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Reframe your dreaded conversation

feedback May 03, 2023

Did you know that of all the tough conversations you will have as a ministry leader, giving and receiving feedback is reported as the MOST DIFFICULT?!

It is a complicated process and we can all benefit from learning the skills to deliver feedback well. But, before we go there, let’s explore a framework to understand the three kinds of feedback according to Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, authors of “Thanks for the Feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well”. 

The Framework

  • Appreciation is giving thanks and encouraging you to keep doing what you are doing. For it to be effective, it needs to be specific and authentic. It empowers people to continue moving forward in the track they are on and highlights the behavior that needs to continue to make an impact.
  • Coaching is revealing better ways to do something to help you grow. Coaching can be related to improving your skills, exploring alternative options for solving the problems, or deepening perspectives. Examples of this are asking questions to explore options, expand insight or intuitive listening that help people on the journey of their own solutions.
  • Evaluation is telling you where you stand compared to a standard or compared to others. Evaluation aligns expectations and clarifies consequences. Examples of this are a test in school, a multi-rater assessment at work, or other objective criteria to evaluate your performance.

What are we looking for?

One challenge in feedback is that we often don’t get what we are looking for. We are seeking one kind of feedback and receiving another. Or we offer one kind of feedback when another is better suited to the person or situation. 

For example, – let’s say I’m looking for feedback on writing blogs. 

If I am relatively new, it takes more time and energy to get it right and I may not be confident in putting it out there. If I ask you, “What do you think?” I may be looking for a little appreciation to encourage my learning process and boost my confidence to keep trying. 

If I have been blogging for a while, I am finding my voice and enjoying the process of communicating content. If I ask you, “What do you think?” I am probably looking for a little coaching. Help me think through ways to be better at what I am doing. Maybe I am even looking for a little mentoring from someone who is further along than me.

If I feel confident in what I have been blogging, I may start to look for some outside criteria to evaluate my writing. An English teacher who can look at my grammar or sentence structure and measure it against the standard. Or, a publisher who will evaluate my work on their standards of what will sell and what won’t. 

And, this isn’t necessarily a progression in trying something new. If I am already confident in a skill, I might jump right to looking for evaluation or coaching.  Or, if I have been doing it for a while and I am burned out and questioning the purpose of my blogging, I might need some appreciation. 

So, when I ask the question, “What do you think of my blog?” – you have no idea what I am looking for and you might miss the mark totally. The experience becomes a negative feedback experience even though neither of us intend it to be that way.

One Tip

Certainly, there is more to unpack about our difficult feedback conversation, but take this one tip to ask the question BEFORE the feedback conversation – For the giver - What kind of feedback do I want to give? OR For the receiver - What kind of feedback am I looking for?

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