Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
It’s unique but it’s global. The differences are much less than you might imagine. During our Leadership and Personal development class in Italy, we heard the stories from two Italian leaders. As I sat and listened to both of them I was struck by the comparison in their messages with the leaders who have spoken to other MBA classes in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. It really doesn’t matter where you are living and working; or where you’ve been raised. The messages are the same.
Marco Scippa, HR Director Imaging at Vitec Group talked about moving his family around—and the positive impact that those moves had on his family. He believes their quality of life was more interesting because they moved around. One of the things that I really appreciated about Marco’s message was his time in Moscow, Russia. Rather than live in the ex-pat village outside of Moscow, he and his family instead chose to live in Moscow, amongst the natives. They wanted to be immersed in the culture and the language. He said that his kids continue to be better at speaking Russian than he is!
Marco’s first message was that strong leaders capture the minds and hearts of their people.
Marco’s rules of leadership are:
- Be curious
- Get out of your comfort zone
- You must be able to communicate
- It is more important what we do than what we say
Our other speaker was Luca Semaniti. At the young age of 38, Luca is the Founder and co-Partner of Ideal Work, S.l.r. which provides products, tools and training for the Decorative concrete industry in the USA, Europe and Asia. Luca takes his definition of leadership from the landmark book, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. A leader is, “Someone who blends genuine personal humility with intense professional will. Somebody ambitious for the company and not for his Ego. Modest and wilful Shy and Fearless.”
“Early on, I didn’t want to be a leader, because I didn’t understand what leadership was really about. Leadership was a scary word for me.” He shared the five myths of leadership that he had to overcome:
- A leader is a Man
- A leader is POWERFUL and he knows what to do
- A leader has a BIG EGO
- A leader is a little bit arrogant
- A leader is a CHIEF
Luca talked about the importance of self-knowledge when it came to developing his leadership skills. He said the self knowledge was like someone said to him “Here is a box—you already have what you need to be a leader.”
Luca reinforced for the class that leadership is about our relationship with other people and our family. Like many other MBA speakers, he strongly encouraged the students to look for leadership experiences in other areas of their lives.
Thank you to Marco and Luca for sharing your stories with our students—and me. I am continually inspired by stories of people committed to their leadership journeys.
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Posted in Communication, Global Leaders, Leadership Advice, MBA Class, Self-Awareness | No Comments »
Our University of Iowa MBA Leadership and Personal Development class was honored to hear from guest speaker Jim Israel last weekend. Jim is the President of John Deere Worldwide Financial Services Division. He shared his guidance for developing yourself, as a person and as a leader.
1. Get out of your comfort zone. Your success will be how effective you can rally your team. “To be a good leader you don’t have to be an expert. I see myself as the offensive line clearing the way for others to run and pass the ball.”
If you ever get the opportunity to do something new, do it. “If we make 100% of our decisions right, then we’re not making enough decisions—or taking enough risks.”
2. If you have a chance to do a global assignment, do it. The world is a lot more similar than it is different. Our customers and dealers have very similar desires and concerns. It is also great to see the United States through another country’s lens.
3. Set a clear vision for your organization. Jim talked about the power of aligning his division around a common vision. But creating that vision is only the first step. Then you have to motivate, align and inspire the organization. “And motivation isn’t about pom-poms. I have seen some soft-spoken leaders drive people to do great things.” (Jim also joked that he, however, isn’t one of the soft-spoken ones.)
4. Stay true to your own style. Do what your passionate about And have fun! “Going to work shouldn’t be drudgery. If you don’t go to work everyday excited about what you do, go somewhere else.”
5. Do things the right way. And make sure your “say-do” ration is 100%. “It is equally important how you accomplish something as what you accomplish. ”
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t over-communicate. You have to say things over and over. And people need different kinds of communication. “You also owe it to your people to talk about the bad news. People are afraid of what they don’t know. “ He talked about the credit crisis in 2008 and how they spent a great deal of time in straight talk with their people. Also, one of the most important parts of communication is listening. “Our greatest ideas come from people closest to our customers.”
7. Focus on developing talent. “The most important thing I do is get the right people in the right chairs.” Identify people who have potential and keep providing them with challenges. Stretch your high potential people. And remember for yourself not to focus on pay. “If you’re moving around alot, you’re going to be at the bottom of the pay grade a lot. Your pay will catch up with you. ”
8. Strive for work-life balance. Not only your own but for your people. “It used to be a badge of honor how many hours you worked.” But there are a lot of things in life you’ll never have the opportunity to get back. Work is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself, emotionally and physically. “I invite my grandkids to come and have lunch with me at work every couple of months.”
9. Give back to your community. Pay it forward.
Thanks Jim for these words and much more. And for providing a role model of authentic leadership for our class.
Posted in Balance, Communication, Global Leaders, Leadership Advice, Listening, MBA Class, Teams, Vision | 1 Comment »
A wise Ojibwa Indian elder once told me that “There are many communities out there for us. We just have to go out and find them.” He is indeed so very right.
I sit on the airplane flying home after almost two weeks working in Europe. As often happens when I travel for work, I find myself feeling excitement to be home and also a sadness of having left new “friends” behind. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I love my work. I get up almost every day and have the chance to teach, coach, and most importantly perhaps, continue my own learning journey.
This was a trip of leadership training for a client. There was a four day course in England and then the following week a two day course in Germany. In both courses, they were participants from different countries. The first week we had a wonderful mix of English, German and French. The second week was German and English.
I wish that I could say that I speak the languages, but I don’t. I did however do my best to learn a few key words in German and also study some things about the cultures in the UK and Germany. It is always important to me when I travel to a foreign country to be as respectful as possible of the local cultures, even if I don’t speak the language fluently.
One of my biggest lessons came the first week. All of the participants spoke English, some better than others. I tried my best to be aware of the words and phrases I used in my examples and Power Point slides. I also looked for those times when I got the glazed over looks from some of the participants. Gradually though, by midway through the third day of training, I noticed that people were more vocal and asking me to explain a word or phrase. I realized how very much I appreciated them doing that.
And then it hit me that I hadn’t actually ASKED them the very first day to please feel free and ask. I guess I just assumed that would happen. But I learned that isn’t the nature of many of the people who were in the course. It left me wondering how many times the first couple days I left them wondering “what the heck is she talking about.”
The good news is that I took my new found learning to heart. The very first day of the second week of training I asked the new group of people to please feel free and ask me about anything they heard and didn’t understand. And I’m thrilled to say they were very receptive and did indeed do so.
International flights: 3.
Thank you to all of my new friends in the UK, Germany and France. A special thanks also to Alexandra and her husband Thorsten who spent a wonderful day introducing me to the Old Town of Heidelberg.
“People go where they are welcomed, remain where they are respected and grow where they are nurtured.” Bill Leaver, CEO of Iowa Health System shared this quote recently with our MBA Leadership class as he talked about the “Art of Leadership and Cultural Transformation.”
The timing of the above quote was synchronistic as it came on the heels of an insightful experience with a new client. I was working with a team of 10 people around communication. We used one of my favorite exercises to shed light on communication challenges. The group was divided into two groups of five and then each subgroup was given bags of Legos. Each Lego bag had exactly the same Legos as their teammates on their subgroup. Simply put, the task was to sit in an arrangement where they couldn’t see each other and through verbal communication only, work together as a team of five and have each person on the team put together the exact same structure, using their Legos. Oh, and they had to use every one of their 30 pieces, be as creative as possible and finish in 30 minutes or less.
I watched one of the teams engage, communicate and generally have a great time. The other team was a stark contrast. As that second team organized themselves and their pieces, one person took the lead and began explaining where the place the first pieces. One member of the team that struggled (I’ll call her Ann) was raised in another country and had never used Legos in her life. I watched Ann grab the correct pieces but she was continually holding them upside down and trying to follow instructions that were clearly not making sense to her. As I continued to watch the team dynamics, each member of the team tried to describe in their own words how to position the first pieces. Still no success. After 10 agonizing minutes, I did something I’ve never done before in the 10 years I’ve used this exercise. I walked over to Ann, turned the pieces right-side up and helped her arrange the first four pieces in accordance with their instructions. Finally, success! From that moment forward, things were easier (not easy, but easier).
Having watched this game many times, I have seen many people “check out” when they get frustrated. To the credit of everyone in this group, that didn’t happen. Everyone was generally trying hard and sticking with it. But the overarching question is “What could have been done differently in order to make this more smoothly?”
In the debrief I offered a suggestion. Rather than having everyone else in the group attempt to describe things from their own perspective, it would have been best if they had stopped and said to the person who was struggling, “Ann, tell us in your own words, what you are looking at? How do you have the pieces put together right now?” This was clearly a case of good intentions by all in the group, but those intentions also kept them inside the box as opposed to seeking to understand the other person’s perspective. What transpired from there was a good discussion about how this also applied to areas of their work and missed opportunities to truly understand one another in the rushed objective to get work done.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
It started as a Facebook posting and resulted in raising $10,500 (so far) for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women. Last spring I agreed to chair the Circle of Red committee for this November’s Go Red luncheon. The Circle of Red is comprised of women who contribute $500 or more to Go Red. This was actually my first involvement with the luncheon but I was drawn to the cause.
Sometime around April or May I posted a note on my Facebook page and asked for volunteers for the committee. I was pleasantly surprised when six women I know stepped quickly forward and expressed an interest. Some of the women had personal histories with heart disease; others were concerned about family histories or had lost women they loved to heart disease.
Author Margaret Wheatley says “a leader is anyone who is willing to help.” The Circle of Red committee took this to heart. They also expanded the definition to remind us that leadership is also about getting results. They are doing this through passion, vision and the use of effective storytelling.
PASSION: This is the first year the Go Red luncheon has created a Circle of Red in our Quad City community so our challenge was to generate interest and raise at least $10,000. Our planning meetings at the Waterfront Deli were fun and energizing and it was clear to me that I had the privilege of working with a very passionate and committed group of women. But I BLOWN away about three months into the process when each member of our committee stepped forth in a meeting and made their own personal commitment to become members of the Circle of Red. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as each of them talked about their commitment and reasons for doing so. These are not a group of women that you’ll find on the list of regular donors in the Quad Cities. They probably aren’t women you’d expect to be writing $500 checks, especially in this economy. But, these ARE women with passion and commitment and I am honored to call them friends.
STORYTELLING: At our Circle of Red promotional event in September, two women shared their stories. Both women, Kelly Hennell and Tina Morris shared their own personal stories of heart disease. As I looked around the room, and chatted with women afterwards, it was clear that their stories touched the hearts of many women present. Those stories also reinforced my personal commitment. I Go Red for Women because I want us to move from saying, ‘I wish I had known’ to saying, ‘thank goodness I knew about the risks of heart disease.’
VISION: We had two major goals. One goal was to raise at least $10,000 this year. Our second goal was to create a compelling reason for women to want to join the Circle of Red (beyond the joy of financial giving). Thanks to the leadership of our committee, more women have stepped forward to join the Circle of Red and we have surpassed our (initial) goal of 20 women committing $500. And we’ve created ongoing opportunities for women in the Circle of Red to come together and continue to learn more about heart disease. You can find that list of activities at the end of this blog.
“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing time. Action with vision is making a positive difference. Joel Barker
A healthy and heartful thank you to our Circle of Red committee members: Amy Pousson, Carol Cowan, Chelsea Hillman, LuAnn Haydon, Kristen Veto and Teri Behrends.
Circle of Red members in the Quad Cities receive the following benefits with their $500 donation:
*One Seat at the Go Red For Women® Luncheon, November 18th at The Waterfront Convention Center and special recognition at the event
* Limited edition Circle of Red Bagolita clutch purse
* Invitation to an intimate breakfast with local cardiologist, Dr. Rafat Padaria, to answer your questions about heart disease
* Tour of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital led by Dr. Vicki Pyevich, a hands-on opportunity for Circle of Red women to see where a portion of the American Heart Association’s research dollars are making a big impact.
The cost for the above activities are underwritten by others and do NOT come out of your $500 contribution.
Even if you’re not able to make a Circle of Red contribution, I hope you’ll attend an upcoming Circle of Red event.
Quad Cities: Wednesday November 18th at the Waterfront Convention Center http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3068146
Cedar Rapids: Friday November 20th at Kirkwood Center for Continuing Education http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3067947
Johnson County: Thursday December 19th at Coralville Marriott Hotel http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3065965
Posted in Passion, Storytelling, Success, Teams, Vision | No Comments »
For most people, it’s not what they are that holds them back;
It’s what they think they are not.
John C Maxwell
I know better than to try and take an entire weekend retreat and narrow it down to just a few words to describe its impact on me. And yet I desperately want to do just that. As I went through the weekend, writing my journals, I found myself putting a star next to various sections and marking them “Blog”. And so it is that I’ve decided to share those sections, without a great deal of detail.
The experience I’m referring to was a 2.5 day leadership retreat in Princeton New Jersey. The retreat is based on neuroscience brain research to create a leadership retreat that combines emotional and cognitive learning and growth. Mission accomplished!
One former participant described the LIFE program (Leadership Initiative for Excellence) as the best and most life changing experience that he hoped to never have again.
After a difficult day of travel that started at 4AM, I arrived in Princeton NJ in the mid afternoon Friday. Our session officially began at 4PM and the first day concluded at midnight. I found myself so keyed up with emotions (mostly negative and judgmental) that I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill at 1AM in order to move the energy around in my body.
I started the next day at 5:30AM and made a conscious decision to use a brand new set of contacts. As I was putting in the new contacts, I said to myself, I’m putting in a new set of eyes today. My intention is to truly open up to learning.”
Mission Accomplished—but it wasn’t easy. One of the first exercises the second day involved the expression of big joy. I struggled with the exercise instructions and wrote the following in my notes:
“I was continually challenged to stop judging the process and focus on what I could learn about myself and how I could support others. I desperately wanted to get people to vote for me so I could sit down and stop the activity.
I noticed feeling very scared and then ashamed during the enthusiasm exercise. When I heard the feedback I felt angry (Just wait until YOU have to do this) and I wanted to retaliate by not voting for them. As I stood in front of the class I felt afraid and suffocated when people began giving me advice. I wanted to flee the group and the room.”
But I hung in there and put myself into the exercise 100%. With the support of the class, and by digging deep within myself, I successfully accomplished the task. And that exercise served as the true shift in my entire weekend.
Other journal comments from the weekend: “When I was cheering others on, I began with just doing it in order to support the team. As we continued though, I noticed more and more of my enthusiasm was coming from a genuine place of wanting to give my 100% to the person in the spotlight and to my team. I feel surprised that I could keep my energy level up so high for so long. I am thrilled that I did so. I feel such an increased confidence in knowing that I can sustain such a high energy level and that I do whatever I put my mind to, especially when I have the enthusiastic support of others. I feel excited and hopeful about taking action to make my vision become a reality.”
The LIFE retreat reinforces an important leadership concept; one that many people shy away from. Study after study continues to remind us that the best leaders are those who move through difficult (crucible) life experiences. By doing so, they gain the necessary skills (mental, emotional, and spiritual) in order to be better leaders. It really is true that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
The LIFE experience also aligns greatly with my work at Integrity Integrated Inc and my teaching with MBA students. My work is dedicated to creating opportunities that ignite people to explore new possibilities in their lives—personally and professionally. One of my teachers always used to say, “It’s not always easy, but it’s always good.”
Security is a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing
“Mind-blowing”; “amazing”, “helpful”, “enlightening”. These are just a sample of words used to describe the feedforward exercise from a recent weekend of MBA Leadership and Personal Development class.
The feedforward exercise is a modification of the exercise created by Master Coach, Marshall Goldsmith. http://www.marshallgoldsmithfeedforward.com/html/Articles.htm. Rather than giving people feedback about their past performance, the idea is to provide ideas for future performance, ie, how to do things different in the future in order to be a more effective leader.
Prior to class each student was asked to think about one area of leadership development they were willing to share with their small group with the intention of receiving feedforward ideas for the future. The class of 45 students was divided into groups of 5 or 6 students who hadn’t previously worked together in class. However, this was our third weekend of class so many of them had some previous interaction in the large group.
When the class came back together after completing the exercise, I asked them to complete the following: “This Feedforward exercise was BLANK.” That is when I heard some of the responses at the beginning of this blog. I think my favorite was “mindblowing.” What can I say? I love it when people think about things in a new way!
And while those words were exciting, what was most eye-opening was the comment from one of the students who said something like, “I was surprised at how quickly we all opened up and engaged in a meaningful conversation…Why is it that we can do this in this class but we can’t find anything close to that kind of conversation in our workplaces?”
We opened that question up to the class, and the majority of students said that many of their workplaces are so competitive that it is challenging to be vulnerable and have open conversations. And so I am once again struck by the irony of some of our business cultures. We want high performing work teams, but are we truly providing the opportunity and culture for our people to have the kind of conversations necessary to build solid teams?
Don’t worry—I didn’t let the students off the hook. I reminded them that if they wanted to be part of a culture that is open to having authentic conversations, then THEY have to be the ones to go first. After all, that is what leadership is all about—creating change. And leadership isn’t defined by a position but by your actions.
“A leader is anyone who is willing to help; anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation.” Margaret Wheatley (http://www.margaretwheatley.com)
For more about building trust in your organizations, consider books by Patrick Lencioni, such as “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, or “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.” http://www.tablegroup.com/books/
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear; so you can see what you don’t want to see; so you can be what you’ve always wanted to be.” (Tom Landry, former coach of Dallas Cowboys)
I’m learning more about coaching all over again. Last fall I began working with a personal trainer in order to improve my physical strength and to become healthier. In addition to the personal benefits gained, the process has solidified the value of the coaching process I use with my clients.
The training process with trainer Dave began with measuring weight, body fat and various body measurements. Yes, I was shocked to hear that while my overall weight wasn’t out of line, my body fat percentage was 31.5%, which put me in the 28th percentile for women my age. Wake up call—I’m ready for change!
The next step was to discuss my goals. Dave was great at helping me gain clarity about my goals—and where I wanted to be. For me, it wasn’t just about weight loss, but more about reducing body fat and also gaining muscle. My goal was to reduce my body fat percent to a very healthy 18%.
With the measurements and goals established, the hard work began. For me, that was three times a week training with Dave and three times a week of cardio and abs on my own. I also was diligent about my eating and kept a daily food diary.
This entire process has been a perfect reflection of the leadership development model I use. It begins with the realization that leadership is a measurable, teachable, and learnable set of skills. But just like weight loss, you don’t learn about it from reading a book—you learn—and make changes in your life by measuring, setting goals, and going out and practicing.
Step one in the leadership development process is to define your current reality (what are my strengths and weaknesses; how do others see me as a leader, etc). For many of my clients, we use a 360 leadership assessment to assist with this step. Results of the 360 assessment vary by client, but I will say that some clients receive the same type of wake-up call as I did with my body-fat percent. “You mean I’m NOT as good a leader as I thought I was?”
Step two in the process is to define our “ideal self”: how do we want to be seen as a leader? While step one requires a great deal of willingness to receive feedback from others; step two requires self-reflection, a willingness to dream, and to challenge ourselves to be our best.
And then the hard work begins. You know, I’m just like many other people. I was wondering why I couldn’t just get healthy without having to do all this hard work? Isn’t there a pill I can take and be done with it?
No pill for me—and no quick and easy pill for strengthening your leadership skills. Once you’ve defined your current reality and ideal self, it’s time to develop a plan and begin practicing new skills. Practice…practice…adjust as necessary…keep practicing. You won’t do everything perfect; that isn’t the goal. The goal is to continue on the path and to learn from your mistakes. (You mean I can’t have a large piece of chocolate cake and 2 glasses of wine for dinner and wonder why my energy level is so low??)
In my ten years of coaching others, I’ve witnessed other people create sustainable positive change in their lives and work. A short list of accomplishments includes:
- Improving listening skills (which helps both personally and at work)
- Gaining clarity on personal mission and vision and values
- Learning to better delegate
- Learning skills for leading change
- Exercising more self-regulation during challenging situations.
- Improving Emotional Intelligence skills
- Improving skills for visioning which in turn led to promotions to higher levels in the organization.
- And many more.
None of the above happened overnight. Leadership development is a journey. It requires an accurate assessment of current reality, defining your ideal self, establishing a plan of action, and then an ongoing commitment to practice and adjust as necessary.
Oh, and for me…I reached my goal. During my check-in last week, my body fat percent was 17.8%. Even though I’ve reached my goal, I’m continuing my commitment to my personal health, including healthy eating, exercise and continued work with my trainer. Thanks Dave!
“What’s the difference between ‘fear-based leadership’ and simply defining current reality for employees?”
The above is a real question asked just last week by a CEO client. The question is a good one, and points to the delicate balance between being candid and real with our employees, versus stepping over the line and paralyzing people.
Allow me to share a quick story of two local CEOS and how they chose to communicate with their organizations about the economy and its impact on their organizations. The first CEO addressed her management staff with a candid and realistic picture of their current situation. The message was this, “Yes, we’re being impacted by the economy. But as long as we continue to do well what we’re doing now, we will continue on the course to achieve our goals for the year. Things are certainly a bit more difficult than we imagined, but I’m confident we can do this.”
Despite the fact that this CEO did not make any specific demands of people, I’m told that after the meeting, people began having informal conversations about possible ways to reduce expenses in the short term, in order to ensure the organization stayed on track. One of the managers said there was a real sense of positive energy among the group.
Contrast this with another CEO who also addressed their management staff with the “doom and gloom” message that has become so common. This CEO made a strong point of letting people know that everyone needed to be looking at cost cutting and that while the organization was not in any immediate danger, the possibility existed if things didn’t change. I’m told there was more to the negativity of the message, but the person who shared the story with me said she did what many others did—which was to “check out” a bit. Her story is not uncommon. Even though intentions of the fear-based message are often for the good, the reality is that many employees begin to “protect their own turf” as opposed to look for true ways to keep the organization aligned toward its goals.
So, how do you communicate the delicate message? The question is a complex one that I won’t answer in total here, but offer a few quick thoughts.
First, be clear and direct in clearly defining the current situation. “When alligators are nipping at your heels, you need to deal with the alligators.” (John Kotter in “The Heart of Change”) People can handle bad news. Telling the people the truth is not what creates the fear. That fear already exists.
Fear-based leadership (which is not effective) is when people attempt to use the fear that already exists as some type of weapon to get people to change. Might work short-term; never is effective in the long-term.
Second, communicate the truth but then focus on the future and where you are headed. After you’ve defined the current reality in step one, do your best to paint a picture of the future—and where the organization is headed, and most importantly, what individuals can start, stop, or continue doing in order to make that future a reality.
Third, be real and authentic. Don’t talk in “corporate speak”. Talk or write to people the same way you do on a daily basis. Be yourself and people will appreciate your openness far more than you might realize.
As my goal with this blog is to create a space for dialouge among leaders, I invite you to share your own stories, comments or thoughts on this subject by clicking the “comments” link below.
“Life is not tried; it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire.”
From the song “Standing Outside the Fire” by Garth Brooks
“Are you willing to be unimportant and insignificant?” It was a straightforward question from a friend of mine. During a lunch conversation this summer he asked me those words. I stopped for a minute and told him that I honestly didn’t know the answer - which made it a great question. And I needed that kick in the pants to remind me to stay true to myself, even during times when I might not be taking a popular position on an issue.
Colleagues and friends who challenge me with tough questions are an important part of my leadership growth process. This past spring as I was preparing for my Vision Quest, I noticed that I was experiencing a disconnect from the community of women who share that experience with me. The women are located primarily in the Porland, Oregon area, so it was easy for me to blame geographical distance as the reason why I wasn’t feeling connected with them.
During a conversation with my teacher I shared my frustrations. She asked me if I would be willing to speak with some of the women and ask them what I was doing that contributed to the disconnect. OUCH! You mean that I have to ask people for feedback about how I might be responsible for the experience that I am having? I swallowed the lump in my throat and agreed to make those phone calls.
And so I did. Initially I asked them how I showed up that caused distance with each of them. While I had difficulty at times hearing some of the feedback, I stayed open to hearing from each of the women. I heard from some who said that I showed up as cold and unempathetic; judgmental, and withholding of feelings. Another said that I was more of a taker than a giver. Another said that she found a comment I made at the end of our ceremony last year to be judgmental and arrogant.
I took all of their feedback to heart and began working with even more awareness to be more open and less harsh with my comments. I expressed gratitude to each of the women who opened up and helped me to learn. In the process I also found myself feeling a great deal of excitement about going to camp and seeing all of them and fully opening to their support.
If that sounds painful to you, you’re right. As I listened to the feedback, I felt hurt, anger, shame and probably more. But I also felt hope. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for having women in my life who were willing to be honest with me in order to deepen our relationship and help me to grow. Those same conversations also helped us to build a stronger community. The experience I had this past summer on my Vision Quest was a deeply spiritual healing on many levels and I am quite certain that healing would not have happened had it not been for the conversations I had prior to going to camp.
Consider these questions as a starting point for your own journey into getting candid feedback:
1. If I were guaranteed honest responses to three questions, whom would I question and what would I ask?
2. What are my goals when I converse with people? What kinds of things do I usually discuss? Are there other topics that would be more interesting?
3. What am I pretending not to know?
4. When was the last time I confronted someone at work or at home about his or her behavior and ended the conversation having enriched the relationship?