Sunday, December 1, 2013

President's Weekly Letters #62

A compliment is an expression of praise to others.  You have been asked to compliment participants at church services.  If you approach members who speak or perform and genuinely compliment them for a job well done, you will quickly endear yourself in the Ward or Branch.  This works with investigators and in all people you meet in life as well.  Criticism is unfavorable, severe judgment and involves tearing down.  “Taking the lead” involves one in authority instructing and directing how something must happen.  Complimenting, criticizing and taking the lead are not the same as giving and receiving feedback.

Your Giving feedback must be directed personally toward someone  The primary ingredient is you being personally accountability for your own feelings as you give feedback.  Feedback can be negative or positive.  Positive feedback is about the same as a compliment.  Negative feedback is virtually a waste of time if you do not first ask the recipient, “Are you open for feedback?”  People will deflect your comments, become defensive and take offense if they have not first opened the door with permission for you to spout off.  Many times others do not want you solving their problem but are really only interested in you listening to and understanding their problems and understanding how they feel.

You only have authority to talk about yourself.  Therefore, expressions such as, “My experience when you did that was____”, or “I may be wrong but when you said____, I had the impression others reacted____”, or “How I felt when you said____ was____.” This is what is meant by being personally accountable for your own feelings.  With these types of statements, you are not condemning, accusing or rendering judgment.  You are not telling them or advising them how to solve things but you are owning and expressing your own feelings, thoughts, and impressions.  You are not even stating that you are right or are campaigning for your point.  You honor their accountability to assess and correct where they chose.

When God commanded Nephi to build a ship, Laman and Lemuel were happy for Nephi’s sorrow because of their hard hearts.  Nephi offered strong feedback but it is evident he stayed accountable for himself and compassionate with his actions:

“44 …ye also have sought to take away [Lehi’s] life; wherefore, ye are murderers in your hearts ...
 45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words…
 47 Behold, my soul is rent with anguish because of you, and my heart is pained; I fear lest ye shall be cast off forever.  (1 Nephi 17: 44-47)

Like Nephi, as you give feedback never condemn, name call or bring up past offenses. That is called criticism and can be quickly spotted if you say, “You are____” or “You always do____.”

Your Receiving feedback also has the primary ingredient of personal accountability for your own feelings as you receive feedback.  Be open, unemotional, listen without taking offense and do not become defensive.  If you start thinking about what to say to refute the things the person is saying to you, you are defensive and the benefits of feedback are lost.  Who cares what they say, it is only their experience from the lenses they are looking through?  Listen to it and learn.

One of the great scriptural accounts of properly receiving feedback is Pahoran’s response to Captain Moroni’s letter. You clearly see Pahoran’s spirit of accountability and openness:

“9 And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart…” (Alma 61:9)

Receiving feedback gives you information about how you come across. Remember, receiving praise or compliments is nice but you cannot really do anything with it to improve.  But, feedback is information you can use to improve your performance in the future.  You are free to accept or reject information obtained by feedback.  If various people give you the same negative feedback, you can be reasonably sure that changing your behavior will improve the results you create in your life.  You are free to ignore any feedback.  If someone gives you feedback that you have never heard before, that is way out there, you are free to simply ignore it and consider it an outlier, a faulty data point that should be thrown out.

In receiving feedback, always respect those who are willing to and take the risk of giving feedback.  Regardless of what you hear, stating, “Thank you for caring enough to be honest,” is a great closing statement and mind set.  Remember you invited them to risk a personal relationship by giving you honest feedback.  Many people giving feedback may not be polished in the art of properly doing it, so learn to look past their faults while still getting the value from the feedback.

When you are personally accountable in receiving feedback you will hear it, own it, recognize how it makes you feel, chose to make or not to make adjustments then step left and move on.  Feedback is not a threat or critique.  Always ask yourself, “What am I doing to create the results I am experiencing in my life?”  After all, you are responsible for all the results in your life.

The Lord has told us what he expects of our behavior in giving and receiving feedback.  Nephi and Pahoran are good examples of meeting the Lord’s expectations.  We are not to rule with dominion or compulsion with our will on others.

“39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” 
 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned…
46 … thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”  (DC 121: 39-42, 46)

Although God chose Nephi to rule over his brothers, Nephi still gave feedback in a compassionate way without compulsory means:

“22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren. (1 Nephi 2:22)
3 … ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.” (1 Nephi 4:3)

The mission and the world’s work place are demanding leaders with ability get along, improve their results and help others improve.  Developing the ability to give and receive feedback is an essential quality for success on your mission and if you learn it here it will bring success to you in the world.
President Robinson

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