It's Give and Take

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These past few weeks I have sat in discomfort.  Scared to ask your feedback on the Acorn Mentoring Program; something I have put my heart and soul into. To hear feedback, suggestions, and filter it all continues to be a daunting process.

You could have hated it. You could not have replied. You could have said, “I don’t find anything of value." 

Feedback is super important. Its how we grow and lead. You will have experienced this before. It’s just something we all have to get used to as we learn to interact and support those around us. I have been reading many books on leadership and emotional intelligence. Learning to shake off fear, create safe environments, and overcome failure, its how leaders learn.

Let me share a (real) story from 1978 …

McBroom, a Captian with an intimidating temper, was someone who knew his plane inside and out. His co-pilots are there to learn and follow instructions, absorbing knowledge and listening to his commands - all to prepare them to lead as a captain in their own right.

But one day the plane experienced issues with the landing gear. McBroom, his co-pilots, and 188 passengers circled the airport. The Captain obsessed with the landing gear; the holding pattern monitored by his co-pilot. The plan’ fuel gauge dwindled, McBroom was transfixed with the landing gear. Approaching empty his co-pilot was too scared to interrupt - fearful of McBroom's wrath. The copilot said nothing. Disaster struck, and the plane crashed, killing ten people on board.

You might feel like this is an extreme example, but it is happening in our workplaces every day. People do not communicate or share knowledge for fear of the wrath of the person in charge. You might think, piloting is very different to our workplaces, but we see the destructive effects of negative morale. We see the media articles; we hear our colleagues talk about how they feel intimidated to share, we hear negativity at the conferences we attend. You can turn this around.

The Officials who investigated the McBroom Plane Accident were very clear on the cause of the crash. They were able to determine that McBroom didn't listen to what his co-pilots were trying to tell him and that the co-pilots weren't clear or assertive enough in trying to communicate with him.

80% of all plane crashes are due to preventable mistakes. Think of your workplace and your management style. Do you encourage feedback? Do you support those around you to share their opinion? Or are they fearful of your wrath? An open line of communication, active listening - along with technical skills - will help prevent catastrophic situations. 

Criticism is the worst way to motivate someone. It feels like a personal attack. Learning to perfect the art of giving feedback is vital. People who feel attacked become tense, angry, antagonistic, and avoid collaboration, especially from those who dish out the negativity. Its devastating to morale. Below is a framework for being proactive and maintaining positivity in when giving feedback, be it to your mentor or your team.

Now is the time to master the art of critique.
We all need criticism to improve.  Focus on what the person has done and can do better. Don't leave them thinking they have failed and have nowhere to go to brainstorm or to ask questions for clarification. If you feel criticism is due to an unchangeable mark of character they will no longer be receptive to improving, they lose hope and stop trying ...  

  • Think about specifics
    • What needs to change?
    • What is done poorly?
  • Be open to suggestions. Show ways to fix the problem, and encourage discussions from those on the ground. What is can be done to better support those around you?
  • Be present. Avoid criticism or praise being communicated via email do it all face-to-face (or Skype at the last resort). 
  • Be sensitive and empathise. Avoid negative emotional backlash, resentment, and defensiveness where possible. Empathy is key.
  • If it doesn’t work or you feel you’re out of practice then ask for advice from a mentor, a colleague or friend.

You can build and manage great teams. Being attuned to the feelings and expressions of those we work with is vital if we are to develop effective teams and tackle challenging situations into the future.

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