A True Feedback Session
The purpose of the except is to display the technique of leadership development feedback:
Warrior: Can you describe the feedback technique with an example?
Guardian: Because I am asked to provide feedback to intense, aggressive, and competitive high performers, I have found myself in a number of situations where what I saw, I could not distill to a few key points. I could not complete the kinetic chain of what I knew tacitly and intuitively—the direct apprehension—into a linguistic statement of logic and reason that the leader could absorb intellectually. The feedback sessions proved unsuccessful. I failed. I realized standard methods of feedback were of no use to these high performers. I had to study them. I had to gain their trust. I had to make sure they knew I served them and I had only their best interests in mind.
I learned that I had to study their characters more than their performance, to complete the kinetic chain of giving and receiving, of character, expertise, and performance, into one unified thread of truth and understanding.
Warrior: Go on.
Guardian: For each true feedback session, I write up to 20 pages, a method of self-inquiry, to discover what is hidden in the individual. This is arduous, necessary, and essential work, to blast through the restrictions and impasses, to discover what needs to be known. I study my writing, as if I’m mining for diamonds, until I discover three to four key insights that reveal themselves in the depth of the writing—this is truth-disclosing. I study each key insight and create a kinetic chain from character, expertise, knowledge, experience, to performance— making feedback an extension of one’s being. The aim is to integrate the kinetic chain so the individual can see truth clearly because it resonates with what she is. Once I am clear, I practice a few rounds of feedback with a teammate, so I essentially can lead a feedback session as though it were a free-flowing, effortless, and graceful dialogue. This is to acquire the training repetitions essential to become skilled in feedback. This makes sure I can flow in the kinetic chain, up and down the threads, gliding as needed, in the actual feedback session, like an improvisational jazz musician. What I mean is, I get these insights embedded in my being, the truth, the known, and the knower—as extensions of my being. Once I’ve done my homework, once I’m prepared, I schedule the feedback session. I leave nothing to chance. I run feedback sessions in a massive empty room. In the room, there are only two folding chairs. The backs of the two folding chairs are up against one wall. The two chairs are separated by 10 feet of empty space. When sitting in the chair, the only view an individual has is that of almost being alone, in an empty room. When the leader walks in, I shake her hand and ask her to take a seat. I take a seat. I begin by providing the guidelines of the session, the same guidelines of the dialogue technique. Except, I add one more—the individual is required to look only straight ahead, in the direction of the empty room. There is to be no turning of the head or looking at one another during the entire session. I do this to silence and disarm the ego’s drive to compete and control. I begin the session by sharing the insights and asking if the insights resonate with the individual.
This is a sketch of what takes place–
Individual: Yes, the insights resonate. I am angry right now and I want to turn and attack you. Since I’m forced to look forward into the emptiness (into the abyss), there is, however, nothing to attack. I am sitting here, listening to you, with no ability to act. All there is, is openness. It’s actually peaceful. How did you discover these insights?
Guardian: I spent a few hours writing. I sought to understand what is hidden from our view, what is hidden in the kinetic chain from character to performance. I did this because it is difficult to give feedback to someone like you, with your caliber of knowledge and expertise. Because you perform at such a high level, I sought to discover insights that were hidden from you and from me. It is tough to figure out what will increase your power and freedom in your art. These insights are truth’s gift to you. They are designed to guide your intelligence to remove deceptions or distortions—your blind- spots. The feedback is designed to counter any resistance that keeps you from awakening deeper potencies in your art. Know that I don’t judge you. Know that I do judge the qualities or conditions you are able to change, correct, and strengthen by your powers of will and intelligence. Because of your caliber, most do not know how to provide you true feedback. Most cannot handle this kind of true feedback. It is a testament to your character and spirit that you can handle it, learn from it, and take corrective action from it, so you can lead with increased command and power.
Individual: How did you learn to see what is hidden?
Guardian: I seek truth. I had to untether my mind from the superficial observations in your performance reviews. That is why I had an interview with you and your teammates, in preparation for this feedback session. I needed to learn to see what was hidden deeper. There is a truth to you. There is a truth to the work you do. And I had to discover the essence of that truth. I imagined, if I worked for you, what would I be afraid to tell you? Where would I discover the insights to drive the moral courage to provide you salient feedback? Feedback you needed to hear, but was denied you, because your teammates fear an aggressive reaction from you. That is the challenge of true feedback, which is why your leaders brought in, as a trusted advisor, a person with independence and objectivity. They know your talents and they want you to reach your potential as an executive. From this perspective, I let my intellect return to the performance evaluations and the interviews, and I patiently waited for truth to reveal itself. When truth revealed itself, when I became clear, I schedule this session.
Individual: How long did it take you to prepare?
Guardian: All told, over the course of three weeks, about 30 hours. Then I let the insight crystallize in my thinking.
Individual: Thirty hours of preparation for a one-hour session? I had no idea how intensive preparing for feedback is.
Guardian: I came in cold, having never met you, which required an intense ramp-up.
Individual: It is ironic that in my role, most of my mistakes are in providing feedback and in judgment calls. I know I have the knowledge, expertise, and experience.
Guardian: Has anyone trained you in the art of practical judgment and the art of feedback as truth-discoing activities?
Individual: No. We never speak of truth. We speak of values, missions, targets, and profit.
Guardian: Right now, how much time do you devote to preparing for feedback and judgments calls?
Individual: None. My decisions and feedback are made on-the-fly and from experience, with little deliberation or discernment.
Guardian: Is this command style effective?
Individual: Clearly not.
Guardian: What are you learning?
Individual:I n my role, I need to delegate transactional work and study problem sets with more discipline, deliberation, and collaboration.
Guardian: How might you schedule working methods, to make sure you commit to the practice of building intellectual rigor to meet the demands of your role?
Individual: I’m not sure. I could use your help to map out a way forward.
Guardian: I am here to help. I hope to demystify the art of practical judgment and the art of feedback. To prepare for our next meeting, study up on the management methods of Geneen and Bower, both geniuses in the art of managing executive functions.
Individual: Homework? I like it.
Warrior :Impressive—you got her to ask for help.
Guardian: That was the aim of the session. Being outside the organization, I am no threat to her advancement. All of our work is private and not shared with her leaders. When a person asks for help, the doors of truth open and real learning takes place. It takes trust. It takes relationships. It takes friendships.
Warrior: All of this seems so simple now.
Guardian: And is it simple?
Excerpt from “The Gospel of Leadership: An Unconventional Dialogue in the Pursuit of Truth” by Ryan Krupa.
Ryan Krupa is a co-founder of MOSAIC. He is devoted to the pursuit of truth as a noble endeavor. His calling is to awaken leadership potential in aspiring leaders. He specializes in creating and teaching leadership development courses for U.S. Special Operations units. He has studied and researched the domain of leadership development for 20 years. He has led development courses for eight years. Prior to MOSAIC, he served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, a strategic account manager at the Center for Creative Leadership, and a consultant at Deloitte Consulting. He earned a Master of Science in Leadership from the University of San Diego, CA. For more information, visit: https://mosaichumandevelopment.com/