I Felt on the Spot During Q&A
I felt on the spot after a recent presentation. During the Q&A, my authenticity was questioned in front of the audience.
I give Leadership Freak coffee cups for questions. When I gave her the cup, she said, “You might want it back.”
How it started:
During presentations, I use one-time coaching calls to illustrate the necessity of spending most of your time exploring solutions. Two or three times a month, I invite people, who have written for advice, to have a one-time, complimentary coaching call.
Helping others solve their own problems is more effective than solving problems for them.
You can’t spend 45 minutes of a one hour call talking about what’s wrong and expect to make progress. To drive the point home I tell audiences,
- I don’t care about the problem.
- I don’t even need to hear the problem.
- I’m not going to solve the problem, they are.
Questioning my authenticity:
She questioned my authenticity because I said, “I don’t care about the problem.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. After all, I’m giving my time away. It seems obvious that I care. But, I did say, “I don’t care.”
Learning from negative feedback:
- Expect to be held to high standards.
- Public behaviors may receive public feedback.
- Say, “Thank you,” when receiving negative feedback.
- Choose to learn, not defend, when someone has an issue.
- Label strong language. I enjoy stimulating thought with hyperbole. “I don’t care about the problem,” is my attempt to encourage leaders to focus on solutions.
Negative feedback feels awkward, especially when it’s in front of a group. However, negative feedback is essential for anyone who pursues excellence.
What do you do when you feel put on the spot?
How might leaders best receive negative feedback?
**My presentations include tons of useful leadership principles (hyperbole). After this one, several leaders came up to explore having me come to their organizations.
Wow…I just had this happen to me the other day when a colleague dressed me down in the hallway for a forthright comment I made regarding a policy we have in our organization.
A little feedback: It wasn’t about the content, it was likely about your delivery. You can show you care without needing to know the specifics. I apologized for my tone, clarified my remarks, and it was all over. Needless to say, my colleague still values my help.
Thanks Jody. You remind me that humility is a helpful first response.
Thanks also for expanding the importance of receiving negative feedback well. It strengthens relationships.
Interesting how sometimes people get stuck on a word or phrase and let it change the whole context of a discussion: the context is obvious: generous offer of free time from a highly-experienced person, but the “I don’t care” phrase, which is the simplest way to say “let’s not get sidetracked from the real issue” became a blocker. I’m afraid that I haven’t yet mastered the art of unblocking those blockers, particularly in the situation you spdescribe, where ther are lots of other folks perhaps more willing to listen. But I get the feeling that if I did unblock. There might be a bpnugget of gold behind it.
Thanks Adam. I respect your candor. Thank you for joining the conversation!
Interested on your statement on accepting Negative feedback. I agree there are a lot of instances where feedback negative or not will help you grow and develop as a person, coach, manager or leader. When you receive feedback when should you ignore it? As sometimes people can be malicious and are just letting of steam and venting.
Thanks Wayne. I think we can always receive negative feedback with grace. We may choose to set it aside, later. I believe saying “thank you” always applies.
Shared values is essential to useful feedback. When someone’s values collide with ours, we have to minimize their feedback.
When do you ignore feedback?
Maybe this… When getting negative reaction, ask how they interpreted what you said to feel strongly enough to comment. Followed by a dialogue regarding other optional interpretations, how you might have been more clear, …
You always encourage open dialogue and avoidance of finger pointing. Always things to learn… And learning from negatives is maybe the best.
Thanks Dan. I have also used the ‘I don’t care’ phrase the same way you did, for the same purpose, and I have also found that the rest of what I say is lost in the log jam of: ‘What? Doesn’t he care?’
So, words do matter – and not what we mean by our words, but what others understand. Which makes communication so much more complicated…..
Wow ,I am so glad you had this experience.I thought I was the only one who is still learning leadership jargon and not getting it right all the time
I had similar experience few days back. I conducted one workshop on qualitative research and ATLAS.ti. The participants were very encouraging and curious during the two days workshop. We enjoyed their reactions, questions and insights. Overall the program was very good. Last day we collected qualitative feedback from participants and it was excellent.
Two days after, some members of my team, who did not contribute anything suggested for review meeting. I was surprised about their initiative post program. During the review meeting, they were so critical and all of them were speaking the same language. I could not understand why they were doing so. Later I realized that they felt left out. They wanted program to fail but I had all backup plans that they never imagined. Actually they just wanted to be part of particular team just to take some points. They never showed their concern and commitment to contribute towards workshop. After the meeting, I learned many lessons. When people are not willing to contribute, it is better not to ask them. It is better to be prepared. Secondly I decided not to be dependent on them.
Anyway, I took their advice as my learnings. I understood their way of thinking and perceiving things. I respected their suggestions and politely ended meetings with positive note. Here I want to highlight two things about receive negative feedbacks. There could be two assumptions about negative feedback- either they are real or unreal. When they are real, it is better to work on them. When it is not real, it is better to avoid them but learn lessons from them. When team members are committed and dedicated it is always better to take their suggestion seriously without getting hurt.
I have a co-worker who has seemed to have decided that “being difficult”…. petty stuff really, is going to be his MO. Lots of times he’s cooperative and decent enough.. When he challenges me privately – I can handle it. When he does it publicly I feel humiliated and attacked. He knows better…. we’re teaching TEAM…. How would you handle this?
This one is an interesting question for me. Most of the time people aren’t willing or care enough to give feedback. They criticize but don’t really give the feedback in terms of a thoughtful opinion. It’s simply backlash.
That said, I enjoy the confrontation when it serves the purpose of generating deep reasoning and insights.
I have also started seeing the results of “not caring about the problem” and helping others fix their own problems. It’s getting easier to disconnect myself from the outcome. As such, it’s easier to explore with questions rather than limit with personal solutions.
I willingly say that I have made this mistake myself, with unintended consequences and damaged relationships, particularly when working at a level of managing people leaders. Some observations/ideas that I have found help me in these situations.
1. Stop, Look, Listen. Knowing when you have a situation that you need to pay attention to and address. There’s not enough time in the day to respond to each and every concern.
2. Validate the person and the concern. Remember to express interest in the person, and the issue they are bringing forward: it’s important enough to them to raise it to your attention. Keep any negative reactions at bay, pause to choose words carefully and thank them for bringing it forward.
3. Stepping through Discussion, Questions, Observations, Opinions, Solutions, Actions to Solve. It’s a ladder of escalating engagement, some people/issues need to just get it off their chest & they can then find the way through to solutions and actions. In other cases, the situation can warrant much more, stepping through offering opinions, suggesting solutions or taking direct action as a leader to solve the situation.
It takes both practice and good instincts to be able to work through these ideas. At times I have a different internal reaction to situations – remember to be the leader that your team needs you to be.
“Unbelievable!” is my first thought regarding the person who presented her negative thoughts to you. When we have a negative reaction to something or someone, there is ALWAYS the right time and place to discuss our thoughts. What that lady did to you is inexcusable from anyone who considers herself an adult. She may have had a valid point of discussion but the idea should have been delivered differently. So sorry that happened to you.
Point number 3 and 4. I think basically it is something all of us, not only entrepreneurs but every person who works in service-oriented profession should write in his/hers diary and memorize it as mantra. People, especially young and ambitious get defensive when confronted with harsh critique. Saying ‘thank You’ for some bold and straight comment requires master personality traits. That’s how you recognize masters and wisemen. All of them are big in action, humble in talk. Nice article. 🙂
This , in a certain way reminds me of what I used to say at the automotive corp I worked for and retired from. I used to say in certain presentations that I didn´t care about the Customer, that I cared about my Employees. If I did that , they would take care of the Customer!!!…The first time said that in a Directors meetimg , it rained on me. Of course, I was ready with my explanation and rationale for that position. Grudgingly, most agreed but, there were still some who couldn´t let go of the corporate mantra, The Customer is Number 1.
Great topic Dan! I would contend that many times, people just need someone to hear them. Many people go through their day taking care of issues while at the same time forgoing their own needs. To add to the problem, finding someone who can relate to their issues is often a hard spot. Though I agree with you that you are not supposed to come-up with solutions for their problems, more times than not, I think they just need you to listen. As for not caring, it is evident that you do care but the context of that notion gets lost when you are implying that you don’t. Keep on listening Dan… Keep on listening.
I am sorry to hear this; people’s behaviours can seem so odd at the best of times and often outwardly do not reflect what they are truly feeling on the surface. However, dig a little deeper and their actions usually betray their emotions. Needless to say the issue was probably with her – need for attention, or something similar. Kudos for taking the positives though and for sharing with us. thank you for your candour
I’m always interested in negative feedback because the feedback always have some root in some real problem even though the one bringing the feedback might not have a clue. The best approch is always to let the one with the problem solve it themselves with some light nugging perhaps, this will ensure that the problem will not return to you and the one having the problem might learn something or maybe be the one to solve that specifc problem in the company in the future.
Great blog, I feel a little wiser.
I missed this one. Your blog is like a field of gold, every step I see a nugget that I can put in my pocket to use right then or later. So many others blogs and books are more like a cattle yard and every step I take I may be about to step into a pile of poop. Thank you for setting the standard of how to show and teach others to lead.
If the intent of the negative feedback is to tear down, I thank the person, but I take it with a grain of salt. However, when someone gives me constructive feedback with the intent of helping me improve, I’m all ears and will ask questions to make sure I understand the feedback. In the scenario your presented, I don’t believe her intent was to tear down, but to get a clear understanding of how you could not “care about the problem” and still help someone resolve a problem. The words we use are important, but I would put more into your tone as to whether this was your intent when stating this. Thanks for this site. It is very timely.
Beautifuly put. In hindsight it seems so obvious but being defencive, specially in front of an audience, is the first natural reaction. Thank you!