I was recently amidst a small group of executive leaders who were exploring best practices about giving feedback for those we are leading in our organization. The heart of the matter was very fruitful and the leaders in the room were equally yoked towards a genuine desire to mentor and change lives for the better. When it comes to giving honest feedback with those you are closest to, it can be a messy ordeal; even if your heart is in the right place. As we vulnerably explored successes, failures, and drew conclusions, it dawned on me what intimate ground we were on. We were exploring amazing opportunities to value and love life’s most precious treasures… the people in our lives.
Thousands of songs, poems, tag lines, and societal mottos revolve around loving each other. Obviously love is a loaded word and its connotations reside within the different archetypes of our many relationships, but in general, being in a posture to give honest feedback with only the motive to help another grow closer to their fullest potential might be the most selfless form of love there is. This type of love does not come naturally and for that reason, it often takes us out of our comfort zone. It takes practice and we must engage wisdom from other great leaders in order to do it effectively and fully in a posture of selflessness.
I am not good at giving honest feedback. I like to be liked. I like to create environments that are comfortable and people enjoy. Amidst my juvenile leadership schemas of the past, I have not embraced the opportunity for the tough feedback. Hindsight reveals I missed those opportunities to love because I did not feel equipped and I was not ready to sacrifice my short term perceptions for the long term betterment of another. I’m done with that pattern and am convicted to embrace putting myself out there to give truth when it is 100% clear.
As I feverishly took notes from the mentors and peers in that group, I thought of the many circumstances I had cowered to not give great feedback. I was able to remember the few times I had given it and could identify the life change that resulted. The times I was effective, I had intuitively identified a common denominator: I had not feared another, yet feared for another.
Sympathy and empathy are very different. If you break your leg and I have never broken my leg, I can sympathize. If I had also broken my leg in the past, I can empathize because I can really understand the circumstances of your tribulation. We all have fear; therefore we are able to empathize with another who has fear. We may not be able to identify with their exact fear, but we have the ability to identify with the feeling of fear.
In almost every scenario when you give feedback in a relationship, it will either be repelled or considered with an element of fear. If my wife tells me I’m not meeting her needs in an area of our marriage, I have fear of marital failure. If I hear from my mentor that I’m not being the best version of myself, I fear I could lose a key relationship. If I hear from my child that I’m not modeling what I’m saying, I fear they may grow up with my bad habits.
By digging deep into the fear I experience when receiving feedback, it has helped me see that I need to empathize with others fear when I’m giving feedback.
Organizationally, you as a leader have the responsibility and privilege to help build into others. If you are in a supervisor relationship and you are giving feedback, the person receiving that feedback has some sort of fear. It might be of getting fired, it might be of failure, it might be of losing your respect or it could be something completely different. I now am conscious to empathize with the fear of the person whom I am giving feedback. This awareness has helped me mimic giving feedback in a way that increases the propensity of diffusing fear and instilling more love. Giving feedback in a posture of love and selflessness is a catalyst for true life change.
As I am embracing this and other core fundamentals of loving those I lead, I am getting better at embracing the challenge of giving effective feedback. By doing so, I’m better aligned to my life’s hope to genuinely treasure the people around me. I’m grateful to be bold and no longer fear others, yet fear for another.
Please let me know how you are embracing the folks you get to lead so we can all learn together.
I want to genuinely thank each of you who wished me congratulations as my 11th year anniversary fell recently of starting and maintaining a small business, AGI Management Inc. With each passing year as an entrepreneur, I give thanks for sustaining it one year further. Beyond that, I give thanks for the many lessons that being a small business owner has taught me about life. As we reflect on 2016 and start planning ahead here are a few lessons I’m grateful to reflect upon this year:
Thank you so much to all those that have supported AGI, supported me through developing my ability and for being there amidst the good, bad and ugly. I am hopeful the Peace, Love and Joy we feel here has somehow impacted you in a good way.
I pray that as the season comes to a close you find great fruit of the Spirit as well in your work and home life.
There was a guilty tone in the resolute “no” that my four year old son exclaimed as I asked him if he ate a cookie before dinner. The chocolate on his cheeks did not help build his case. He is a very honest kid and respects authority, but I knew we were stepping into an essential teaching moment. This was the first blatant lie my son had told me to my face. I gave him a few more chances to fess up, then got right into the reality that I knew the truth and he was not telling it.
He broke down in shame and after his punishment, we gathered to learn our lesson. Your words and the honesty you have is more important than almost anything. I explained to him more about trust by using the “peter cried wolf” story and gave him an example of when I had been dishonest and how it hurt someone I loved. At the end of this scenario, he understood the ramifications of not being honest and the importance of doing what you say you are going to do.
As recruiters, we are on the front line with folks seeking to portray themselves as well as possible. This portrayal is not always genuinely truthful and we must be aware of how candidates twist their words. We are grateful for the opportunity to help others in their major life decisions, but are not naïve to believe everything we hear. Way too often people we do business with do not do what they say they will do and often have no remorse for dishonesty. I believe this has come about due to the realities we face in communication.
It is commonplace to never meet the people we do business with face to face anymore. In fact, we do a fair bit of business via email and text message as opposed to the old fashion phone calls or personal get togethers. These less personal forms of communication lead to a psychological shift.
This psychological shift reduces communication from a relational experience to a transactional experience. The factor of the persons emotions, their feelings or their self-worth lessen when communication becomes transactional. I believe one is less likely to have concern over the feelings of another when they cannot see them. Nonverbal communication is said to make up over 90% of communication. If this is true, then we are missing a lot of realities by not doing business in a more personalized manner.
I am not venting (well maybe a little), but with this psychological shift comes a duty for those of us that are on the front line to counteract this trend. We must be intentional about not just what we communicate, but how we communicate. We need to discern when a text message is not appropriate. We need to realize that tough conversations will only lead to growth if had in the right manner. We need to understand that hollow promises conveyed will lead to lack of trust and sustainable relationships.
If I say yes to something, I want to live out that yes. If I say no to something I want to live out that commitment. Loyalty and deeper relationships will be the product of honesty and deliberate communication. So, let’s join together and create another shift… a shift towards honesty, integrity and commitment with those we communicate with.
Thank you for your vulnerability and letting us in your intimate space.
As I grow older and life teaches me, I have learned that the experiences I have on relationally intimate ground are the experiences that impact my life the most.
I have a fresh 7 week old baby girl at home. Lydia has been a gem. As the third child in our family, my wife and I have had less stress and more joy throughout the whole process of raising her thus far. It has been an abundant season of reflection, working through adversity, and constant focus on being the team we need to be to surround Lydia with love. As I rocked Lydia back to sleep this morning, before the birds were awake, I had such peace and joy in my heart. When reflecting in gratitude, on this joy and peace, it became clear that, in my life, the areas I had grown the most were in the new births of my children, the death and dying process of those that I loved and the times when vulnerability of others or myself led to greater self-awareness.
Birth and death are obviously intimate space. These two life realities cause one to ask a lot of questions that will define belief and drive behavior. Beyond these, I am grateful for those intimate opportunities to do life with others. Among these intimate grounds are the many people who have opened up their life story as we walk with them through the process of selecting a better career path. Navigating through the process of career transition is very uncomfortable to most. It requires deep reflection, intentionality and a process. Through a time tested process, we have the privilege to watch the progression towards greater career fit awareness. This is a true blessing for us!
The career seeking process also carries many emotions, especially when the individual has already left a role or been let go. It is said that the most common grieving takes place during death, divorce or loss of job. We get to experience this often in our workplace and do not take for granted the feelings of grieving needed when job loss occurs. It is not rare that an individual will try to sweep the feelings of job loss under the rug and move on. It is those sweet moments and sweet people that allow us to speak into their lives by ask probing questions that will lead them to greater self-awareness and the vulnerability that follows that is mutually impactful.
Brene Brown is a leader in the space of research and conclusion regarding vulnerability. She concludes that vulnerability takes courage. There is no doubt. We see this every day and are the benefactors of many career seekers courage to open up and better themselves. Doing so benefits our lives more than you can imagine. Thank you for serving us through your courage, truth and trust. This intimate ground is not taken for granted and has forever changed who we are!
The specific vernacular a candidate seeking a new opportunity uses tells a lot about them. Often candidates interchange the words “career” and “job” when speaking to employers. There is a big difference between the aspects of a career versus the aspects of a job so it is imperative that candidates are aware of how to use each word in the interview process.
The word career connotes long term dedication to a certain field or industry; whereas a job has much more of a temporal or even seasonal duration usually for short term provision. A career is often comprised of different jobs that have a common denominator for a specific purpose. A career typically is pursued by one that wants a higher degree of achievement and advancement of skills, abilities or knowledge.
I was recently trying to help a manager obtain a new career path within the restaurant industry. I interviewed him and I liked him. I thought he brought a good work ethic, seemed very honest and had a good mindset as to how to accomplish measurable results with both people and profit within a restaurant. A few years ago there was a year gap in his employment as a manager where he had claimed that he delivered pizza during that time. I asked him why he took the break from management because that can sometimes be a concern as to a manager’s commitment to a management career. He told me he just wanted to take on less responsibility and take a break. This answer initially threw up a red flag for me, but it puzzled me because the rest of our interview revealed a deeper passion and commitment for a career in management. Something did not line up, so I sought clarity. When digging a bit deeper he let me know his mother came down with a very awful disease that required her to move in with his family and for them to be her major care giver. He adamantly expressed his faith in family and desire to help her through this tough time. This was why he had stepped out of his management career temporarily. He needed a bit more flexibility to care for his mother. This is very noble and very few employers will penalize a candidate based on the life circumstance he faced. Truth is, he had a passion for a management career, but the season of life he was in required he step away from his career to focus on his family and get a job. The job, pizza delivery, still kept him active in the industry and helped him provide for short term needs. After I explained to him how he could market himself to let employers know about the temporary season of his life where he needed to take a break from his career and get a job there was a major difference in the way he would explain that period of time. He was relieved and much better equipped to sell himself to potential employers. The difference could open many doors for him. The awareness of your career path in relation to the different seasons of life is a consciousness I see few candidates express well. If you are a career seeker but there was a period of your career where you had to focus on something else and get a job, make sure you explain this in a way that will not turn employers off or concern them that you are not dedicated to a career.
Understanding the difference between a job and a career is pivotal to find the right path for you. As a recruiter I get to speak to many individuals who are seeking transition. Whether the individual refers to their transition as a job or a career tells me a lot about their mindset, goals and how they are applying themselves. I am continually trying to train leaders that they are not job seeking, they are career seeking. This is a small change in language that can have a large impact on the way one thinks of the work that they do on a daily basis.
Be aware of your target audience when you are interviewing. If you are trying to obtain a career, don’t talk about your desire for the job. Show the interviewer your commitment through the vernacular you use. Choose your words wisely and ace the interview!