Good, good, good

Good, good, good


I facilitated a session among a diverse group of health care professionals who have been getting together for about six months to learn how they can create more patient-centered care.  In the session before mine, Margie Hagene an excellent facilitator was debriefing visits that had been made by team leaders to the sites.  She was asking for feedback to the leaders about the visits.  The leaders were in the room.  Of 19 tables, one spoke up and said (paraphrasing here):  We really appreciated the interest and the support; it just makes you feel good to know the leaders care enough about what’s going on to take time from their busy work and listen and encourage.  Margie thanked her for the feedback and said, “Who else would like to offer feedback on the value of the visits?”  The only rumblings came from the air conditioning system.

Now, Margie was obviously a strong and sharp facilitator and so she explained to them that she was not looking for compliments and flattery, and she was very open even if the feedback was constructive. But her point in asking, she said, is that sometimes leaders don’t know what’s most helpful, and they want to be helpful. So, she said, this was a great opportunity to shape the future visits to make them most valuable. And she continued to explain intelligently and solicit feedback with passion.  From this extended invitation, she got one more piece of feedback (just one, or a 100% increase, depending on your perspective).  This second contributor said: It really helped to have the visiting leader remind them of their initial purpose and check and see if they were still on track. And she added, almost apologetically as though she and her colleagues shouldn’t need it, that her clinic appreciated the encouragement for the progress they were making.

As a facilitator, it’s great to watch others work, because you see differently when you don’t have the microphone in your hand.  And here’s what I saw:  First: gosh it’s hard to get people to give honest feedback to their leaders.  So, leaders, you must, as Margie did:  Explain. And make it safe.  And repeat the invitation.  And surely find other ways than the head-on, in-the-group approach to get feedback.  Never forget that at a deep level people are timid about telling the emperor about the clothes he or she is wearing – whether their threads are transparent or made of fine silk.

One thing struck me even more than the need to push for feedback.  Followers, i.e., people, especially adults, and adults-at-work grossly undervalue the role of positive encouragement.  The two groups that spoke both talked in terms like “it was just nice to hear that we were doing okay.”  And so why is that a “just?”  Why did they seem to couch it as if encouragement doesn’t really count, isn’t really important.  It seemed like they were saying if perhaps the leaders had delivered some incredibly piercing insight, or revelatory discovery, that would be truly worthwhile.  But this was “just” encouragement.  Nonsense!  Encouragement is hugely important and we should never stop offering it.

Jack and I were running up and down a field playing catch with lacrosse sticks yesterday. I started out as usual the noisy and irrepressible coach: “see it all the way, Jack” “watch the angle of your stick,” “come on, don’t quit.”  Blah. Blah. Blah. He bristled. Who wouldn’t?  I made myself start counting how many “good’s” or “nice” comments I could make in a row.  (I lost track or blew it at about four.)

You KNOW what happened both with respect to Jack’s efficiency and his joy-factor, when I switched to the positive, right?

These are days of extraordinary challenge change.  I both thank you and applaud you for taking a minute to read something to encourage and stimulate you, and I invite you to be an encourager today, as you

Lead with your best self!

  • I certainly agree with your comments about groups and expectations.
    In my opinion, a small group of 2 or 3 persons beside myself, is a very good setting for more accurate feedback though setting and situation will quickly influence the feedback plus takes longer to get thru the entire organization.
    On occasion large groups will have one person who is very negative, which seems to draw several more of same venue.
    Whereas positive feedback comment seems to quiet the entire group almost like a complete shift of focus on why we are there.

  • Dan~
    Great article and so needed right now! As a fellow facilitator I’ve felt her pain. And you’re right…it is totally about safety! Also, as a leader, if I only hear from you when I do something wrong, that defines my “experience” of you and becomes my expectation of our interaction. So, when you try to change this, as an employee, I’m confused and may resist. In the book, How Full is Your Bucket, it shares the magic ratio is 5 positive interactions:1 negative interaction. The other tidbit they shared is: “The #1 reason people leave their jobs is they don’t feel appreciated.” Thanks Dan for sharing your wisdom and reminding us of one of our most important roles as leaders!

    Much grace,

  • Dan- So glad I took the time to read this today and really needed to hear this message…and will pass it on. My 92 year old Mother rarely offers praise, encouragement or thanks, but she did yesterday. Reminded me again how important it is.

  • I work mostly on my own, rather than in teams, designing solutions for a variety of problems (landscaping, math, meeting procedures, water level control, family budgeting…). For me, receiving constant comments, even encouraging ones, distracts me from the inner listening and reasoning I need to do.

    There are three kinds of feedback I do appreciate, though. The first is respectful reasoning together when I’m stuck and ask for help from a third party. Second is clear feedback from the client: “Yes, you’re on the right track.” or “No, this part isn’t quite right because…..” The third is sincere expressions of appreciation when I’ve worked out a solution. Sincere means something like, “Thank you! This is just what I needed.” And compensation, if that was part of the agreement. And using what I’ve designed. That’s the best.

    I offer this feedback as a the beginning of a solution for those who “herd cats” (lead independent thinkers), Hope it helps!

  • Good afternoon Dan,

    I can relate to the facilitator’s role being a mentor. It is always good to hear feedback that is constructive criticism. In order to know what is right or wrong, good or bad, we all need to hear these things to make improvements within ourselves, our jobs, our relationships; It helps me to see that my message has been recieved.

    Thomas K. Burke – Mentor

  • Ever since Adam and Eve decided to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, humans have felt that they were accomplishing something important when we judge something good or evil. Later, we were advised to “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Most of us don’t want to be judged because (given advertising’s penchant to judge us deficient / undesireable until we buy their product) mostly, Americans especially focus on negatives when judging. Healers, of course, would be able to focus on positives. Perhaps one way to make it safe for participants is to ask different questions, like, “Does that make sense?” or “How did that work for you?” and open questions like “What can I do to make it more helpful?” and “Tell me something that resonated with you.” and “What part of this will you bring back to your daily life?”

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