By Jay Bransford
Have you ever gone to a firing range and shot a gun? If not, have you ever wondered WHY someone would do such a thing? What’s the point? Why would someone pay money to go shoot holes in a piece of paper? It’s not like the game of darts where you’re competing with others. So why bother?
This article is not intended to encourage people to go out and shoot guns. In fact, there are entire cultures and indeed many Christians in certain parts of the world who do not support the use of guns. Putting that aside for the moment, there is a logical reason why people go ‘target shooting’. And it’s directly related to self-development. People go to a firing range because they have a goal to develop their skills to accurately shoot a gun. Again, that may not be a goal that personally interests you, and that’s just fine. But there is a very important lesson that we can all learn about self-development from the practice of target shooting. That lesson relates to the powerful concept of “feedback”.
Picture in your mind a shooting range. What do you see? Likely you envision a person standing behind a line, wearing protective ear muffs, and shooting a gun toward a target at a distance. After they fire off a number of rounds, what do they do next? Usually, they look closely at the target they were shooting at and see how good their aim was. Why do they do that? Because they want feedback about their skills and accuracy that will hopefully help them to adjust their shooting approach and further improve their skills. Going to a shooting range is a way to both practice a skill and get critical feedback SO THAT a person can continue to develop his/her skill.
How does this apply to you? Very simply, if you want to develop your skills at anything in life, you absolutely must find a way to receive feedback about your performance SO THAT you can make the necessary adjustments to continue to improve.
8-Step Feedback Process
Here’s a way that’s almost guaranteed for ANYONE to utilize feedback from other people to improve. It is an 8-step process adapted from Marshall Goldsmith, who is one of the top leadership coaches in the world. The feedback steps are:
Let’s use a simple example to help us understand and apply Marshall’s 8-step feedback process. Let’s assume that you are a ministry leader and want to get better at delegating. Below we’ll see how you could apply the steps of the feedback process to that personal development goal…
Feedback can come from many sources. And one of the most helpful sources of feedback is the people around you. So if you want to know how you can improve on something, ASK other people how well you’re doing and what you could improve on.
In our case study this might look like walking up to each of your staff members individually and asking them, “In what ways could I improve my delegation skills with you?”
If you ask enough people, you are sure to get a bunch of suggestions. Asking is the first step of the feedback process. It’s really quite easy.
Here’s where you might feel challenged. How well do you really listen to people when they give you input? Do you politely smile and nod your head and abruptly forget everything they said? Here’s a suggestion… WRITE IT DOWN! Even if you think it’s a stupid idea – write it down anyway. At a minimum it will communicate to that person that you listened and valued their input. At best, they may have just given you an amazing idea.
For our case study, let’s assume that you wrote down the following suggestions from people about how to delegate better:
- “Don’t give me more than I can handle.”
- “Make sure to explain to me what your expectations are.”
- “Give me a timeframe to complete the task.”
- “Let me know what my financial budget is.”
- “Don’t micro-manage me by checking on my status every day.”
- “Ask me if I’m comfortable with the task.”
Once you have a list of suggestions from various people about how you can improve, it’s time to think and pray about it. What is God saying to you about all of this feedback? What do you feel you should try doing? You don’t have to commit to doing everything people suggest. But as a good leader you should at least commit to asking for people’s input and prayerfully considering it.
For our case study on delegation, let’s say we decided to focus on the following 2 things:
- Be clear about expectations (timeframe, cost, outcomes)
- Ask what their comfort level is with the task
Everyone likes to be thanked. It’s good for morale. And it helps to ensure that people will be willing to give you more feedback the next time you ask. Make sure you thank people for their feedback. Try to think of feedback as a gift, whether you like or agree with the feedback or not.
A simple example of thanking people might be, “Thank you for your suggestions about how I can delegate better. I really appreciate your input.”
Once you’ve thought and prayed about the feedback and decided what actions you’re going to take to further your development, it’s helpful to respond to people and let them know what you decided. By telling them that, it helps to hold you accountable for following through.
A response for our case study might sound like this, “I have taken time to think and pray about all the feedback I received about how to delegate better. And at this time I really want to focus on the following 2 things…”
You may find that some of your action items involve certain people. Ask for their involvement in following through on your action items. Is it ok if you try these new approaches with them? Will they help to remind you if you forget?
In our case study involving others might sounds like, “Hey Kathy, I’d really like to be more clear with you when I delegate things to you in the future. Would you be open to helping me remember to do so and even giving me ongoing feedback?”
This may sound like a no-brainer. But you do need to actually take the actions you told people you were going to take. It’s kind of hard to improve if you just talk about doing things, but never actually do them! So make sure to follow-through on your action items.
For our case study an example of implementing our action items might be delegating clearly by saying, “I’d like you to lead up our marketing efforts for our upcoming school by designing/printing brochures and making a Facebook campaign in the next 2 weeks. Let’s keep the cost under $100 USD. How comfortable are you with all of that?”
The last step of the feedback process is to follow-up with people again and ask for ongoing feedback. You’re not likely to perfectly attain your goal the first time you try. Most things take time, practice, and ongoing feedback. (Like continuously going back to the firing range to improve your shooting skills.)
Here is what follow-up might look like in our case study example. “Hi, Kathy. As you know I’ve been trying to improve my delegation skills. How have I been doing over the past month? What additional ideas do you have for me?”
In what ways is God challenging you to develop yourself? Pick something this week and try working through the 8-step feedback process above. It is not a difficult process and it doesn’t even take much time. But it does require a focused, intentional effort on your part to seek out and respond well to feedback. Try it today and you’ll be amazed at the results!
*For more resources from the ALLC on Self Development, click here.