How to Receive Tough Feedback


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You're listening to the school leadership reimagined podcast episode 102. 

Hey Builders, 

Welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson. And today we are continuing our series all about the difference between bosses, leaders, and builders. And today we're going to talk about how bosses, leaders and builders respond to feedback that they receive. So we're not talking about how they give feedback, but how do they receive feedback. And I'm going to share with you something that happened just this week where I have to struggle with hearing some feedback.

Before we do that, I want to tell you about Builders Lab.

If you have been a listener to this podcast for any length of time, you know how much I love builders lab, it is three days where you get a deep dive into all things build your ship, you come to builders lab, we help you develop your vision for your school. And then we help you develop a plan a blueprint for how you're going to start pursuing that vision as soon as you return to your building. In fact, we don't just kind of give you that information and then leave you alone, we follow up with you over the course of 90 days after you leave builders lab to make sure that you actually implement on your blueprint, we call it implementation insurance. So not only do you get three days of intensive immersive training, but you also get 90 days of follow up and support. And so our next builders lab is coming up on June 28 through 30 2021. And we are going to do another virtual builders lab. You know, we started doing virtual builders labs because of the pandemic. But they worked so well, that now that things are opening up again, we are probably going to keep a virtual option at least one a year going forward. Even if we go back to face to face builders labs, we probably going to keep a virtual option because it works so well. 

It allows people who would not normally get a chance to travel to Washington DC to come to a live Builders lab. They haven't really there a lot but an in person builders lab, you have an opportunity to come and also people who are bringing teams and and travel might be a little bit prohibitive for an entire team to come. The builders lab 360 degree experience allows you to attend with your team without having to deal with all those travel hassles and expenses. So we're doing another one this one is in June, and it is going to be so good. We are sending you pre work. We send you a builder's box with all kinds of surprises. And it's not just a swag box that has everything that you need to be able to participate in builders that people love the builders box people say, you know, I let my kids and when the box was so fun, it became a whole family thing. I mean the building looks like one of my favorite things. I love doing that builders bots. I love surprising and spoiling our our builders. So anyway, builders lab is coming up Tickets are available right now to get your ticket just go to mind steps slash builders dash lab, that's mind step Slash builder's dash lab. 

We're opening up Buildership University for enrollment. 

We're going to take in another cohort that we're closing down enrollment again, so that we can take care of this new cohort and get everybody set up. So people always want to know why should I go to builders, lavish I could have built a ship university but they're two different things. Builders lab is where you come and get three intense days where you immerse yourself in the builder ship model. So you learn all aspects of the builder ship model, and you put some basic things in place during builders lab. But build a ship University is where you actually implement that model on an ongoing basis. So inside of builder ship University you have on demand training. So there's something that you want to do and you want to learn more how to do it, how to get into classrooms and get feedback, how to set up a support system. There are on demand trainings that show you how to do that. In addition to that build a ship University is a great way to stay accountable every quarter, every 90 days. We do another 90 day plan so you continue the work work that you did in builder's lab or if you've never come to builders lab, you learn how to create that 90 day plan. And then you're accountable to everybody in a group for carrying out that plan. And then along the way, we have live office hours where you can come and get support about the challenges that you're facing along the way. 

We have a couple of things that we call sprints, we call them GSD, sprints, get stuff done sprints. So if there's a tool that you want to build, or you know, we recently did one on a building our master schedules where we spent two days, we spent about 90 minutes two days in a row. And everybody bought their master schedules, we we interrogated our master schedules, and then we built, we started building new mattress capsules. And of course, you're not going to build a new master schedule entirely in that 90 minutes. But we worked out some of the challenges that we're facing around our master schedule to make sure that our schedules reflect our vision, mission and core values, and they're aligned to those things. So build a ship University is a great place to come. If you want to implement build a ship, you have some options to do some things on your own. And you have some options to do things with the group. And the community is wonderful. Not only that, but we we party and build a ship University, not like you know, like not like spring break partying, that not that kind of thing. But once a quarter, we get together and we celebrate at the end of the quarter at the end of that 90 day period. We come together, we celebrate our wins, we celebrate meeting our 90 day goals, and we support each other. And it's so it's wonderful. We had our first celebration in December, and that was a fireside chat. And we sent everybody little mini fireplaces and s'mores kits and we all sat around our fireplaces and roasted marshmallows and made some wars. Then we just had our Spring Fling where we had a tea party and a Mad Hatter Party, which was so much fun. Everybody wore crazy hats and we sat around to celebrate our wins, we sent everybody T and a little treat, you know, so every single 90 days, we also have a party. So build a ship, university is the place to come if you want to be around other builders if you want to get ongoing support as you are building towards your vision, mission and core values. So build a ship University is open for enrollment right now. And to learn more about it, go to builder ship That's builder ship 

Okay, now let's dive in. 

I just started out by telling you something that happened to me this week that I'm still processing, and I probably am going to do an entire podcast on this at some point maybe I don't know, I got to think it through a little bit. But I'll tell you something that that I'm thinking about right now. And I'm going to be a little bit vulnerable and transparent. But I think it's important that if you are joining me on this build a ship university that you don't just hear about things that happened in the past that all you know, that worked out, I don't know how this is going to work out yet. And so I feel like it's important for you to see, you know what it looks like in you know, the messy middle. And right now, I'm still processing what happens. So I have someone who who is a new client with us. And we've gotten off to a rocky start. And I think there's been some miscommunication on both sides. And so anyway, the client was giving me some feedback about their displeasure around the rocky start and around some things that that hadn't gone the way that they expected things to go. And I'll be honest, when I heard that feedback that he was giving me, a lot of it was tinge with some personal stuff, too. So you know, there was a will driver stuff going on, there were some other stuff going on. And so it was really hard for me to hear the feedback through all the other stuff. I felt attacked, I felt that the clients perspective wasn't an accurate perspective, the client, in addition to talking about the experience, and I'm always happy to hear feedback about the experience, because it helps us get better. But in addition to that, there were some, there were some kind of digs into my you know, at my team. And you all know we have a drama free work environment. That's one of our core values. And this feedback is creating a lot of drama.

I immediately wanted, I'll be honest, I immediately wanted to say, you know what, this isn't working out. I'm going to, we're going to release you from the obligations of the contract. And we will go our separate ways because we have a drama free work environment. And while that may still happen, I mean if there is continued drama that will happen that we that's it will not be the first time we've had to do that. We really protect those core values, even if it means a loss for us in terms of income. It just it saves our team. We're so hard we just don't need that kind of drama. We have to it gets in the way of our serving our clients. So that's a core value. And so may come to that at some point. But when I thought about that conversation afterwards, first of all, I got the phone, I was furious, I was furious, because of what I interpreted to be a little bit of arrogance. I was furious about it, you know, because the client actually said to me, I pay you. And that's not how we work, we don't work that way we see ourselves as partners, we are providing something. And so we see that not as you pay us, but it is an investment. And we go, though, you know, our clients will tell you, we go above and beyond, we don't believe in nickel and diamond people. So once you are a client, you can pick up the phone you can get me on the phone on it, you know, whenever you need to, we make sure that, you know, if you need something extra that isn't a part of the contract. But we believe it's critical to the success of the contract, we go ahead and do it because one of our other core values is do the right thing, even if it hurts. So I was processing the call after resolver, I was processing the the manner in which the feedback was given to me and I was processing the feedback itself. And I'll be honest, it is it was very hard to separate the manner in which the feedback was delivered from the feedback itself. 

That's why I thought I'd talk to you a little bit about the difference between the way bosses, leaders and builders process feedback.

I want to share with you just honestly, I went through all three, I went through all three as I was processing this feedback. And so I want to talk about the pitfalls of that. So as a Boss, boss is, first of all, they don't solicit feedback, they don't care about your feedback, they're not really interested in everybody else's feedback bosses want to give feedback. And I don't know if it can even be called feedback. In fact, I feel like the manner that this feedback was delivered was in in a very boss way, right? But bosses don't want to hear feedback. They don't respond to feedback, they ignore a lot of feedback. Sometimes the feedback is verbal, sometimes the feedback comes, hey, this is not working for me. But sometimes the feedback comes in nonverbal ways. You know, I was I remember talking to a principal once and he was saying that I have a couple of teachers who just are not handling things well, and they should probably not be in the building. And I said, Don't ignore it, you've got more than one teacher, they're acting out in ways that are signaling to you. They are the first people to act out. But they're signaling to you that there is some toxicity in your culture. And if you don't take that feedback, and start addressing the toxicity in your culture, then it's not going to just be these one or two people. Because once even if you got rid of them, more people are going to step up and take their place because of the toxicity in your culture. So don't just write off their feedback as just two people who are unstable, but recognize that they are the Canaries in a coal mine, they are signaling to you that there is toxicity that exists. And if you don't address it, they won't be the last two people. So bosses, they just ignore that feedback. 

They just then whether it's you know, people acting out, whether it's people expressing it verbally, whether or not you know, they're seeing disconnection in the work. They're not, they're not paying attention to it. They're just focused on what do I need to do? How do I need to get it done? And how do I make people do what I'm asking them to do? And so when I heard this feedback, my, I'll be honest with you, I had an initial response, which was a boss response, which was just Okay, look, we can just go our separate ways. And it was a reaction, it was visceral. And if I had done that, instead of processing the feedback, I would have missed a real opportunity to look at not only how we run our business, but also how I work, you know, like thinking about me thinking about my own growth, I would have missed that opportunity. So don't be a boss, we know that. But here's where it gets complicated, because leaders often solicit feedback. But leaders take feedback personally. And I know this is something I struggle with, when we do workshops, and we do feedback forums, I have to wait, you know, a couple of days after the workshop before I can go through those feedback forms, and have to be not to get myself in a place because I pour my heart into those workshops. And when people put snarky things on the feedback form it even if it's not about me, you know, sometimes those snarky things are really, they may be about the workshop, but they're really because they're angry at the person who bought me in or they're angry with the system in which they're currently operating. And, you know, it's hard to weed through those things. Because a lot of times that feedback just feels like a personal attack. I don't know if you've ever felt that way where people come you've worked, you work hard for your school, you're there at nights and weekends and you're doing your best work. And then a parent comes in and says something really negative or group of teachers calm and they complain about something. 

It's really, really hard to hear that feedback and to use it to get better because It feels so personal. 

So I went through the boss mode, but then I also went into, you know, I reacted in a way that was very leadership focused, I felt a personal attack. And I mean, I'm not sure that I was wrong, I think some of it was personal. But I took the whole thing personally. And I felt that my team was being attacked. And so I got defensive. And that's a trap that that a lot of leaders fall into. Yeah, we may go as a leader and, and solicit feedback, or sometimes we get unsolicited feedback. But then we feel defensive about it. And so we're as a boss, we don't look for feedback at all, we hear it, we shut it down and ignore it. As a leader, we may look for feedback, maybe sometimes we don't. But when we get it, we internalize it, we personalize it. And we react to that feedback. And the challenge when you do that, is that you missed the lesson of the feedback. And it means that home ever comes to you with feedback can control what you do, right. So if you put your heart and soul into something, and people don't like it, they then tanked everything they they then control or we were so eager to to read, you know, respond, quote, unquote, to that feedback, that we jumped to action, before we process that feedback to really figure out doesn't mean we have to do anything about it. If so, what is the right thing.

So as long as we're processing feedback from a very personal level, firstly, it First of all, it just kind of destroys you, you know, over time, it creates a lot of stress. I mean, I actually felt this in my body, I don't know, if you have this, where you get this sick feeling in your stomach, that afterwards, you're playing the conversation over and over in your head. And, you know, you're, you're, you're thinking about it, and I should have said this and well, then you start getting defensive. And you're saying, well, that person and then you start blaming that person or judging that person for the feedback. And all of that is counterproductive. It's not healthy, it keeps takes your focus off of your vision, mission and core values. And now instead of focusing on the work that you were supposed to be doing, you're focusing on the person who delivered that feedback, or you're beating yourself up for that feedback. So it can be personally destructive to respond to feedback, like a leader. 

That's why so many leaders are burned out and stressed out.

I think about principle to go the extra mile do something for staff staff says we need such and such, and they just react and give the staff the thing that the staff says they need, then the staff still isn't happy. And now you're thinking, Well, what else can I do? And now it's an us versus them. And when people come up, you don't want to hear what they have to say because it sounds like a complaint. And one of the things that I teach all the time to folks and bu and and builders lab is that complaints if you listen to them carefully, you can hear what people really need. But that doesn't mean it's not hard. Because in order to do that, you have to step outside of yourself. And so when I heard this person complaining to me this week, I went to boss mode, and then afterwards this Okay, now hear what this person has to say. But then I went into leadership mode. And I internalized it. I took it personally, I was offended. I mean, some of the things he said were offensive, but I let that get inside of me. And soon I was not thinking about how do we best serve the people that I was hired to serve. But I was thinking about, you know, the personal dynamic between me and this other person I was thinking about, you know, I was in my feelings, I was angry, I was defensive. And when you are operating from that space, you are not at your best, you are so focused on those feelings that you cannot be at your best. And I'm sorry to say, but I didn't get out of that right away. I stayed there for a while. I couldn't work the rest of the day. After that conversation again. I was furious after I got off the phone because of the offensive manner in which the feedback was delivered. And then my team was furious because they saw what was going on with me. 

Then when I share the conversation, they're furious. Nobody is working. Nobody is doing, you know, pursuing our vision, mission and core values, because now everybody's in their feelings. And that's the trap with the way that we approach feedback, hearing feedback from a leadership perspective. Now, here's what builders do. When builders hear feedback, they weed through the delivery, they listen for the the meaning behind the meaning, and they get the meat. And the way they do that, as they're always asking. They're always sifting that feedback through their vision, their mission and their core values. What are we building? And does this does this feedback impact our ability To build it, why is it important? Does this feedback impact our Why? And then what's the role that we play? Those are the those core values, does the feedback impact those core values. And they're only looking for the feedback that affects their vision, their mission and their core values. And everything else that's outside of that, certainly, they're going to analyze it, they're going to look at it, they're going to, you know, try to figure out what is the meaning behind the meaning so that, that when they decide to respond to that feedback, they're doing that in a way that gets the job done. Now, I've been teaching builders a long time, but I'm ashamed to admit, it took me hours to shift from that leadership, reactionary personalizing of the feedback, to starting to process and like a builder, and I'll be honest with you, I'm still kind of going back and forth. I'm still furious, I'm still on No, I'm not furious anymore. I'll be honest, I'm not. I'm still offended by the manner in which the feedback was delivered. But I'm really trying to focus on processing that feedback, like a builder. And when I do that, that's useful, that keeps me focused on the work and the goals of this organization, that helps me stay focused on my vision, my mission and my core values. 

It was self protective, because that keeps me from internalizing that feedback, and getting knocked off my game. 

So, again, I'm still processing, I don't know how this is gonna resolve, you know, I don't know how I'm gonna resolve it yet. But when I process this feedback, like a builder, instead of feeling hurt, and attacked, and defensive, I feel more empowered. This incident, as ugly as it was, for me, is going to make me my team, this company this work better. So I sat down with my team, and I said, Okay, we have got to take our egos out of it. What does this feedback tell us? And it told us a couple of things. First of all, there was some red flags at the very beginning that we ignored. And so we learned, we cannot ignore those red flags. Because when you when you see the first sign of toxicity, if you do not deal with it at the first sign of toxicity, if you let that fester, it, it grows, and it becomes this monster that we're dealing with. Now, whether that's in your school, or your organization, same thing is true. So first lesson that we've learned, second lesson is that our vision has to drive our work, that anytime we are doing work that is not in pursuit of our vision. Anytime we let somebody distract us from our vision, it always hurts us. And then third, there's some well driver stuff that was going on in that conversation that I don't know, that I picked up on at the very beginning. So it's teaching me that I have to be a lot more careful about understanding the underlying will driver dynamics in conversations. Because if people do not get their will driver needs met, if in that conversation, I'm not answering their core question that's driven by the will driver, then they can't hear anything else. And so, you know, I was quiet during that feedback, I wanted to respond, I wanted to, you know, I'm a master different person. So I wanted to win that conversation. 

I had to restrain myself, because one of our core values is do the right thing, even when it hurts, and the right thing would not be for me to eviscerate somebody verbally. And just to win an argument, thought to shut up and I had to restrain myself. And I'm glad I did because had I responded I would not have solved the problem, I would have made it worse because of the underlying well driver dynamics. So the you know, the big lesson there is that you got to pay attention to those things that that a lot of times that's what's driving, if not the feedback, the manner in which the feedback is being delivered. And so we are putting some things in place, we are doubling down on our core values, we are being a lot more careful about looking for early signs, red flags, we're setting up more red flags in our organization so that when we see them, it forces us to deal with it. So you know, one of the things we teach teachers is we teach them how to set up what we what we call a student success plan. And the idea is that we want to help teachers eliminate student failures. We don't want some students to fail every year, you know, part of the if you're going to pursue that 100% goal, you can't have kids failing, and it doesn't mean that you dumb down the curriculum. I want you to be even more rigorous but how do you help manage that rigor, and engage with rigorous learning without failing. And so the students success plan set students up for success from the very beginning. And they're one of the one of the big parts of that success plan is setting up what we call red flags. These are early warning signals that a child is headed for destructive struggle. Well, one of the things we realize is that we need some red flags in our business, when it comes to early warning signals that show us that a client is headed for destructive struggle. Now we have some red flags in place, but we haven't been paying attention to them. So we're finding ways now to make those red flags hard to ignore. 

That's what I always tell teachers.

If you have set up red flags, but then you ignore them, that's, you know, what's the point, you have to set up a red flag system that is impossible to ignore? And that makes you stop right then and there and do something about it? Well, we're finding that we need that for our clients in the same way that teachers need it for students. And it's also starting to make me think about ways that principals can set up red flags to let them know early on whether or not a teacher's heading for destructive struggle in the in their work. And so, you know, one of the benefits of this experience and by thinking about it, like a builder, it's it's showing me not just what do I need to do to make sure that this does not happen again, in my business, but it's also showing me ideas for what I need to do to serve our builders better inside of builders ship University, you know, thinking about how do we set up that red flag system, I'm thinking about making that a sprint, sometime, you know, either the summer or the fall, I gotta think about it first and figure out, you know, but then making that a sprint, and letting the builders inside of builder ship University, work to create those early warning systems and then put them in place. And then let's talk about what what's what's happening? Is it working? How is it working? So I guess the big thing is, when you process feedback, like a boss, you ignore it. And that just creates more problems. When you process feedback, like a leader, you internalize it. And when you internalize it, you can't really process it and use it and leverage it to make you get better. In fact, often what happens by internalizing it, and by personalizing it, we actually create more drama in our lives, more stress in our lives, or we react to the feedback without kind of processing it first, you know, just let's make it go away, let's make the pain go away. And we end up working ourselves very hard, and not seeing the results. And so that creates resentment over time. Because you give me this feedback, I react, I feel bad, I react, I try to fix it, you're not happy. And so creates this weird dynamic and a very destructive dynamic for both sides. 

That's the trap of responding to feedback like a leader. But when you process it, like a builder, when you sift through the feedback, and you sift it through your vision, your mission, your core values, it helps you do what I always tell builders to do, which is to take anything I tell you, and treat it like eating fish, eat the meat, spit out the bones. And so I'm just telling you from a personal experience, your life is better. When you process be back like a builder. And so I'm going to challenge you this week. First of all, you should be soliciting feedback. And as we are approaching the, you know, the close of the school year, you should be looking for feedback from folks. And I don't know maybe I need to do another episode about how you structure that feedback, how you can collect feedback from people and I'll make a note to you know, start thinking about that I have some ideas around that. But you know, as you're collecting that feedback, or as you're receiving the feedback, whether or not you went out and got it or not whether it just came to you, unsolicited. If you can sift that feedback through your your vision, mission and core values, and I want you to I want to challenge you to do that to take you out of it, to take that feedback and say, Okay, how does this impact our vision? How does it impact our mission? How does it impact our core values, you can take you out of it and really focus on the feedback with regard to your vision, mission and core values. Then even if it's delivered in a way that's offensive, or nasty or mean spirited, or maybe not delivered that way at all. It just feels it's hard feedback to hear. You can sift through that. It can help take you out of it, it can tell take help take the hurt out of it, and help you leverage that feedback to make your school better, to make you better. So I want to challenge you this week, listening to feedback. Try to step aside. 

Try to see that feedback through the lens of a Builder. 

If it's delivered in a way that's hurtful. Look at the world driver issues that have gone Hang on so that you can understand what's happening. What's the dynamic? Why does it hurt you? Why did that person feel they need to deliver it that way that could give you a lot of insight about how you then deal with that person going forward. Then once you do that, that helps kind of take it away from you, it doesn't feel so, so hard or hurtful, even if it was intentionally mean spirited. We know where that's coming from. And then that can help you process it. But then take that out, and then go through what they're saying. eat the meat, spit out the bones, and use that feedback to actually make you better. I'm still learning how to do that myself. So I'm not going to tell you it's easy.

I am going to tell you that if you want to save yourself a lot of stress, if you want to save yourself a lot of pain and heartache if you want to actually be able to kind of not let feedback immobilize you or make a bit you know, create bitterness and resentment if you actually want to grow from every situation. The only way you're going to be able to do it is you've got to process feedback, like a belter. Alright, I'll keep you posted. I don't, I don't know how this is gonna end but I'll keep you posted. 

I'll talk to you next time.

Hey, if you're ready to get started being a builder right away, then I want to invite you to join us at Buildership University. It's our exclusive online community for builders just like you where you'll be able to get the exact training that you need to turn your school into a success story right now with the people and resources you already have. You'll find our best online courses, live trainings with me tons of resources, templates and exemplars and monthly live office hours with me where you can ask me anything and get my help on whatever challenge you're facing right now. If you're tired of hitting obstacle after obstacle and you're sick of tiny little incremental gains each year, if you're ready to make a dramatic difference in your school right now, then you need to join Buildership University. Just go to and get started writing your school success story today.

I'll talk to you again next time.

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