Yesterday I wrote about having a desire to receive feedback, coaching and/or evaluation and being in an environment where it’s absent. Leaders want to be more effective and when someone takes the time to intentionally care about your personal/ministry development, it’s a real gift. Many leaders aren’t good at developing others because they’re so busy with their own agenda.

When you’re in an environment where feedback is void, here are some ideas to put yourself in a better position for being developed. These ideas aren’t surefire, but they are actions I’ve sought to take that I hope will be helpful to you. When you’re done reading, leave me a comment and let me know what might work for you and/or what you’re doing that I didn’t mention.

1. Desire feedback: Desire begins with a humility that genuinely believes others have much to offer to make you a better person, leader, follower, etc… When others sense your genuine interest for development, it will trigger their input and put you on their radar as someone who is teachable.

2. Don’t expect it: As I wrote yesterday, a lot of leaders don’t naturally think about developing others. While I would argue that the core of being a leader is a spirit that knows the importance of developing others, many leaders are so consumed with their projects and themselves that developing you doesn’t get priority. It would be nice if leaders were as concerned with your agenda as their own, but it would also be awesome if you never had to ask for a raise either. Here’s the deal, if you sit back and wait for someone to take an interest in developing you, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting for a long time.

3. Be specific when asking for feedback: I found that an initial conversation (where I asked for coaching) was always met with this type of response: “Of course I’ll take time to coach you and offer feedback.” But, when the pressures of life hit, good intentions often fall. Because of this, my advice is to be specific with what you’re looking for from your supervisor (or, anyone for that matter). Instead of saying, “Help me be a better communicator” (too general), you might say, “This Sunday, will you please take specific notes on my message and critique me so I can become more effective? I really would value your input on this particular message.” General asks get lost in the chaos of movement. Specific asks require an intentional response.

4. Create an “open for input” environment around yourself: I want to write more about the specifics of this idea soon, but when others know you’re open for input you’ll eventually start getting it (whether you want it or not). When you become known as someone who values learning and feedback, you’ll be amazed at how many different people are willing to take an interest in you and share from their experiences.

5. Discern helpful from personal: When you receive input, it’s important to take time to reflect on what you’ve been taught and discern if/how it will be helpful. Not all feedback, coaching and input is beneficial. I’ve discovered that some people’s advice is simply “what they do” and it’s not a transferable learning. Not all advice is good advice. For example, I once had my supervisor tell me, “Doug, you have a good command of humor when you’re teaching, but it could be so much more better if, when you say something funny, you look into the camera and laugh at your own joke.” While I definitely appreciated this leader’s desire to instruct me, I discerned his input as stylistic advice. His suggestion was exactly how he communicated and it worked for him, but it wasn’t my style of humor. I thanked him for the input, but discerned it as more a stylistic idea than a transferable principle.

6. Pursue feedback from the outside: If you can’t get coaching from those who lead you, seek it from those outside your ministry. For myself, I probably performed 15 weddings after getting my MDiv and not one person from my church gave me any help, direction or evaluation. Finally, I asked a friend (from another church) for feedback who happened to be attending a wedding I was performing. He was so helpful and it got me thinking that I didn’t have to wait for and rely on those I worked with–I could seek it out. Even when I am getting coaching from my own church setting, there’s always opportunities to learn from those with “outside eyes.”

7. Treat critique as a gift: If you happen to have someone in your life who coaches you, know that it’s rare within a ministry setting. When you receive it, appreciate it. I wish more church leaders were intentional, but I hear from youth workers all the time who only hear from their supervisor when they do something wrong. So, if you’re getting, take some time today and thank that person for the gift they’re giving you and your future.

Alright, what do you do to get others to help you, coach you, and critique you? Share your ideas.