Last week I wrote something about speaking and what might be required to get better at the actual skill of communication. The post resulted in some interesting discussion about getting feedback and evaluation. Most youth workers don’t get the kind of feedback they desire. I believe youth workers are hungry for specific input, and yet they starve because intentional feedback, coaching and evaluation is so rare. This reality got me thinking about my own journey of growth and missed opportunities.

As I reflect on 29 years of being employed by churches, the amount of intentional feedback, coaching and evaluation I’ve received could be identified as “minimal.” It wasn’t always the fault of my supervisors, I definitely need to own my part in the lack of feedback. I’m sure I could have been perceived as not needing/wanting input. Maybe it was my personality and my drive (which can display a strong sense of confidence), or it could have been that others viewed me as not being open to feedback or even defensive when I received it. Although, if that is how I was perceived, it was definitely a misunderstanding of how I really felt. I wanted feedback, input and coaching…I believe most good leaders are desperate for it.

I think the bigger issue that led to minimal feedback was the reality that I always worked for and reported to very strong leaders. I’ve learned that strong, vision-oriented, forward-thinking leaders aren’t usually good at slowing down their schedule long enough to develop others. To really develop, critique, coach-up, train, and evaluate others requires time… time away from their own agenda. Not all leaders want to be distracted by the needs of others.

The leaders that I’ve worked with who have a stronger sense of management (than leadership) have proven to be more naturally and strategically better at developing others. Other leaders, who aren’t as inclined toward management, will still develop others, but it’s more occasional and accidental. They’ll give feedback, coaching and evaluation…but it’s usually when it’s sought out or connected to a specific failure. My supervisors have been great leaders and have taught me a ton! But, most of my learning has come thru astute observation, and thru my intentional and aggressive pestering to “teach me.”

Tomorrow, I’ll reveal the 7 ways I’ve gone about trying to get feedback, coaching, and evaluation from others.

What kind of environment are you working in? Does constructive feedback come naturally, or is the feedback rare and typically saved for when you’ve blown it?