In a recent post, “The One We Feed Each Day” I talked about practices I would be trying out to “feed the good wolf” in an ongoing manner. One of them was to encourage more transparency and authenticity, to have honest conversations that lead to collaborative problem solving and growth. While some opportunities for this occur naturally, others need to be created with intention.
To this end, at LINC, we started our own version of gathering feedback, starting with the leadership team. We kept it simple - a short set of questions that could be answered by multiple people in under 15 minutes. While the forms were anonymous like conventional 360 formats, we added in the process of having at least a couple of direct conversations. During those 1-1 feedback sessions, the person soliciting feedback merely asks the questions and listens to the response, then gives thanks to the feedback provider. After a handful of these feedback conversations, I realized the multifaceted gifts of this practice:
Gift of connection - I realized that these moments were the stuff of deep connection, very intentional sharing and listening. It is rare that we get the opportunity to only do one or the other, but knowing the role and stepping fully into it allows for a deeper connection between two people, to be fully expressed and fully heard. Additionally, asking a person to provide feedback is an expression of value, and accepting that opportunity is an expression of trust.
Gift of calm waters - Sometimes we get feedback in the midst of a problem that needs to be solved. In those moments, the feedback is often emotionally charged or influenced by the situation, making it harder to give with positive intention and harder to receive without being defensive. When we take the time to solicit feedback unattached from a particular issue, it neutralizes what can often be difficult but important to communicate.
Gift of illumination - When you ask one person for feedback, you get what is helpful for them specifically. When you ask five people, you start to see patterns emerge. I’ve now asked several people the same questions, and there are clear blind spots that have been illuminated for me. The most prominent one is my tendency to move quickly without enough context or time for others to process, ask questions, or contribute. This is something that unconsciously diminishes other ideas and is thus very important for me to work on, but it may have not come up in the context of someone giving me feedback directly related to a problem.
Whether we work in an office or in a classroom, every one of us wants to be good at our jobs. I believe we want to wake up and be effective in serving and supporting our teams, our students, and our stakeholders. What would be possible if you took on the challenge of asking just 5 people these 3 questions?
- What are some of my strengths?
- What are some things I could do better?
- What are some things I could do more of..or less of on your behalf?
What gifts of connection may arise between you and a colleague, student, or parent? What gifts of calm waters may you enter into if you ask this of a person with whom you sometimes have conflict or a harder time serving? What gifts of illumination may shine through that you may never have discovered if you didn’t ask to turn on the light?