In Part 1, I talked about me and how people need to want your feedback. In Part 2, I talked about the sandwich method and that feedback needs to focus on substance, not form. In Part 3, I introduced SMART feedback as that substance. In Part 4, I talked about the Halo Effect. In Part 5, I talked about Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vicenza (Jen Small)’s Get The Most Out of Judging and Entering A&S class. Time to wrap up.
Good leaders give good feedback. And if you give good feedback, you have the potential to be a good leader.
There is an SCA story, I don’t know if it is true or not, about some king at Pennsic. In the evening, there would be a big ceremony, “the Crown is going to bed.” The King would remove his crown and the Crown would be placed on a pillow and escorted away. The idea being that without the Crown, the “King” was just a man and could act as he wanted without it being construed as the “king” acting that way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
As I said in Part 1, we are always giving and evaluating feedback. The point of the “crown” story is that you can’t stop being yourself. Taking the crown off doesn’t mean people aren’t going to judge you. Or perhaps more directly said, leadership and whether someone trusts you enough to want your feedback isn’t a hat. You are always on. You are always being evaluated.
Since you are always on, the best course is to be who you truly are. And if you discover who you truly are is not someone who is a leader or someone who gives valuable feedback, you need to work on that. You need to reflect on who you are and who you want to be. Then make steps to move in a more positive direction.
Substance not structure
I really want to drive this point home. The research is clear and this will sound like a contradiction. How you say it is more important than what you say. That sounds like structure is more important, right? No. The attitude, the empathy, the connection is the how, not the formula of the feedback.
Whether you give direct statements, a sandwich, or whatever your favorite method of feedback is, what is important is that the feedback be sincere, actionable, and meaningful. Even if all you give is a negative feedback, it can be done with empathy. Even in a performance review or a termination hearing, you can state what needs to improve, what went wrong, or why someone is fired, in a way that acknowledges a shared connection, that the problem is with the work/facts/etc and not the person.
Basically, consider if someone had to give you the feedback you are about to deliver, how would you like that to be delivered? Do that.
Be open to learning
I am pretty sure Gianetta would agree with me on this. Since mostly what I am talking about is giving feedback in a formal judging situation, you as the judge need to be open to learning. Listen first. Be curious. Even if you are an expert, maybe this person found something you didn’t know about or has a perspective you didn’t consider yet.
Too often in the SCA, we hear that stereotypical story of the hostile judge or person who criticizes the newcomer’s garb. That story comes from a place where the critic assumes they know more than the other person. And what is then worse, chooses to act from that place of superiority. You don’t know why the newcomer did what they did. It may be that are trying this out and therefore did a low buy-in thing in case they didn’t like the experience. Be the kind of peer (either capital or lowercase p) you wish greeted you on your first time.
I still have a photo collage on my wall. “We were all new once.” This applies to feedback as well. We all have tried that new art for the first time. We have all thrown our first weapon strike. We have all shot an arrow for the first time. At some point on that journey, someone gave you feedback that encouraged you to keep going. They probably pointed out things you did well. They probably pointed out things you need to improve on. Be like that person.
Feedback is not criticism; it is encouragement. It is understanding and then giving advice. It is part of being a good leader and being a good person. You are always giving feedback; make it feedback others want to continue to get from you.
More in this series
Feedback and Leadership- Part 1
Feedback – The Sandwich Method – Part 2
Feedback – Being S.M.A.R.T – Part 3
Feedback – The Halo Effect – Part 4
Feedback- Getting the Most out of A&S – Part 5