The art of feedback

By July 13, 2016 Uncategorized

Grace and grit

Worrying about what people might think of anything I write has held me back from blogging.  I could be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted.  There’s a lot of that kind of mischief about.  I am more used to interacting,  to discussing, adjusting, exploring ideas by being with people and getting feedback from their reactions in the moment.

Yesterday I was at a conference that I really enjoyed and got a lot from. I know the speakers and organisers will have spent a lot of time thinking deeply about what they prepared and presented.  I appreciated all that I saw and heard, and will incorporate what I learnt into my coaching practice.  The conference will have built up our collective wisdom and contribution to our profession which will in turn enrich others’ thinking and leadership.  There was a lot of grace and generosity in the support and encouragement we gave and received while we were together.

Today I was asked, as is typical, for my feedback and to rate both the content and the speakers 1-5, poor to excellent.  It’s this call to judgement on others that I find difficult, it’s blunt, one-way, and often hard to swallow, even though the perceived wisdom is that I/we need to learn from the grit inherent in feedback.

I took this thought further: Beautiful pearls are only made in a protective response to irritants (commonly thought of as a grain of sand, but can be other organisms) entering a mollusk or shell.  The irritant can only get in when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration.  Isn’t that amazing?  Transfer that idea to receiving feedback.  It may be that when we open ourselves up to breathe and feed we receive what can appear to be irritating and upsetting.  The result though is the formation of something beautiful to be treasured.  This takes time and has to be repeated often.  So actually, even as we give feedback, we shouldn’t be afraid of acting as a vital irritant.

When I gave my feedback I didn’t use all ‘5’s, although I could have done as all the presentations were much better than ‘good’.  Instead I used ‘4’s and ‘5’s reserving the ‘5’s for the times when I felt stirred, when my soul was touched and I experienced something deeper.  This poem, Walk, by one of the keynote speakers, Anthony Kasozi,  is an example:




Discover for yourself

the path

To life;

to consolation



In Redeeming love


that through Grace alone

who you are


more than enough.


Keep walking.


with courage

and integrity

Each step an inquiring scrutiny;

a firm testimony.


So, I will post this blog and accept any feedback gracefully knowing that it will take some time and grit to become polished.