Previously I talked about the nature of a good leader being able to ask the right questions the right way.
I talked about the impact that a leader has on his team when the first action is to instruct and command instead of ask and listen. By simply deciding to approach with questions and open ears, leaders can win over the teams, avoid a culture of defensiveness and encourage greater cooperation between team members and team leaders. We talked about the ‘filter’ that exists between what you say and what they hear and how best to navigate this. So let’s pick up where we left off:
The same goes for good team members, a good team member needs to filter what they hear and process their leaders questions and instructions properly in order to respond the right way.
Let all feedback be constructive
It’s as simple as making a decision that all feedback is potentially constructive. There is a problem that exists within communication, that is, you cannot control how a person will interpret what you are saying. Once the words leave you mouth, despite your best effort to say the right thing the right way, despite you best intention to be loving and kind, constructive and helpful, and despite your commitment to framing your words with surgical precision for the best possible delivery… words can still be misunderstood. Human nature is so defensive, so proud, so ego driven and insecure that the default setting is to assume the worst of people, protect yourself and get defensive because you’re right! What if we changed that? What if we decided to believe the best of people and embrace all the feedback and criticism we ever receive, as constructive?
When you know who you are In Christ, no matter what anyone says, you have no need to defend yourself.
What about when it’s not? What if it’s negative? Sometimes people are just mean aren’t they, how can their feedback be useful? There is a big difference between calling it negative and calling it constructive. Not all feedback is kind, but all feedback can be used to build a better, stronger, more robust and mature you. Negative people can only hurt you if you value or believe what they say and then try and defend yourself against it. When you know who you are In Christ, no matter what anyone says, you have no need to defend yourself. Now any type of feedback can be useful, how?
- Use it to learn how to love that person better
- Use it to learn how not to speak to people yourself
- Use it teach others how to communicate better
- Use it as an opportunity to be vulnerable, humbly explore your character and see if you need to change, maybe the feedback was mean or hurtful, that may not make it inaccurate. Be honest, get with God, get healed, get free, power on ahead.
- Use to to discern the heart of the person speaking and pray for them. The truth is, hurt people hurt people and damaged people damage people. The most common reason a person has for being hurtful towards us is that deep down they themselves are hurting and in need of healing. Use the opportunity to see their pain and their hurt, and allow your heart to be moved not with defensive distain but rather with compassion and grace.
Choose to believe the best
Not everyone communicates perfectly, all the time. Most rarely do. But remember, the information may be good and useful, even if the filter of the persons heart was hurtful. Don’t neglect the feedback just because it was delivered poorly. Be big enough to grab a hold of feedback and use it to thrive and grow. Don’t let others define your value, Jesus has defined it for you and it’s in no need of re-evaluation, you value is set; you’re priceless for you are fearfully and wonderfully made, so valuable that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sin so that you could have an eternal relationship with him! There is no question about your value or your worth! So don’t equate criticism or negative feedback on your performance as a devaluing of your worth or personhood. They are two separate issues. Use it as fertiliser to turbo charge your growth! The more they heap crap on you, the more you can grow! But that’s ONLY IF you decide that all feedback can be used constructively, even if that was not the persons intention when they gave it to you. Take a page out of Joseph’s book:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” – Genesis 50:20
Joseph’s brothers had given him some feedback that was less than pleasant, they called him a dreamer, threw him in a pit then sold him as a slave into Egypt! Talk about hurtful, negative feedback! But he decided to keep his heart soft, trust in the value that had been placed upon him by his Father, and allowed God to work good things in his life. Imagine how much your team could thrive if we all took this approach to feedback and circumstances!
the information may be good and useful, even if the filter of the persons heart was hurtful
Assumption leads to issues
Back to our problem. Interpretation is always based on assumption. You assume you know what they (your team leader, coach, pastor, teacher, parent) mean and make a judgement on the words being said. Factual instruction, like how to operate a machine requires little interpretation, but being told how to do a process or speak or behave etc… create an open space where the hearer can choose how to interpret the words they hear. Are they friendly, are they for me, was it loving, were the words genuine, did I feel empowered, did I feel insignificant and made to feel dumb. The emotional response is a result of interpretation. And the emotional response is the key. When made to feel good, the response is great – when made to feel bad, the response is not good. While leaders have a responsibility to try and promote good communication through empowering a positive emotional response from their team members, the team members can also choose how to filter what they hear and this is where the responsibility now falls to the team member to believe the best and set their filter right:
- Do you believe the leader wants to help you?
- Do you believe the leader cares about the team as a whole?
- Do you believe the leader is doing their best to promote the right thing for the right reason?
- Do you believe the leader is not making a personal attack on you, but rather they are simply addressing an issue?
- Do you find the leader offensive towards you, do they have it out for you?
These are the kinds of questions that set our listening filter in place. If we believe the leader is for us and wants us to succeed and believes in the team and cares about us, we listen eagerly for his instruction so we can improve. But if we assume the leader is harsh, dislikes us and just trying to be abusive, dictatorial and only cares about themselves, we filter everything they say through that belief and no matter what they say or how they speak, we will never hear in a constructive, helpful way. Do you get offended easily? It’s probably your filter that needs fixing. Do you always feel like you’re being picked on? Maybe your filter is set to interpret everything people say as such, try changing your filter!
We have a value in our team, ‘We thrive off feedback’. We simply decide to embrace feedback for the best; believing the best of each other and using all feedback for the purpose of growth as a team. Why? Because even though the information may be right, the delivery may not be – but we’ve decided to be bigger than that, we have grace for our leaders and for each other and choose to believe the best of them because ‘love always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres…’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). What this attitude fosters is a posture of humility.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom – Proverbs 11:2
Without humility we cannot love each other. Without humility we cannot lead people effectively. Without humility we cannot learn effectively. Without humility we cannot contribute to a team environment effectively. Without humility, we cannot be like Christ. We cannot make disciples, we cannot even function as a disciple, for humility to the hallmark of a true disciple who is reflecting the image of Christ. Humble leaders ask questions first. Humble Team members thrive off feedback. What do you think?