Gut Check at the Front of the Room
FRONT OF THE ROOM – Brian Lange
Evolving as a facilitator is not for the faint of heart.
I was on a roll. Literally years and years of positive – if not glowing – feedback. People were engaged; they loved my “energy” and “style.” Many people told me they signed up for a particular learning experience based solely on the fact that I was leading it.
In his book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Marshall Goldsmith wrote that we play “the highlight reel of our successes” in our minds — which is why receiving feedback that may be in contrast to that highlight reel can be so difficult. I have often shared with facilitators the suggestion to assume that there will always be one or two people in your audiences who won’t like you or the training, or both. I have implored people to try and see if they can learn anything from the naysayers — but to remember to focus also on the greater impact upon the other learners. Oh, it is so easy to suggest to others how to think/feel!
I recently received feedback that more than two people were disappointed with a delivery of mine. One said s/he “tuned out right away.” Another felt the internal learning and development director would have been a better choice. Another wished I was more “polished.” To say it was hard to hear the feedback would be accurate — though probably an understatement. I was a bit bewildered. Surprised. Hurt (hello, bruised ego). And, I was disheartened that my client might be disappointed.
My approach to receiving feedback has always been to focus on showing gratitude to the person willing to share the perspective (so they’d be willing to do it again). Then to let the feedback marinate a bit, and maybe even check in with others close to me for additional feedback/perspective.
Years ago, a participant took issue with my occasional use of the phrase “guys” during class — as in, “All right, guys…can I have your attention, please?” — and she shared she felt “left out.” I expressed appreciation for her sharing the observation, and then I checked with multiple sources on their own reactions to the comment. In this case, most people found “guys” to lean more toward a universal term, rather than simply a male-specific one. So, I still use the term — however, I use “folks” a heck of a lot more today than I did before!
Evolving as a facilitator is not for the faint of heart. In fact, very few organizational roles get as much judgment/analysis/feedback as we do. Things to keep in mind about feedback:
- Can I learn something from this?
- Am I keeping defensiveness/denial at bay?
- Will I persevere to not let the feedback get “in my head” and diminish my enthusiasm or confidence?
Ultimately, I made some adjustments to subsequent deliveries for that client to accommodate and benefit from the feedback. The challenge of this experience was to balance the feedback and any learnings from it—without letting it get in my head so much that it hampered my future deliveries.
My goal with this column has always been to attempt to share learnings/insights if they might serve to shorten the learning curve for others. Perhaps my experience with this delivery and feedback can serve as a reminder that no matter how long you’ve been a facilitator, there is always continued room to improve and grow, and that it’s helpful to have a plan in mind for managing that journey.
Brian Lange is with Perim Consulting and serves as lead facilitator for LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers Core and Masters Workshops. Email Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.