I’m a firm believer in giving feedback and being honest with people. I’m a firm believer in accountability. I believe feedback can be a life giving gift. I also believe that not giving feedback and not holding others accountable can be cruel and selfish. Holding back on feedback and accountability is often driven by cowardice, fear, or apathy, and it is always a sign of deficiency in our concern for others. We protect self at the expense of letting others continue down errant paths. In this way we love self over others. Love of self and self protection are the enemy of life giving feedback.
However, in some cases love of self and lack of true love for others drives the impulse to give feedback, but not the life giving kind. Rather, the feedback given in this case is a destroyer and the act of destroying actually gives the deliver self-worth, a sense of power and importance, and a self-image of superiority.
It is important to know the difference between the two forms of feedback and to look deep inside of oneself for the evidence that will reveal our preference in giving feedback. Some of us shrink from it. Some of us give it because we love the people to whom we give it. Some of us give it because it makes us feel bigger and better. I really think we all have the tendency for the first and last way, and that we can even oscillate between the two. Where most of us struggle is to find the perfect middle of being a life giver through feedback and accountability.
There are at least two ways to know if you are hitting this mark. The first involves knowing yourself, scrutinizing your actions and the deep heart motives behind them. This is hard work, but important introspective work that cannot be avoided if you hope to lead with life giving results. The second marker to look for is the impact of your feedback. Do the people you lead seek out your feedback. Do they seem to live more joyous lives as a result of receiving your feedback and implementing the changes you prescribe? Or, do they hide from you. Do you have to leave voice mails, seek them out through email, or get on a plane to confront them. Do they give only a minimal amount of effort to their work. Are they reserved around you and do they seem fearful of taking risks that would advance their work and themselves to the next level. Most importantly, do they seem lifeless and defeated when you are done with them.
With a little reflection, I think you can tell what kind of feedback giver you are. I think you can answer these questions easily and know readily what kind of leader you truly are. And the fix isn’t necessarily an adoption of new feedback techniques. The fix is your heart. The fix is the focus of your love. Is the focus of your love on you or those you lead? Get that focus right, and your feedback will become Life Giving.