4 questions to ask to get great, actually helpful, feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of great leaders.
My phone is regularly giving me feedback – it tells me when its battery is getting low and it needs to be recharged, it tells me when programs and apps need updating, and it even tells me when a new operating system is needed. This is all so my phone keeps running at its optimum and does what it was designed to do (or tries to do, keep me connected and organized!). Leaders, we need this ability we see in our phones, to constantly be checking in with the things we lead to see if it is time for a recharge, an update, a new system or (gasp or squeal – depending how you react to change) even a new phone.
And if we’re not intentional about getting this feedback, it will not happen. You’ll be obsolete before you even get the phone out of the box. Most of us avoid and resist feedback until it is too late. I know I’ve ignored the recharge signal, run my battery dry and been caught without my charger too many times. I know a number of people around my office these days complaining about their phones – how slow they are getting, what a poor battery life they are getting etc. I’ll resist the urge to tell you what model of phones these are. These phones are less than 3 years old, but they have not kept up or changed fast enough to satisfy the owner. People around my office are itching for the new phone to come out. I know I’ve let ministries go on too long without an update or recharge. I know I’ve let ministries keep going, when I should have really let them die and tried something new.
So, find ways to get regular, I mean very regularly, honest and helpful feedback. (In this post I’m thinking about feedback on our activities and programs – what we do and how we do it. In a future post we’ll chat about personnel feedback.)
Here are four questions I’ve picked up along the way (sorry, I can’t remember who first shared them with me to be able to give them credit). These questions can be asked after every gathering, even while you are cleaning up together. They should be asked after ever youth group, service, new event, service project, mission trip…
4 questions for getting helpful feedback on any program, service, ministry or event: 1. What should we keep doing? 2. What should we stop doing? 3. What should we start doing? 4. What should we do differently?
Ask these every time. You’ll be amazed. If you invite peoples’ honesty – they’ll tell you. I’ll never forget the time a youth, when we invited feedback on the youth group said “Could we please stop doing that crazy dance!?!” (the dance was the interlude, for those who are wondering). The leaders thought everyone loved the dance, until that moment. These 4 questions can lead to minor tweaks or major overhauls, as you clarify whether reality is matching where you want to be headed.
Here are 4 more questions for deeper reflection. These questions can focus on how you are doing towards your vision as an organization. Take a longer time together as a team, as a church, as a youth group, as a children’s ministry, or as a missional community to reflect on these ones together. As you look at your vision and how your organization/ministry is doing at seeing it come into reality: 1. What’s wrong? 2. What’s right? 3. What’s confused? 4. What’s missing?
WHY should you invite this kind of feedback?
First, every time you do it reminds you and others about your central vision and how what you just did is to be a piece of furthering that vision. It brings everyone back to the why.
Second, every time you invite this feedback as a leader it displays clearly you value others – they are equally a part of creating and cultivating this vision. They equally own the vision. You value their input as together you are faithful to the calling God has put on your community. So involve kids, teens, all generations, outsiders, insiders, old voices and new voices in giving you and your team feedback.
Let me give you an example. We have an event called Springforth (springforth.baptist-atlantic.ca) for middle school and high school students from across Atlantic Canada. The purpose of the event is to create a catalytic environment for students to take a leap forward in their relationship with God. This past year, after the event, when we started asking people “What should we do differently?” someone suggested we should take the serving others component and put it on steroids. In other words, take the partnership with Kamp Tumaini (through CBM) and find ways for students, youth groups, and church to be a part of it all year long. So, the plans are in the works. It fits, it gives more students, more opportunities to take a leap forward in their relationship with God. Furthermore it fits with the larger vision of why we exist, to invite people to join God in changing their world neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Without asking “what should we do differently?” we might never have heard all the great ideas.
So leader, ask these 4 questions this week and listen.