Ministry in Context

Stay on your side of the net

Feedback is a constant aspect of internship. Feedback from supervisor to intern, from intern to supervisor, from lay committee to intern, from intern to lay committee. Sometimes, unfortunately, feedback leads to hard feelings. Sometimes, even more unfortunately, the fear of hard feelings leads people to withhold important feedback. 

In a “Corner Office” column from the Sunday New York Times business section, Adam Bryant interviewed Andrew Thompson, the CEO of Proteus, a biomedical firm headquartered in Redwood City, California. One of the topics addressed in that conversation was feedback, and there is wisdom in the discussion useful to interns, supervisors, and lay committees:

Q. Give me an example of the kind of things you teach.

A. You’ve got to have people understand how you talk to each other, and it’s got to be direct. It’s got to be in the moment, and it can’t be “over the net.” When you give somebody feedback, it can’t be to say, “You’re doing this because you don’t like me,” or whatever. It’s got to be a very straightforward thing where you say, “When you yell at me, it makes me feel like I’m not valued.”  

Q. What do you mean by “over the net”?

A. If you’re over the net, that means that rather than describing the behavior and how it makes you feel, you start explaining to the other person what their motivations are for their own behavior. That’s where you get so many problems, because people see the behavior and rather than giving feedback, they sit there and stew and concoct all the reasons why it’s happening. People concoct all this imaginary garbage about why the person is doing this to them when in fact the person may not even realize that they’re doing anything. It’s like in tennis or volleyball, and you have to stay on your side of the net.

Have a conversation about feedback at your next supervisory session or lay committee meeting, and remember to stay on your side of the net!

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