“If I Could Change One Thing About Feedback”
This title hangs in the air over what is currently an empty page. As I look at it, thinking about it, I know two things.
First, I’ll fill this page.
Second, I know the result I want.
But how do I get there without sounding ‘preachy’? How do I move thousands of Judges, of various ages, genders, backgrounds (social, economic, geographic, political and more) to see what I see? To share my vision?
Starting at the beginning with an introduction is a solid choice, so let’s try that.
I consider myself a weird L1. Given my age, many expect when meeting me that I’ve been playing this game we all love since the dawn of time. In truth, I’ve been playing for only the last 5 years and judging for just over 2 of them. That’s not long. Interactions between cards that many of you can interpret at the drop of a hat are oftentimes a struggle for me. I’m definitely not a ‘card guy’. While I’m steadily working to improve my understanding of the game and judging, I have a long way to go.
On the other hand, I bring a lifetime of experience (nearly 20 years of management experience and over 16 years in a large volunteer organization in all levels of leadership positions) and I want to tell you something. Our approach to feedback could be improved. No. That’s not right. It MUST be improved.
A viewpoint I’ve seen commonly expressed regarding feedback in the program is that critical feedback designed to show areas for improvement outweighs positive points that could also be made. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of improvement. But the delivery, the execution, is sometimes…lacking. This means that a common reaction to feedback is denial. Why do you think we spend so much time discussing how and when to deliver Feedback? At a fundamental level, many don’t value the message and would rather dissect the delivery method and messenger.
It’s time to shift our philosophy. Instead of looking at feedback as work, or a trial, or, “Darn, I can’t believe that person suggested I do this when they can’t even do that,” we need to look at feedback for what it really, truly is.
Feedback is a gift. It has value and meaning for both the giver and receiver.
For the giver, this means that we need to take more time. When you give a gift to someone, do you just grab something at whatever random airport you’re passing through and hand it to them when you see them? No, you don’t. You take your time. You pick something out that you believe the recipient will enjoy or have an emotional connection to. Maybe you wrap it and put a bow on it. Find the correct time and place to deliver it.
For the receiver, it means that we need to understand what a gift signifies. It represents a conscious effort by the giver to imagine what would best help you and the bond that you share. They’ve given active thought to what you need or desire. They’ve worked, saved, and put together something of value and meaning for you.
Feedback isn’t something you can hold in your hands. Sure, you can print out those nice words someone wrote about an interaction you had. But the real benefit of feedback is the lasting impression it can make. It’s an emotional gift. If you want to make an impression and have them receive your gift with the intent of doing something positive with it, then you as the giver needs to spend more time thinking about how to deliver it and what form it should take. When receiving feedback, you should recognize that even though the message may not match your perception, at least that person took time to consider the best way they can to help you in your development.
I’m not here to suggest that all feedback will be perfect – how many gifts that we give or receive really are? We all need to try to take greater care with our feedback and consider the impression we want it to make and place greater value on how it is supposed to help us become better people.
Even the most critical feedback can be a gift, if the giver or receiver can frame it that way. It isn’t a given that the person cares about the receiver on some level (we can debate the finer points of this over a drink later). If someone takes the time to tell you something about how you did something wrong and why you did it wrong, then there is value in that even when the delivery is poor. Or, perhaps, we need to hear the feedback in very plain language for it to make an impression. The delivery can have a profound impact on our perception of feedback.
No matter how it is delivered and what form it takes, feedback is a gift.
If I could change one thing about the judge program, I’d wave my magic wand, say, “Bippity boppity boo, feedback is for me and for you,” and get us all to start to approach this critical step in the mentoring process with more understanding on both sides of the interaction. Next time you’re giving feedback, think of it first as a gift. How can I deliver this message in such a way that this person will receive and use it in the future to improve themselves? When receiving feedback, think of how can you take what is being said and use it to improve your judging.
Changing your perception of feedback isn’t something that happens because you read an article. It happens because you make a positive choice for the future in how you wish to leave your mark on the program. Feedback is a gift. Go forward and spread the joy of feedback. As you do, remember the value of feedback as you receive it in turn.