This is an excerpt from a staff discussion session held at The College with John and Leigh Ann on September 18, 2018. The topic was the giving and receiving of feedback in the workplace, and included department heads, team leads and regular weekday staff.
The introduction to the session included a comment recalled from John on the topic: that if we as people working here could get the hang, or the code, of the giving and receiving of feedback, it would be a short cut … a fast track.
Q: In many work environments there is a ‘top-down’ flow where you’re told what to do. People are relating from superiority or inferiority and things can be suppressed or taken personally. I see we have the opportunity to have a two-way flow here – equality between people without identifying with any particular place in the flow. How would we implement that in our workplace?
John: That naturally comes when you fundamentally value seeing more than feeling. As soon as that gets flipped around, where you are, without realizing it, valuing how you feel about something more than your actual seeing, you’re self-blinding. When it’s upside down it’ll be difficult to give feedback and to receive feedback. Your emotions will be in the way.
Q: So the identity in being, perhaps, inferior is eliminated by valuing seeing?
John: Yes. If you feel inferior that means that you value how you feel more than the value of seeing. Until we’ve moved past ourselves we all basically think because we feel, so it’s not real thinking. It’s emotionally formed and worked thought.
If it’s emotionally-based, if it’s feelings-based it’s not real seeing. If we’re emotionally-based in our thinking that means that the thinking within our interior is based on how we feel, and thinking serves how we feel. That also means that when we think because we feel, we’re incapable of listening because we’ll listen through how we feel. When you’re listening through feeling, then the thinking is already moving and forming to answer how you feel, to take care of how you feel. So instead of listening you’re forming your thoughts to protect how you feel while someone else speaks to you.
Q: Would you suggest we bring feedback when it’s really clear that the other has time to listen?
John: If you’re going to give feedback the feedback has to be about the reach. If it doesn’t reach, it’s not feedback. So even if the other person is, particularly in a circumstance, clearly emotionally based in their thinking, you have to have a well-crafted reach to get through all of that. So if the reach isn’t there, it isn’t really about the other person. For you, it’s that you’re not able to reach past or through all their triggers. For you, within the reach, within the feedback, it has to be about the reach.
Q: And even giving feedback, I would need to have sorted it out through my own system to come to a very neutral, unemotional platform before bringing it to the other?
John: A worked-through, deep, quiet, clarity. It can take a lot of processing to even get there. To give feedback it cannot be about how you feel about something. If you don’t work this out in your life, you’re not going to work it out in the work situation. If it’s not worked out in your life then your delivering it at work is going to be a problem. You’ll be part of a problem.
To be able to function well in relationships it’s important to have an understanding, just within your self, that nothing can be about you needing others to make you feel a certain way for you to be able to perform well. As long as there’s some sort of belief in place that you need others not to make you feel a certain way for you to function well, then others are held responsible, in some way, for your performance.
A common trigger point in that is when you start thinking that so-and-so makes you feel a certain way. It’s worth, in your self, flipping that over. If you’re relating in a way where your thought is “so-and-so makes me feel a certain way when they say or do such-and-such”, what that really means is that you think because you feel, and that your seeing of that person is guided by how that person makes you feel.
Q: I find what appears to be a quality of ‘pussy-footing’ and what feels like over-concern for difficulties people may have in hearing things.
John: First, if you’re dancing around someone it’s not really about protecting their feelings; it’s about protecting yours, because if you’re clear and you’re reaching in your address of someone who’s overly-sensitive, you’ll just go. You’ll work that out and you’ll go right in and touch on the point. If you’re dancing around it you’re confusing that person.
Q: I like what you said about feedback being all about reach, and reach is about meeting. In an organization like this there is creation happening. If we were to focus on creation rather than on what isn’t working, what is the purpose of feedback?
John: To support being together because we are together, and to support what all of the effort is for, together. That is the creation of something: being together … and it needs to work.
Q: I see that timing has to be considered for there to be reach in feedback. If there’s any kind of reaction in me then I’m not going to be reaching.
John: Real reach is inseparable from timing.
Q: What would a real working relationship look like?
John: Very basic sincerity that’s worked out in practical ways.
Q: It can be tempting to use your teachings on each other, for example: “You need to open and soften in this!”
John: In a basic kind of way, leave the teaching out of the workplace.
Q: Can you give us three things that would help us come back to basics, be down to earth together and take us into a further trajectory?
John: For what you’ve come here, in being in the workplace, on the surface leave out all the teachings. If you quickly bring the teachings into the surface you’ll corrupt the surface. Move sincerely in really practical ways on the surface. Then, on the surface, change something in your self, and as that really works then, in some way, change something in someone else – but it’s got to work. It’s not about pushing a change, forcing a change. It’s really making a change.
Q: Can you give an example of what you mean by change in your self?
John: Within the surface, at work, change your self in some way – not with a really deep principle behind it – just change something in your self, and once you’ve worked that through then change something in someone else. But it has to work. Then continue: follow that through, and when you’ve changed something in your self and you’ve done it, you’ve changed something in someone else and you’ve done it, change something else in your self … and then another … and then your self. It’s like a left foot, right foot.
Q: That makes the workplace a completely different environment.
John: Yes. It makes for a rich workplace.
Q: When we look at what to change in our selves first, do we look at what would be good to change?
John: Start out with something really simple, for example: today at work you’re really interested in doing something differently, and it’s just a simple, clear, good change.
Q: If we’re all doing that together, is that our ‘short-cut’ mentioned at the beginning?
John: Yes. That’ll do it. What that will address is where you’re sincere or not sincere.