A Rare Opportunity

I had the unique opportunity last Friday of preaching three services in a row at Victory U-belt. I say unique because I had an excellent communicator serve as my critic and coach all throughout. I’m talking about Ryan Tan, the youth pastor.

Ryan is a good friend who is very passionate about students, preaching, and doing things excellently. True to form, he gave me very helpful feedback after each session. “Let’s trim down your outline. This illustration is really great. Don’t use that other one. You’re losing us at this point, you gotta do something to get us back.”

Thanks to his feedback, The first preaching was good, but the second one was much better, and the third was the best.

That got me thinking about the importance of getting feedback. The person who is constantly looking for improvement will always be on the lookout for feedback. No experience is wasted when one can learn from it. Even the most embarrassing moment can be turned into a valuable lesson.

Here are some things I’ve learned about getting feedback through the years.

1. You have to want it.
Some people make a token effort of asking others for feedback. They ask, “How am I doing?” But their tone and body language show that they just want a typical “Good.” These kinds if people will never get the juicy tidbits that make feedback helpful.

2. You often have to push for it.
Most of the people we talk to would rather make neutral-positive comments to avoid offense. But the person who wants good feedback will push past that. He wisely knows that there is rarely any ABSOLUTELY PERFECT performance so there must be at least one thing to improve and he won’t stop till he finds it.

3. Surround yourself with sincere people.
Another way to counter the effect above is to hang around the right people. This happens with a combination of finding them and nurturing them. You find them by looking for the fearless kind of people who readily speak their mind. And you nurture them by not biting their heads off or getting defensive when they make a comment. In an environment of trust, even the most timid team member will learn to speak up.

4. Be your own critic/coach.
Listen to yourself. Watch yourself. Do you like what you’re seeing and hearing? If you are already bored or lost by what you’re saying, how do you think others feel? Listening to oneself can be awkward or even painful, but it provides a wealth of tips for improvement.

5. Remember your objective.
One thing that makes this exercise bearable is to focus on the goal. If the goal is to save face or maintain our illusion of perfection, then feedback and evaluation isn’t worth it. But if your goal is greater than that, (Almost any goal at this point would be.) then persist in getting evaluated because it’s one of the surest ways to improve and succeed.

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