Bad feedback is good for me (even if it hurts)

Wedge receives some negative feedback about his training style. What’s a boy to do?

I’m on the train home from Oxford, having delivered some training to a groovy and positive community care organisation.

I’m feeling a bit ambivalent though, as the feedback forms that went out after my seminar came back with some mixed messages.

I’m not analysing the feedback, that’s for the organisation to do, but I glanced at some sheets while I collated and handed them in to reception.

I noted that, on a Likert scale of 1 – 6, I consistently scored 5s and 6s on most of the criteria that they choose to measure. But I scored 1 on the first query:
“Was there opportunity to introduce yourself to the group?”

Why don’t I know that people care about such matters? I don’t care about it, not in a medium to large group anyway. I had assumed that the delegates knew each other well, as they work in a small field, and chatted casually with one another before we started the seminar. My assumption was that no introductions were necessary. Assumptions can bite you like that.

I don’t think introductions add value, I think they waste valuable learning time, but that’s just me; there is value in helping people feel settled and comfortable, and sharing background information so we all know what areas a person works in.

I’ve missed this trick, and the feedback has shown me that, so, I must ensure that I amend my training style to include introductions. I’m going to have to extend my time by 10 minutes for this ‘wasteful’ task. Because people want it, and deserve it.

Worse was to come!

My seminars are open conversations; I invite people to interrupt me, and we have a tea break midway and a bit of a chat when we sit back down.

But one delegate marked me down as ‘1‘ for the following query:
“Did you feel the trainer respected your input and insights?”

How could I get a 1? Other people had given me a 6, and how could I have ever shown disrespect when I’m here to support them in their professional activities (activities I value, and am not nearly qualified enough to perform myself).

I thought it over. Had I spoken over this person at any point? Possibly – when I’m talking with good friends I have a habit of doing so (much to my shame).
Could I have finished their sentence, or shown impatience with them? Possibly – I can’t rule it out (and I’m suddenly crippled by self-doubt).

But hang on, this person only spoke when the group were talking about sexism and feelings, and I backed them up! So what’s going on here?

Doesn’t matter how I remember it, and there’s nothing to be gained by arguing the point. I’ve had my say (all two hours of it) and feedback is the delegates’ chance to voice their thoughts and feelings.

This person did not feel that I demonstrated respect for their input. It doesn’t matter if I think I did demonstrate respect, the fact is they didn’t feel it, and that’s the feedback they need me to hear. Or rather, I need to hear, if I’m going to develop and improve.

(Just as an aside, I should also keep in mind that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and that it’s quite possible that this person gave be the negative feedback for reasons that might have more to do with their character than mine, and more to do with their understanding of seminar protocols than mine.)

I won’t learn anything from those 5s and 6s; I will learn from that ‘1′, I’ll learn to listen in a more positive manner, regardless of time constraints, in order to demonstrate that I’m here for the audience, the people who are paying for me to be here.

P.S. I should explain that while I’ve been delivering training for many years, I am not a professional – I volunteer my time and knowledge for free.

  1. Interesting.

    I’m disappointed to hear that you are going to change the way we do things. I do not agree with introductions. I feel they waste time and frequently cause people to feel uncomfortable when all they want to do is listen, not talk about themselves. I certainly won’t be including introductions.

    As for the other ‘1’ – well, you always get one!

  2. I agree, I’m not generally a fan of introductions, and would generally prefer to dispense with them and just get on with it as well.

    However, the attendees were asked whether they had the opportunity to introduce themselves, not how they felt about whether they had that opportunity. They had to answer negatively as it wasn’t part of your program, but that doesn’t neccessarily mean it mattered to them.

    Perhaps they were happy not to have time taken up with introductions so that they could just get on with what they had come there for. Perhaps the question needs revisiting.

  3. Thanks. Yes, it’s a leading question and assumes there’s value in introductions, while not everyone agrees there is. I’m still in two minds about intros and very much appreciate your thoughts.

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