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Monday, October 30, 2017

Don't Take It Personal - Accepting Feedback

I'm quite sure you have heard feedback is a gift.  I certainly agree feedback is a gift, but let's keep it real,  feedback can be hard to swallow.  Really hard to swallow.  Really, really hard.  Did I mention that feedback can be hard to swallow.  😊

Okay, enough of that, let's get down to how the "struggle is real".  As a child I took feedback really personally.  I believe I took it personally because of HOW it was given.  It felt, many times, more insulting than anything.  I literally left the conversations sometimes feeling utterly stupid.😞  It's amazing how the environment in which you grow up can shape the way you interact with others for years.  Maybe even the rest of your life.  That was the case for me.  I literally dreaded performance reviews at work because if I felt I disappointed anyone I literally felt like a failure, or worse yet, stupid.  I don't like to fail, and I definitely don't like rejection.  Over the last decade or so I've been reshaping my mind around feedback.  Now that I'm a manager and have to give feedback, I'm very thoughtful and deliberate on how I approach it.  However, I also have to realize that I need to be able to accept it without taking it personal.  I am honest and forthright with my manager and advise them that feedback is something I do struggle with.  I have no problem being honest about that.  I ask them to  give me 24-48 hours to digest the feedback.  I need that time to digest it to work through the different emotions, and analysis, it takes me to understand the feedback, accept it, and determine how to apply it to make me better.  I would truly hope that the manager has my best interest at heart with the feedback to I assume positive intent.

What I find interesting is although feedback is hard for me, I opted to put myself out there through speaking engagements to share my knowledge.  Talk about getting out of your comfort zone.  You see, when you speak at conferences, or events, the organizers definitely want to secure feedback on the speakers.  So they should.  However, this was really hard for me when I started my speaking career.  It was hard because again, I don't like disappointing anyone, or failing.  I also want to bring content that individuals can relate to every single time I speak.  I want to make sure that everyone leaves the room with at least 1 thing they can immediately use when they go back to their respective jobs or lives.  I pour everything I've got in to creating the presentations.  It takes hours, upon hours, or preparation and work.  It takes a lot of courage to get up in front of individuals to present the content.  It takes a lot of observation to understand the energy in the room. It takes a lot of concentration to not only present, but to determine if you need to change up the approach on the fly to garner more engagement.  It takes a lot to put yourself out there and bring forth your best, knowing there will probably be someone out there you may not reach for whatever reason.  I am not saying all of this to put a pitch in for speaking, I'm sharing this to show the gravity of the passion the that I have to better myself, even if that means getting out of my comfort zone.  The reason I choose to speak is to overcome my fears of failure, rejection, and taking feedback personal.  I also chose speaking to share my knowledge with others, as I have a lot to share, and what better way to do two things at once.  I have found that getting out of my comfort zone and doing this work has helped me to accept feedback better, not only for speaking, but in my day to day job.  Though I am a confident person I too have areas of opportunities.  I'm consistently trying to grow and do better each and every day. During this process of the last decade here is what I uncovered:
  1. Get out of your comfort zone to get to that next level - I had to put myself out there to receive feedback in order to get better at accepting this gift as positive opposed to negative.  Some times it stung, but sometimes you need a sting every once in a while to get better. 
  2. Understand the difference between feedback and an opinion - people will always have an opinion, but what you really want is constructive feedback.  An opinion is defined as: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge tidbits of information that can make you better.  Feedback is defined as: information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.  When receiving feedback asks for facts and how this information can help you improve.  If you don't get at least that then what is the point?  A mentor of mine told me a few years ago that when I get survey results to do the following: (a) Read all of the feedback (b) Remove the lowest scores and highest scores (c) Focus on those scores in the middle.  I have found this to be very helpful as the middle is the place where I find the most meat.  This helps to give perspective.
  3. Know you will not be 100% all the time - sometimes you just have an off day.  Though my goal is to be 100% on all the time that is not realistic.  There are sometimes you just don't deliver the way you want to.  When this situation happens determine what was occurring in your life that threw you off your game.  Try not to beat yourself up over it because NO ONE is perfect.  Once you determine what that "thing" is then determine how in the future you can acknowledge you are off, and determine what you can do to get into your zone, though you have other "things" impacting you.  Only you can define how you maintain, but acknowledging you have an issue is the first step.
  4. Set Exceptions Upfront - as I said earlier I have a conversation with all of my managers upfront on how I wish to receive feedback and the process I go through.  I also have the same conversation with the team members I manage.  I do this because I want to ensure everyone has an understanding on how I accept and digest feedback.  I want to be thoughtful to others on how they receive feedback as well.  At the end of the day the feedback should be very honest,, but yet very thoughtful and deliberate in delivery.  
  5. Don't over analyze - and for all you do, DO NOT over analyze the feedback.  Don't get so caught up in it that you are obsessed with the feedback.  Take it for what it is.  Capture what you can out of it and keep it moving.  You will never please everyone so don' try to. Be who you are, and the best version of you every day.  The best version may not be 100% every day either so keep that in mind.
Receiving feedback has been such a journey for me.  I still struggle sometimes with it and I have no problem admitting that.  However, I am getting better at it every year.  Go forth and conquer and don't let people's opinion of you stop you from being the best version of you.  Most importantly, don't stop yourself by being the best version of you by being your worse critic to where it's crippling.

Until next time, signing off!
The BA Martial Artist

Monday, October 2, 2017

Staying Calm Through the Storm

Dear wonderful followers:

This month I want to switch directions on what I typically post and get a little more personal.

I had an opportunity to speak at a conference this month on the topic of leading yourself.  In order to lead others you must know how to lead yourself.  The reason this particular topic was so near and dear to my heart is because the last few months have been really tough for me emotionally and mentally.  I am a strong person, but even the strongest people have weak moments.  So after having a brief emotional breakdown and letting my emotions flow, I knew something need to change.  Please understand that I am not the type of person who cries a lot so when I do that tells me I need to stop for a moment and reflect.  It doesn't mean the I don't have emotions is just means that I display my emotions differently.  And that difference is okay. because I struggled with that as well.

I started my journey of healing by doing some self reflection, and introspection, the last few months.  You may ask, what is the different between self reflection and self introspection?  The way I define these two terms, and have in my life are as follows:

  • Self reflection is where I just reflect on my behaviors and the events that have led up to where I am currently.  
  • Self introspection is where I go deep internally to identify the struggles that have lead to those behaviors, in addition to the root cause.  Eventually I will come up with a plan on how to change, if I don't like the result, or continue on if I do like the result. 
As we all experience, life throws curve balls whether we are ready or not.  Essentially, after doing this reflection, it came to my attention that there were some issues internally I thought I had dealt with that I still needed to deal with.  You see, I'm known to be the strong one by many.  I am also a very giving person.  I give genuinely without expecting anything in return.  I give of my time and resources because I truly have a desire to help others.  However, when you are the strong one and when you cherish, and are extremely loyal to, friendships and relationships it does take a lot from you if you are not careful.  I have no problem with people pulling on me, but I also need deposits because I am human as well.  It can be a lonely space sometimes when you are the strongest person.  You tend to forget to take care of yourself, and others feel you always have it together.  Sometimes you don't even realize it.

However, as I went through this journey and saw the devastation with Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida.  In addition, to the earthquake in Mexico and the terrorist attack in London, it put things in perspective for me.  It didn't take me away from the self reflection and introspection exercise, but it did make me appreciative of what I have and those around me.  You see when you go through storms in life there is always something there to bring that calm to the storm if you just take a moment to be silent and reflect.  The situation you are going through is still VERY real, however, when you put it in perspective of what it could have been it can help you make it through.

Going through the process can be really hard, but staying calm through the storm is therapuetic,  For those who are close to you be vulnerable with them.  At the end in order to be the best you, you have to be honest and authentic with yourself.  You have to take time to take care of yourself.  You have to identify those things that are hindering you from being the best version of you possible.  You have to take the good with the bad.  The things you like about yourself continue doing and build on it.  The things you don't like determine why and change it.  Through it all stay centered and calm.  The calmness brings clarity.  The clarity brings understanding.  The understanding brings solutions.

Take time to reflect and introspect.  This is a continuous process so don't stop doing self introspection and reflection.  It keeps you grounded and true to yourself.  Just remember find those calm moments in the storm to help you get through.  It may be hard, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, though it may not feel like it going through it.

Signing off,
The BA Martial Artist