming strengths and potential. With some analysis and application (done best with the help of a coach), you can use the information gained to develop a plan to maximize your talents at work and in other areas of life.

It works like this:

Step 1: identify a variety of people to give you feedback

Chose 10 to 20 people – family, past and present co-workers and bosses, friends, etc. Send them an email like this…

Dear XXXX,

As part of my personal development program, I am constructing a profile of the ways that I add value and contribute. I am contacting twenty people who know me well from a variety of relationships: family, friends, co-workers. I am requesting that each person provide me with three stories of when I was at my best and my strengths were meaningful to them in some way. I would like to invite you to help me with this exercise.

I appreciate you taking time to do this for me. Please provide specific examples so I can understand the situation and the characteristics you are describing. One short paragraph will be fine.

1. One of the ways that you add value and contribution is: _______

For example….

2. Another way that you add value and contribution is: _______

For example…

3. One last way that you add value and contribution is: _______

For example…..

Please email your responses to me by XXXXX.

Thanks so much for your help!

Step 2: observe patterns from the responses received

Enjoy reading the email responses! A good way to see the common themes is to create a chart. It might look something like this…

Common Theme

Examples Given

Possible Interpretation

Ethics 1. I stood up to a peer who was crossing the line of ethical behavior. 


I am not afraid to choose right over wrong.
Team Builder 1. I coached our softball team. 

2. I created a work group for a big project. 


I thrive working with others.

Step 3: write a personal profile and compare it with your day-to-day life

After you summarize the feedback, you will know yourself better and the tasks, atmosphere, and relationships that energize you and facilitate your strengths. You can then evaluate where and how often you get to use your talents. Those are likely the times, projects, and situations where you are most encouraged and most productive. If you are not using your best self very often, you can understand why you feel tired and discouraged.

Step 4: redesign your job 🙂

It is not always possible to redesign your whole job, but sometimes there is freedom to make a few key adjustments. We can also make changes at home to allow more time for the people and the tasks that bring out the best in us. This is when coaching is helpful – to think through where to make the changes… and help us actually follow through.

I learned a lot about myself by doing this exercise; I hope you will too. If you decide to try it, please let me know what you find out about your Best Reflected Self!

blind spots

Traveling down the highway the other day, we saw many people texting or talking on their phone as they drove. Their speed was erratic, and they were constantly swerving from one lane to another. I felt nervous and in danger anywhere close to them, I and encouraged my husband to put some distance between us as quickly as possible.

It came to my mind that this dangerous behavior is very obvious to others, although the texting-driver may mistakenly think they have everything under control. From behind, we watch the unintentional lane changes and make adjustments for their inconsistent speed. When we pass along the right – because they are usually blocking the passing lane – we have never been wrong in our initial hypothesis as to the cause of their erratic driving. They are often so intent on their communication that they do not look up or even notice as we pass by.

Blind Spots  = obvious to everyone except me

I can have blind spots in many areas of my life. I am often so busy with my own tasks and concerns that I am completely unaware of how my attitudes and behavior are affecting others. I hate to think of how often a family member has to move out of my way for their own protection, or how often a co-worker has to make adjustments for my erratic actions.  I don’t want to be a danger to others. 

One tool we use in our organization is the 360° review; a feedback survey process that allows those around me – supervisor/director, co-workers, direct reports – to let me know how I am doing in my leadership. Their confidential responses are correlated with my self-assessment answers, and a trained feedback facilitator communicates the information during a personal appointment. The feedback confirms obvious strength and weakness areas, encourages strengths (those others saw, but I didn’t mention), and warns me about the dreaded blind spots.

The first time I went through a 360° review, it was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I felt clobbered by the negative comments and had a hard time recognizing the positive. I had a great facilitator at the time, and I have since come to greatly appreciate the process. I know that when I invite truthful feedback in my life, I grow in humility and I increase my abilities to work productively and serve others well.

I can hear truth from others in a formal 360° review or simply in vulnerable conversations with friends, family and mentors. It is one of the most important things I can do to ensure that I am a safe person, considerate of others, and aware of my impact… less blind spots! 

Have can you invite someone to give you honest feedback about your blind spots? 

truth matters

road sign for the town of Truth or Consequences, NM
© Alamy-Jonathan Larsen

Henry Cloud, in his book, Integrity, writes that many people lie… actually most of us do, in some form or another.

How about the little “white” lie answer to, “How are you doing?” Do I say “fine” when I’m not really fine? Or if someone asks me, “So… how did I do?”, do I give them honest feedback or do I respond with a generic, “Great”? What about when someone wants me to “fudge” on a recommendation letter, or a stats report, or a financial designation? Do I “help them out, or do I tell the truth?

Cloud states, “People of good character are people who can be trusted to tell the truth.”

  • Truth about myself – I’ve heard many times to consider reality as my friend. It doesn’t help to hide, avoid or deny reality – especially about myself. One powerful element of leadership is self-awareness, understanding my strengths and weaknesses. If I don’t contend with my weak areas, others will. I don’t want to be the fool who’s not really fooling anyone except myself. Although it is not easy for me, I am learning to seek out truth – ask others (husband, co-workers, boss, friends) for an evaluation, request feedback about my leadership, apply what they tell me, and seek help where I am weak.

      Will I pursue the truth?

  • Truth about others – I’ve written before about my desire to please others and be the “nice guy“. It is hard to tell people the truth when it may hurt them, but there is a big difference between a surgeon who causes pain while saving a life and a murderer who causes pain when taking a life. The pain itself is not bad – intent is what matters. I am learning that I sometimes have to tell someone a painful truth in order to help them mature, change, or make a wise decision. If I use tact, care, empathy, and respect when I speak, the truth pill is easier to swallow. The temporary pain is for their good; if I withhold the truth because of my fear of rejection or negative reaction, I have put my comfort ahead of their well-being.

      Do I care enough to tell the truth?

  • Truth about my world – In our ministry, we used to do an honest evaluation of our progress every school quarter. We would look at the stats numbers and consider the brutal-truth information they provided. We would celebrate where we were doing well, and we would prayerfully adjust our plans and activities wherever we were missing the mark. Cloud calls this assimilation and accommodation.

The world is changing at breakneck speed. If I am not willing to let go of the “way we’ve always done it”, or if I mislead investors with a sugar-coated story that conceals the real numbers, or if I intentionally tell my teammates only a partial truth about my actions, I – and the organization – will never be able to grow to meet the demands of our reality. No growth = death.

      Am I willing to respond to the truth?


Do you struggle with telling the truth?

What helps you remember that the truth matters?