Episode 25: Fuel for Growth: Feedback
with Keith & Sara

In today's episode, the second in our ‘Fuel for Growth’ summer series, Keith & Sara focus on how we can introduce challenge and contradiction into our developmental equation by actively seeking out and embracing.. *cue scary music*.. Feedback!

No one likes to receive criticism, or be told what their perceived weaknesses are, but if your goal is to keep growing, why would you not want to learn how you can continue to improve?    

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Episode transcript

Sara: Hello, everybody, welcome back to another episode of Growing as Grown-ups. Keith and I get to be in the same room again, having this conversation and we love that you get to be here and be a part of this as we launch into the second episode of our little summer series on some of the foundations of how we grow as grown-ups. One thing I didn't think to say in the last episode, I was like, how -- we talk about these things in our curriculum and we have a name for them and I just was drawing a blank and it's some of the elements of fuel, right? It's the things that we use to fuel our growth along the journey.

Keith: So good.  

Sara: And I was like, "that's what it was. We need to tell people, these are our fuel, our fuel sources."  

Keith: So personality was the thing last time we talked about and how valuable that can be. You know, really, we're talking about feedback today, but personality is a feedback source. It's just one that you don't need to involve somebody that you're worried they're going to hurt your feelings or you're going to hurt their feelings in some way.  

Sara: Yeah, so today we get to talk about hurting feelings!  

Keith: Yeah, and asking to have your feelings hurt potentially, but, you know, it's definitely a more courageous step. It is a step that I have a hard time taking. A lot of really effective leaders that I coach one-on-one, this is probably their least favorite thing to do unless they've got, like, the one person in their life that they can really hear it from easily. Sometimes that's a spouse. Sometimes the last person is the spouse, right?  I think one of the things is that there's a lot of good reasons why to go get feedback from other people, but, I don't know if you'd care if I start with this piece here --  

Sara: Yeah, go for it.  

Keith: But, folks, it's just frigging not easy to do. I don't think. I think for almost everybody, this is a hard thing to do but, as you just said, if you want to fuel growth, getting the perceptions of others about you is one of the greatest fuels for growth, and I love -- we've got some funny quotes that we use in our curriculum. There's this crazy grain dealer named Franklin P. Jones from -- I think he was from Oklahoma, and nobody really knows anything about him except for he wrote this book of quotes. He's kind of a Yogi Berra kind of character and he's said, "Honest criticism. It's hard to take, especially from a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, or a stranger." Right? So it doesn't matter who you're getting it from.  

Sara: It hurts, every --  

Keith: It's not easy but, you know, there's a great researcher from the Center for Creative Leadership named Ellen Van Belser and if you just want to get really pragmatic for a minute about why, she said, you know, "The perceptions of others, the feedback that you get may not even be the ultimate truth but they are what people are using to make decisions about you," and so, wouldn't you want to know that, right? I'd want to know it. I remember -- and this is maybe too much self-disclosure, too early.  

Sara: We’ve been with them for twenty-five episodes..

Keith: But the -- exactly. You know, I did a more formalized 360-feedback process and I got feedback about coming across as arrogant and it was like a dagger through my heart because like of all the things I don't want to be, that's it. But somehow in certain situations -- I think they're minimal -- I can come across as probably what I'm thinking of as confident or certain or something comes across as being arrogant and  because I dislike that term so greatly, it was, like, the last thing in the world, not only that I want it to be, but that I thought I was being right? But to have multiple people say, and it was usually worded really nicely, by the way, but it was like, "Sometimes you can come across a little arrogant," and I’ve got to assume what that would mean but I took the challenge of you and people around me to go dig into that a little bit with folks who are willing to talk about it and the outcome of that, I think, was one of the most life-changing pieces of feedback that I've ever gotten. I don't know that I fixed the problem, but I am certainly aware of it and I'm aware of things that I can do, like if you're watching this on video siting forward at the table versus kind of being kicked back like I know it all, right? And if you guys can picture that, even if you're listening, there's this kind of like, "I can take or leave what you're saying, I'll be fine, because I'm going to go on," you know? But to really be engaged, which is how I am, which is how I want to be with people, right? So, I think I got this feedback when I was in my early 50s and while perceptions may not be the ultimate truth or they may be close to it, right? They are what people are using to make decisions about you and I went all -- I went basically a lifetime when quite -- I mean, I'm planning to live --  

Sara: Hopefully --  

Keith: Yeah, hopefully get some more of it, but a long time. So, you know, that -- I don't know if that story will be meaningful to people. It was certainly feels naked-ish, but it's like, gosh, if I can hear that, what is it that you can't hear, right?  

Sara: Yeah. I mean, I think it's so valuable that you well, you shared it right, because we're asking people to be willing to be vulnerable and give feedback and you modeled that it's possible and you will survive and you will grow through it, but I've seen you since you got that feedback, be aware of "if there's a chance somebody is going to perceive me as arrogant, what can I be doing to make sure that my true intentions are reflected, to make sure that I say things in a different way, or I sit in a different way." That you want to have greater influence, you want to help people grow, and you don't want your arrogance to get in the way or the perception of arrogance.  

Keith: Yeah, I mean, so good. That goes right back to the last episode of the reason that we lean into stuff that's not easy in order to grow ourselves as grown-ups is because we are in pursuit of greater influence. Making a difference. The pursuit of things that are important to us, that are bigger than we are, right, and in order for us to really get there as effectively as we can, we need to grow.  

Sara: And I think that makes another point that I think has been so powerful for me to learn to embrace is this idea if your goal is to grow, if your goal is to continue to become a better and better version of yourself, why would you not want to get feedback right? And you know that I love this quote, there was an interview on one of my favorite podcasts. We've talked about this here in my weird little professional crush on Adam Grant, but on his first episode of WorkLife, he interviewed Ray Dalio talking about feedback and Ray created this culture at his company that was, I mean, you want honest, critical feedback. You're going to get it if you work at Bridgewater, but he was talking about how much he really genuinely wants people's critique and Adam was asking, "Well, why?" and he said, "If my -- why would I not? You know, if my objective is to be as good as I possibly can be, then I want that," and Adam expressed what I think a lot of us feel, which is this idea of, like, but I'd rather maintain this illusion that "I have it all together". Like, if it's not spoken, then maybe it's not true!  

Keith: Right, maybe no one will know!  

Sara: Right, and Ray just kind of said, "That means that you care more about your image than you do about actually getting better," and that was like a level-three conviction but now I share with people, like, "Do I care about my image?" Right? It's a growth gap tool. It's that tension. "Do I care about my image or do I care about getting better?" and if I choose getting better, I choose feedback and we had somebody else on our podcast back in episode twenty-two, right? Our friend Todd Sandel, talked about this really beautifully and do you want to share -- ?  

Keith: Yeah. If I can find that one really quickly. I have it -- there we go.  

Sara: If you all don't see our table, we've got all the quotes. There's so much good stuff that we've pulled together.  

Keith: You know, Sandel, just – he talked about all the research and the science has proven that we do not see ourselves accurately, right? By the way, can I just take a little diversion and come back to this? You know, when we share a lot of the things that we share on this podcast, I like to say, "It's not rocket science." Right? In other words, it's not like this complicated "Oh, my gosh, do you have the brainpower to figure it out?" but it is science. I mean, this is not only decades of what we and our colleagues have been doing, but really the entire last century has been focused around how people work together, how people get more effective. There were philosophers prior to that time, but intentional psychological social research has been done. There is science behind all of this, right, and the reality is we don't see ourselves accurately. So now, Todd Sandel said “we have this idealistic distortion, kind of a mechanism that makes us believe we see ourselves more favorably than others do, so we actually have to get critical feedback and then embrace that feedback and say, "OK, how do I want to begin to fuel and improve and increase muscle in some of these areas” and so in terms of like, why do we do this? One of the big why's is, is our perceptions of our self are not always accurate, right?  

Sara: 100 percent, yeah and I think before you go too far from Todd's quote, he talks about how we tend to see ourselves more favorably, but I have had a couple of people that I've walked through feedback, with --  

Keith: Oh, gosh, I know where you're going to go. Folks, pay attention. This is good.  

Sara: Well, I hope I'm going where you are --  

Keith: I think you are. I'll be able to let you know if I'm wrong.  

Sara: Ok, where what is the most powerful from their 360 is actually the calling out of their strengths. Is this where you -- ?  

Keith: Uh-huh, that's where I thought you were going to go.  

Sara: Right? I mean, just recently I worked with a woman who, again, kind of like what we talked about on the personality episode, things that just come naturally to you, you don't see as your strengths and to see feedback from people that say, "You're so good at this, we appreciate this about you," was really humbling and honoring to her. She's like, "I know all my weaknesses." Right, and I kind of fall in that camp and that was honestly some of the feedback I got when I did my 360 is people were saying, "You don't - you're not open with us," and I thought, "Are you serious? I'm like the most transparent, here's all my garbage," and my friends were like, "Yeah, we know that, but you don't let us in on the good stuff. Like, what are the successes you're having?" I was like, "Ooh, you don't -- I don't want to talk about those!"  

Keith: "I don't like to talk about my successes," yeah.  

Sara: And so it was that that eye-opening of, like, the balance that is needed and we do an activity when we're doing 360 degrees where we kind of ask people to figure out where do you naturally focus more? Is it on the weaknesses or on the strengths? And making sure you're paying attention to both. But I just want to say, for some people, a 360 is really powerful because it identifies -- or any feedback, not a 360 -- it identifies blind spots of things they didn't know where weaknesses but a lot of times it highlights strengths that they didn't recognize they had.  

Keith: Yeah, as an extension of that. Honestly, there -- about 20 percent of the population, back to personality theory a little bit, actually has a tendency to focus more on the negative just in general, right? They focus on what's not working, not what could work, or not the optimistic side of things and so, you know, this goes back in a slightly different way to what Sandel was talking about in that a lot of times our perception is lower than it should be of ourselves, but nonetheless inaccurate, right? And so one of the things that feedback from others do is it challenges and contradicts the lens of my own perceptions, how I'm viewing the world, even if I feel like I own it, right? Yeah, so that's really good stuff.  

Sara: Yeah. I mean, the other thing, this is the "We Love Todd Sandel" moment of the podcast, but he talked about even I think later on just this the recognition of the fear that we have, right, and Todd's a person who's wired to be comfortable more with difficult conversations, right? He's a therapist, so he lives in difficult conversations, but he even acknowledges that we go into it with this fear of what people might say about me or learning what people think about me and he talks about the importance of leaning into those assumptions. You know, when we think about this big, ugly thing, they might say, we have to lean into that, right? It's our thing we say all the time, lean into the tension to either verify that the fear is true or to debunk it and most of the time what we realize is the fear is not founded and what comes out is actually a stronger relationship where we invite that person into our struggles and invite them on the journey and they appreciate that vulnerability, and yet we're so scared to take that step.  

Keith: Yeah, and you've got to find people you trust, right? I mean, that's the key is that although we've heard some messages from Kevin Riley and some others that -- I forget how...  

Sara: I mean, that's a quote that I think we need to add to our list. He said, "You are most likely to hear the things that you most need to hear from a person you would least like to hear them from."  

Keith: I know. So listen up, listen up on that. But Kevin made the point also in a different part of the interview that, you know, a lot of times once you get into a leadership role, once your influence starts increasing, is that unless your organization is for you, I suppose you as an individual could be really intentional about it, but a lot of times what you're -- unless your organization is intentionally structuring this into the conversation where Bridgewater and Dalio's organization was an extreme example of that but most of us don't get feedback.  

Sara: At least we don't get really useful feedback.  

Keith: Useful feedback, right? So, I mean, it's --  

Sara: "Meets expectations" -- checkmark.  

Keith: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. was just on a coaching call with someone last week, actually, two days ago who, a whole team of people was talking about someone who was not meeting expectations and they were like, yeah, but what's this news going to do to this person, right? And it was like...oh, my gosh, if they don't hear it now, what kind of favor are you doing them?  

Sara: I mean, it goes back to Jeff Henderson's, like, the best thing you can do to help somebody and care for them or to be successful and, you know, if you're not the empathetic bend, you're the effectiveness bend...  

Keith: Is to have the courage.  

Sara: Is to tell them the truth so that they have the chance to get better.  

Keith: Yeah, that's right. That's the most compassionate thing to do. That is the most loyal thing to do if you really care about that person. I love all of that. Yeah.   So, folks, I think the point we're trying to make here early on is that we don't have an accurate view of ourselves. We may have parts of ourselves that we view very accurately, but there are other parts that we aren't and when we're unaware of something, it's really difficult to do something about it. The other thing that I believe is true is that in general, it's really hard for people to know how others experience them, right? So whether they're right or wrong, even understanding accurately how someone else experiences me is a thing that I need them to participate in. I have a funny story, again, I hope this doesn't become the Keith Eigel Confessional Hour, but I -- but we had an employee -- can I say Sean's name on the air?  

Sara: Yeah, because it has a good --  

Keith: Sean. Sean is just the most amazing person and was really good at giving people feedback and he was really good at giving people feedback in an effective -- in a very constructive way, right? So -- and he had the courage to do it whether you were asking for or not but one of the things he told me one day is, "Hey, would you mind letting me in a little bit on how you're doing, not just how you're doing at work? Because I can tell by the way you're breathing when you walk down the hall whether you're having a good day or not."  

Sara: That is true.  

Keith: And is it still true?  

Sara: It's still true.  

Keith: OK, so I can't --.  

Sara: But you let you let us in.  

Keith: Yeah, but --  

Sara: You still breathe very --  

Keith: I'm trying to let people in more but the thing that, I'm like, I was --there's a little part of me that was sort of like, "What does that even matter?" Right, and he said, "Well, here's why it matters, because I don't know--"  

Sara: But before -- wait, there's an important part of the story since I've heard it before.  

Keith: Yes.  

Sara: There's the internal narrative, right? So your internal narrative before you verified with him what the feedback was, because that's an important thing, will come back later. So you thought he meant sharing what's going on in your life personally.  

Keith: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So, thank you, so -- and I'm thinking now I've got boundaries of if my wife or my kids want to share something about themselves that's in their court, that's not in my court. I don't -- I want to respect them in that way. That's just a boundary or a value that I have. I think the bigger point that you're reminding me of in this is that there is a -- there are assumptions, assumptions that I'm holding about what someone means by their feedback. There are also the assumptions that Sean was holding that he was willing actually to share with me, which he said, "Because what I'm wondering, when you're breathing that way," whatever that way is, he said, "I'm wondering, did I do something wrong? Did I forget to do something?" Wondering now, wasting time at the most fundamental level, but certainly not to even consider the emotional cost that has on him, when it had nothing to do with him. He's totally performing, always performed beautifully, right? So it's like, again, it is, it's this we don't understand the way others experience us sometimes, even in our breathing, right? So breathe well, breathe perfectly.  

Sara: So we talked about how you need to sit, how you need to breathe.  

Keith: Yeah, exactly. There's a lot of physical stuff in this today, so. So it's important for us to seek this out and yet so many interviews touched on, so many times we've heard from people, "Yeah, but this is scary to me. What if I hear something that I can't do something about? What if I hear something that I don't want to do anything about? What if--?" You know, and there's a lot of resistance to it and it goes back to the honest criticism is hard to take, especially from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger. It doesn't matter. Most of us are not relishing in the idea that, "Oh, my gosh, I wonder if somebody will critique me today." Yeah.  

Sara: Yeah. I think on the point of understanding how other people experience this, experience us, another piece of that is understanding the impact that you're having on somebody inadvertently and we've talked about that in a number of episodes but we have a list we share, I should have printed it out for this episode, but the reasons people reject feedback.  

Keith: Yeah.  

Sara: And the number one reason people reject their feedback is, "It's true, I just don't care."  

Keith: Yeah, it's true, I just don't care.  

Sara: I just don't buy it and so I know I'm thinking back to somebody they got a feedback that kind of was like, "You're blunt, you're abrasive. I don't really know how to interact with you," and they kind of were like, "Well, I'm sorry. That's just the way I am."  

Keith: Yeah.  

Sara: Right, and I challenge that person to go back and think through the question or even ask some of his feedback raters, "What impact is my behavior having on your effectiveness?" Right, and even in your example with Sean, like, if your breathing and not being open with what was going on that was stressing you out was impacting Sean's ability to be effective, you should know that, right? I should know if my behavior is causing somebody in my structure in, like, commitment to a process is keeping somebody from being able to innovate or if your flexibility is keeping somebody or your lack of clarity, right, you own that a lot, then that you're not always the most clear and giving directives. If that is making it hard for me to do my job, don't you want to know that? Right?  

Keith: They don't want to do something about it.  

Sara: Right, so it's not just knowing what I think, but if that's an extra motivation and I think that's a way to think what impact, you know, what's the ripple effect of my behavior having on other people that if we're not talking about it, I'm not going to know that it's not -- I'm not having the impact I want to have. I'm causing problems down the line.  

Keith: Yeah and now we're moving into the areas of not only am I impacting someone else's performance, effectiveness, productivity, etc. but that that starts to ripple out into the whole organization. The larger systems that we're a part of start being impacted because we've been unwilling to find out what kinds of things can we make adjustments in or at minimum be aware of, right? Sometimes it's really difficult to change something and yet just seeing and knowing again, back to the lens changing thing, becoming aware to the point that you can own that this is true, actually winds up -- your behavior almost starts changing automatically in subtle ways, if not significant ways.  

So you want to shift to kind of -- so how do people go about this? I mean, how do you...?  

Sara: I think it's such a scary thing to so many people and they have very little practice in that, that the more practical we can make it for people, the better.  

Keith: Yeah. So let me start with one of the things that I mean, Sara, I'd love it if you actually introduced a couple of mindsets that you like to talk about in this and, you know, if there's an overriding mindset, it's how do I get myself in a place where I'm curious, right? And curiosity as the is the biggest thing. I think probably if there's like an overriding mindset, it's probably curiosity but can I go a little bit more pragmatic than that for just a minute?  

So the last time -- the last episode we talked about personality and I don't know if any of you guys went on it for $29.95 over the last month - I don't know if you downloaded the Golden personality profile or if you went online and took something that was free or if you went and started researching the Enneagram, it doesn't matter what the assessment is, as long as there were some useful pieces of information that you could identify with in that personality or that feedback mechanism that you used online.  

Sara: And I think one thing that I really value in personality assessments, the ones that I find the most useful, not my color block, or whatever, they need to give you the full picture, not just what you're good at, but what your growth opportunities are, right? And the Golden does a great job of that, the Enneagram does a real great job of that, where it gives you not just what your strengths are, but what are the things to be cautious of, what are things to be aware of that are often your strengths that were played, so.  

Keith: That's right. So even if you were to use the strengths finder instrument, the Clifton Strengths Finder, that's one we didn't mention last time, it will give you your top 3-5 strengths, but it will also rank order strengths that you're not good at, which in many cases are your weakness or areas for development or potential areas for growth and one of the things that you can do is that you can just pick, I don't know, one person at work that you trust, that you believe has good will and your best interests at heart and one person outside of work and you could not even call them, you could just shoot them an email that said, "Hey, I've been thinking about, kind of, strengths and weaknesses. I took this personality assessment and I'm wondering how I show up with others." -- So use that vocabulary -- "It would mean a lot to me if I've listed out what I kind of feel like are my top strengths and some areas that I'd like to grow in, and maybe you do three of each and just ask them, "Which one of these resonates most with you? Where do you think I would get the most traction in understanding the expression of the strength and in seeing the impact that might be had if I were to work on an area that I want to grow in?" So you're not even opening up the whole world to them. You're giving them...  

Sara: It's a multiple-choice!  

Keith: It's a multiple-choice for them, and it opens the door to a conversation but that conversation has to be characterized by curiosity and we'll talk more about that over the next five or ten minutes.  

Sara: Yeah. So I think that's a great way and just on the practicality of it, we've had people do it both written through the email, like you just said, where I send the email and kind of put it in front of you and more live on the spot, and this is a personality thing, people can go either way, what we hear back is that people appreciate having a chance to think about it before they're being put on the spot, right? If Keith were to just sit down right now --  

Keith: And give you a list --  

Sara: And give me a list and say, "Give me some feedback..."  

Keith: You're thinking, "Holy crap, what's going on right now?"  

Sara: Right. I'm caught off guard. I'm running through all these scenarios in my head. I'm trying to think of examples, whereas and then probably tomorrow I'll go, "Man, I wish I would have brought in this example. That would have been better." Right, but if I have time to think about it, I'm going to give you a more thoughtful response. I'm not going to be blindsided and especially when you start moving towards more open-ended feedback, just letting people know that it's coming is way better than, like dropping a bomb and saying, "Tell me what you think of me."  

Keith: I know and I'm making a note to myself right now. This -- one of the really useful things that can happen either in an email or if you do sit down with somebody, is that you can use this vocabulary -- it's what we call sort of a third-person vocabulary -- but you can say, "Hey, this showed that these were some strengths and these are some areas that I have to grow. I'm curious, how do you think others experience this, these things in me?" Right? So you're asking the person to give you their perspective on how they think others, which now it's not them saying, "Well, what you do, what is..." Right? Or something that is you're trying to make this as easy on them as you can make it and when you use this language, "How do others experience these things in me?" One of the great things that happens, and this is just our little dirty secret between us is they're going to give you what they really think, but you've made it easy for the because now they get to throw it into this kind of third-person world of "I think sometimes with some people you show up like blah, blah, blah," and it's just it's a great a great technique, so.  

Sara: It's a lot easier for me to say, "I could see how people would think you're arrogant when you do X, Y, Z" versus "Yeah, I think you're arrogant when you (blank)." I'm not going to say the second one because that's too risky.  The first one, OK.  

Keith: And that's how a lot of people even worded it in written feedback in that in that instrument that we used.  

Sara: But then you have the great story of your friend who said, "Well, I don't know what other people think, but I'll tell you what I think!"  

Keith: Can I tell you it was around that arrogance thing and Joe Kissack, love you. Haven't seen you in a while. I just I went with a group of guys that I meet with regularly, and I said, "Hey, I'm looking for a black eye this morning if anybody's willing to participate," and I said, "You know, I've gotten some feedback that sometimes I can come across arrogant," and I said, "I'm wondering how, you know, how do you think this shows up with others? Like how do you think others experience this in me?" and Joe said, "I don't know how others experience it, but I'll tell you how it showed up with me before," and he jumped right in but now I was honoring their comfort level and he was coming back at me with his comfort level and he -- I'm not going to repeat the stories here -- but he gave me a couple of examples that it was like, "oh, my -- I mean, I just wanted I wanted to say thank you and I wanted to apologize," but I also knew that I had no ill intent because I remember the scenarios, right? And so, I don't know. I hope we're getting it -- so, don't drop it cold on them, honor their discomfort or potential discomfort with this and really be thinking about how do I make this easy for them. So that's really -- that's the beginning of the process, right?  

Sara: I think in the spirit of how do you make this easy for people, and it's just hard. People aren't used to giving feedback just as much as they're not used to receiving it but the question you just gave is really great. How do other people experience me? Jeff Henderson gave a great twist on that, which I loved, which was "what's it like to be on the other side of me?" Right? That's kind of a cute twist on the same question and then the one that you ask personally a lot, which I really like, is: "what's one thing I could do differently to make you more effective?"  

Keith: Yeah.  

Sara: So for those of you that have taken the personality assessment, you may want to try pulling out three strengths and three growth opportunities to use that. You could use these three questions that I just listed, or a lot of times we'll have people send an email that's more open of, "What do you think is my greatest strength? What is -- what do you think is my or what do people what would people say is my greatest strength? What will people say is my greatest opportunity for growth?" Any of those kind of simple opening questions I think are just a good starting way to get feedback without going through a big 360 assessment. Not everybody listening to this podcast is going to have the access to do that and honestly, you and I both think the true value comes more in the conversations than the data that comes out of it.  

Keith: Totally. I mean, I've said to so many clients so many times that 360s really are not good instruments to answer questions for people about their strengths and weaknesses. They don't it -- just doesn't answer questions well because, even as I'm interpreting the data from a 360, I'm assuming I know what is meant and yet it's a five-on-a-five scale right around the question that is twelve words long. There's no real information there so I'm assuming I know what all this stuff means, but the value in the 360, I think, is it raises really good questions to take out to people. It's like, "Hey, this came -- this looks like this may be a strength, but I want to understand it more deeply. This looks like an area that people don't see me as strongly in. Can you tell me more what it's like to be on the other side of me in relationship to this thing?" and it opens up a really safe way to have the conversation and the other thing is, guys, 360s are expensive and you can get the real value and feedback by skipping the 360 and having the courage to actually go out and start having these conversations. "Well, I don't want to put that on them. You know, I don't -- give me a break." People have been waiting sometimes for decades for you to open this door, so, you know. I mean, I just I got to stop and all of a sudden we're talking about feedback and I'm just thinking, you know, all the different ways Leigh told me, "Oh, so you think you're Mr. Right?" I mean, what was she basically saying two decades before I read it in a report, if I had been more open to saying, "What could I really be working on?" sometimes you come across like you've got the right answer and nobody else does, right? It's like, please, give me a break. All right. "Enough about me. What do you guys think about me?"  

Sara: Oh, perfect. All right. So I think in all of this, I want to go back to the mindset piece if you're good. I think we've given them some practical tools and can come back to kind of the listening process but, as you said, curiosity is so important because if you were to get the feedback like you did and go out with people to try to prove them wrong...  

Keith: Oh, yeah. That would've been horrible.  

Sara: I want to make sure people -- I'm not arrogant, right, and when you ask your friends for a black eye if you would have punched him back, right? That is not the intent of this. The curiosity is -- I love this, I learned this from our friends at FedEx -- is this, like, emotionally neutral state of mind. It's not positive. It's not negative. I'm just curious. I just want to know. I just want to learn more and so going into a feedback conversation, not seeking validation, not seeking to justify yourself, when somebody tells you something you don't agree with, it could very well be wrong, right? Perceptions may not be the truth. But I can't argue with you because that is your truth, so until I fully understand how you got to that conclusion, I can't do anything about it, right? And so you've got to go on with this curiosity: if I really want to understand where the other person is coming from, which means putting myself on the shelf and this is a term we use a lot, it always makes me giggle a little bit, especially when I teach it around Christmastime -- not an Elf on a Shelf, self on the shelf -- where I am putting my desire to protect myself, my desire to justify myself, to defend my reputation. All of that. I have to I mean, it is that you have to make a choice, to say, "OK, I'm going into this conversation with Keith right now. I've got to put myself on the shelf and for twenty minutes, I want to sit and understand your perception of me as thoroughly as I can and I have to stay curious." And the moment that I switch to being in that more negative defensive justification space --  

Sara: Even agreement, but keep going.  

Sara: Or if I go into, "Yeah, yeah, you're right. I know. Let's move on," I'm shutting down the opportunity to learn more from you. Right, and so, my job is to do -- and this, guys, this is really hard even for us at times and we are trained professionals in psychology but when you are the topic of conversation and you are having to listen to things that are difficult about yourself. This ability to stay curious is so, so powerful and we have a tool we're going to give you, we call it the "Self on the Shelf" tool that walks through kind of a step-by-step script of how to have these conversations but, again, it all comes back to this importance of being curious and, again, to reference another one of my favorite podcast episodes was with Karl. Episode six, right around the election time, right? So we weren't at all talking about feedback, but he recognized for himself that the importance of curiosity in going into difficult conversations with somebody who has a different opinion of you, going in with the intent and he said, "What I'm always trying to do when I'm in a conversation is trying to find out more about that person and what is important to them”, and curiosity is how we do that. So if my goal is to understand you, it's not about me." Right? Do you have anything you want to say now that I'm off my curiosity soapbox?  

Keith: Well, I think to extend it just a little bit without maybe with changing the word "curiosity" is this is a state of mind that we get into, it is a mindset that we get into and this idea of staying on the shelf and the reason we use that phrase is because what we're trying to do is we're trying to put our perspective, our justification, our defense mechanisms, our agreement with what they're saying, anything that is actually my take on the subject, I'm trying to take that out and put that on the shelf in some way and I'm trying to leave it there for the entirety or some portion of the conversation in order that I could truly, truly understand how you're making sense of the situation, making sense of me, making sense of my strengths, making sense of things that I could work on that would benefit you or the organization or the family unit or whatever it is and, folks, it's hard to stay on the shelf. We've already made that point, but it is a skill set I think everyone can learn. But it takes practice and so you want to practice it with people that you'll think it'll be easier and you want to let them in, that I'm actually practicing trying to keep my perspective out of this. So if I agree with you, that's my perspective. If I disagree with you, that's my perspective. If I defend myself, that's my perspective. But if I kind of give you back what I hear you saying, Sara, what I hear you saying is that -- and I give it back to you -- I'm not only confirming that I heard you right, but I'm helping myself stay on the shelf and I remember kind of early on, you know, I had the -- have the pleasure -- I'm thirty-six years, a couple of weeks ago, of being married to a really smart lady and it was amazing when we were in disagreement how often I would forget that she was a really smart lady and I started telling myself -- literally, I would tell myself this -- and I take this back to trying to understand theorems in eighth grade for the first time. Like, I believed the teacher that the theorem was true, but it was hard for me to get the theorem. Was that geometry that we have theorems in? OK, so I would tell myself, "Leigh is right. I just don't get her yet. Leigh is right. I just don't understand how yet," and that was a different version of curiosity where I would just say, "So what questions do I need to ask to figure out so that I know how she's right? Right, and I have to tell you, the times that I do that it may not have fixed our disagreement. It always brought us closer together, by the way, it may not have fixed the disagreement, but I'm like, "Oh, yeah, I can see why she thinks that and that makes perfect sense to me." Right, and that's really what we're trying to get you to go for. I think we are going to offer a webinar coming up at the end of August sometime. That is going to be actually if you want to learn more about Self on the Shelf and the specifics about that, we'll talk about that before we close the episode.  

Sara: I mean, the practice and the method of Self on the Shelf is really powerful and really useful, but more than we can go into on a podcast episode and so we are going to offer a webinar on August 20th to you guys -- it's free -- just to go deeper into this, but at the highest level, it's four major steps. It's the invitation. It's putting yourself in the place where you're ready to invite and listen. It's this active, reflective listening. That's the bulk of it and the hardest part. It's summarizing what you're hearing and then it's appreciating and validating what you heard and I think your last point about the conversations you’ve had with Leigh, making sure to end with saying "thank you", Kevin Riley made this point a lot, that the first thing out of your mouth when you get feedback should be "thank you" whether or not you agree with it. But the point is, you want to listen to the extent that you can validate "I may not agree, but I totally see how you got to that conclusion.  

Keith: If you can get there, if you can understand how they arrived at their perspective and how them arriving at that perspective makes sense, you've done the big work, even if there's still disagreement and Kevin said -- can I read this?  He said, "It's just hard to tell somebody something, you know that they don't want to hear." So somebody has now told you something that they think maybe you don't want to hear, and he said, "You know what the first words out of your mouth ought to be? Thank you, thank you." Especially if that person is a subordinate and I would throw a child, somebody who it's really a lot harder for -- anybody, the harder it was for them to bring it up, the more important it is for the first words out of your mouth to be "thank you, thank you" because the first time you react poorly, he basically says that's the last time you get feedback from them.  

Sara: Yeah, because the word gets around that you don't tell the boss what we think of him.  Right, and I think that highlights maybe the last point I want to say, and it's probably something we'll talk more about in the webinar, is the importance of creating a safe space for somebody to give you feedback. And I grew up in Indiana. We were just out in Colorado a few weeks ago and I got to test this, surprisingly still in the summer, is what happens on a frozen lake, right? And I remember my brother, we came across this frozen lake and we're like, the kids want to go out and play on it, and it's like you don't just run full speed out into it. It's like you've got to create step-by-step "Is this safe? Is this safe? Is this safe?" and you've got to think about when people are giving you feedback, when you have created a place for them to come and give you feedback, their questioning, "Is this safe? Let me tell you..."  

Keith: Right, is the ice beginning to crack?  

Sara: "Let me tell you one little safe piece of detail" and how you respond to that is going to determine whether they keep going and telling you that really valuable feedback or if the ice starts cracking and they back up, "Oh, no, no. It's no big deal. You're great. Everything's great." Right? That's not useful. When somebody gets feedback, that's like, "No, you're great. Everything's great." I'm like, "Well, that was a waste of time."  So we'll talk more about how to do that through the listening strategy but no matter how you if you're engaging some of these simple questions that we mentioned, if you're sending out the email asking for feedback, I want you to always keep in mind what a risk somebody is taking to give you feedback and be super grateful and super --.  
Keith: Honor that.  

Sara: Yeah, and just recognize that it really is a gift that they are giving you the opportunity to learn something new about you so that you can continue to grow, to continue to become a better version of yourself, and hopefully that's what you are trying to do in life, is grow into that.  

Keith: And folks, that's the reason we've even spent the last 40 minutes or so talking about this on this podcast is that in terms of growing as grown-ups, there are the self-reflection pieces that we've introduced through the Growth Gap Tool and in the other episodes that we've done where we've talked about really thinking about "bigger me", "smaller me", "worry, fear and resistance", all these kinds of things. I think that was both the New Year's and sort of a late spring kind of podcast where we didn't have a guest on. I don't think -- let me see if I want to say this for sure -- but I don't think there is a better mechanism for introducing challenge and contradiction -- fuel -- into our developmental equation, Our Growing as Grown-ups equation, our becoming who we want to be, the more perfected, better version. Having influence with the people that we want to have influence with, and I don't mean manipulative influence, of course, I mean the kind of influence that is well-intended and right. I don't think there's a better mechanism than having the courage to figure out how to introduce feedback conversations from other people, not just once, but on a regular basis.  

Sara: For sure, voluntarily, right? There's other things that sometimes --  

Keith: There are things that you can't avoid.  

Sara: Choose, yeah. I think I would agree with you.  

Keith: With you in terms of proactive, "what can I do to increase my impact?" and I know most of you guys don't watch this on YouTube or whatever we play this on. I'm sorry, I don't know that, but if you saw the number of sheets of paper that are spread out on our desk right now, it is because all the great people we've had on our podcast, there's almost NOT a podcast where this didn't come up. There was a lot of double negatives in there but it's like this is part of every great leader's story is the feedback they get and how they seek it out and by the way, this is one of the favorite interviews I ever did with anybody. He was a guy who's no longer with us. I interviewed him when he was probably 70 years old and he said, "One of the great values of being open to feedback yourself, is that it makes other people know it's OK to be open to feedback themselves  and that winds up changing the whole organization." Now, you can institutionalize it the way Ray Dalio did at Bridgewater, but just by setting the example yourself, as a matter of fact, you'll be surprised - if you have the courage to go ask some people to talk about you, to you for a while. You'll be surprised, I should say, don't be surprised if somebody says, "Well, what do you think people would say my greatest strengths are?" Right? People crave it and I think they're also so willing to give it if we can create the right environment and it not only becomes a gift to ourselves, it's a gift to them. It can reboot and reset relationships. I mean, they're just -- and folks, if you're married, have a significant other in your life, if you can figure out how to put yourself on the shelf in that environment, if you can figure out how to really listen to someone until you understand how their perspective makes sense around a difficult topic, this can change your marriage, can change all -- It's just. I mean, I think we've said enough without getting weepy or something.  

Sara: So, again, let's just remind everybody that we are going to be doing a webinar Friday, August 20th. I think it'll be at the lunch hour. We've decided that's probably a good time for people. So if you are interested, we love for you to sign up, join us. It'll be a Zoom meeting. Go to You'll also be able to download the Self on the Shelf handout there that you can have our resource of curious questions to ask in the Self on the Shelf process. We'd love for you to have that as a resource and I didn't tell you I was going to do this, but as you were talking, I just thought if we are making this podcast episode about the value of feedback --  

Keith: Oh, good. I love this.  

Sara: Let's invite our listeners to give us feedback. We're twenty-five episodes in. We are not professional podcasters. We do this because we think it's fun. So we'd love to hear what is something we can do better to make this podcast more meaningful to you?  

Keith: Oh, that's such a great question.  

Sara: Give us some feedback. Using Scott Sanchez's design thinking feedback: "What do you like? What do you wish? What do you wonder?" We'd love to hear from you. So We'll put the email address in the show notes, I think. I got to figure out how to do that so you can reach out to us, but again, we'd love to hear feedback. What are the things that you're liking about this podcast? What do you wish we would do in the future? What do you wonder about what questions can we answer for you?  

Keith: I love that, Sara. Thank you.  

Sara: Yeah.  

Keith: Guys, we will see on the next episode.