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I LOVE feedback! What about you?

When you finish a project, what do you do? Do you celebrate, reflect, plan for the next time/future, and…?

 In the past two weeks, I’ve had opportunities to engage in giving (myself and others) feedback. I’ve also considered how I want to receive it from others. These have been enlightening experiences. 

In what circumstances do you offer feedback, appreciations, observations, reflections, critique, constructive criticism or the like? 

What do you think, feel, and communicate before engaging in the activity? And how is it different when the sharing is one-way, a conversation with one or more people, or setting up an opportunity for people to share feedback?

In my practice
I have developed a daily art practice. One project took me into rather unknown territory—working with a combination of acrylic paints and pens, gouache, collage, gel matte as a fixative, and mixed media paper. While I’ve worked with almost all of these materials before, this particular sequence and the combinations were new and held challenges (the weight of paper was not quite right for all the media, using gel matte with gouache is tricky {there’s a story there!}, and more. I’m also the gal who follows the “recipe”/directions the first time I do something, and then I change it up. I tried to follow the plan this time but then abandoned part of it. (I gave it a good try twice and didn’t like the results, so I found my way.)

 

Working/Being with others
I am always observing people’s habits/how they give feedback to themselves and each other. As the facilitator of a recent experience, I sought to guide the reflections in a generative way—with a focus on appreciating aspects of participants’ work about the criteria of success and pointing to opportunities to try new and different techniques rather than viewing aspects of their work as mistakes or flawed. While I believe in recognizing mis-strokes in drawing and processes that didn’t achieve the intended purpose and impact, I always choose to “fail forward”/focus on future possibilities. It’s delicate work being a facilitator seeking to create a warm, open, honest, learning-oriented environment.

I was also part of a gathering of about 30 people interested in addressing climate change through art and activism. The organizers asked for feedback, and I shared my reflections using my simple framework of: 

  • asking about their intentions and goals—thinking about the complete experience for participants (before, during, and after the event)
  • what I appreciated/the processes that had worked well for me and as an observer (I never stop thinking of group dynamics)
  • what might be done differently next time and why I thought so.

The facilitators were receptive.

These experiences were instructive to me—personally (in my artwork), as the facilitator of learning experiences, and as a participant with a stake in the event. 

What do you enjoy, find challenging, or wonder about harvesting people’s thoughts and feelings about experiences?
I LOVE hearing reflections and always ask for them, even when time is short. Here are a few photos of quick feedback from students after several 45-minute sessions at a conference. They put the sticky notes on the chart paper on their way to the room. I asked them to share about their experiences: 

  • What did you like?
  • What did you learn?
  • How will you use your new knowledge and skills?

Their responses gave me a pulse check about their engagement, enthusiasm, and learning.

Here’s one last example of a feedback sheet I use during some of my Appreciative Inquiry sessions.

 

How do you elicit reflections on your work? What influence does what you learn have on future sessions? I’d love to know!

Learning &  Feedback—for Learners & Trainers (Facilitators & Coaches)

As a learner, I love sharing my thoughts and feelings about my learning experiences. Giving feedback is a gift.

As a trainer (facilitator and coach), I’m always interested in hearing from those with whom I work. I take people’s thoughts, questions, and future-oriented suggestions very seriously. Receiving feedback is a gift.

How do you ask for feedback and how do you use the information you receive? 

Just last month I attended a multi-day intensive online training. The courses and the speakers varied in their quality—the relevance of the content for the audience, the presenters’ styles of delivery, and group facilitation/engagement skills. Upon completion of the program, I happily filled in the Google Doc/evaluation. I endeavored to be open, honest, and forward-thinking – offering suggestions and alternatives, wherever I noted something I believed could be improved.

Just a few days after completing the evaluation form, I gave a Zentangle class. I have been teaching Zentangle since 2103. I LOVE teaching it as it is almost always a really wonderful experience for everyone.

This time there were a number of variables to work with:

  • the pattern was complicated—more so than usual—almost an optical illusion when finished
  • participants’ skills were at quite a variety of levels of expertise
  • people work at quite different speeds (from slower to faster)

It’s rare for me to complete a session and feel that there are a few things I could’ve done better. I say that because my business is being an educator/teacher/trainer. I’ve studied long and hard to hone my skills over the decades. I am very good at what I do. (I imagine you are very good at what you do too… I don’t believe in false humility, do you?) 

When things don’t go as I plan, and I feel learners could have achieved better results or had a more wonderful time together, I am curious about what I can improve and determined to make it so.

I reached out to the participants the next morning to ask direct and specific questions about their experiences. Happily, I received very thoughtful and helpful feedback. I went to work planning for my next session.

Last night we had another class and it was a resounding success. In part, the patterns that we tackled were not as complex, and yet I had also, perhaps, more importantly, re-imagined and changed my approach based on the feedback received. I also talked to the participants about the difference between the two experiences—I love those meta-cognitive moments!

It feels great to recognize the places where I can grow and change to facilitate and deepen learning experiences for my participants.

Over the years I have observed that feedback is often not requested. Is that your experience too? In those instances, I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the individual and/or organization do not seek to assess the quality of their work — to discover what is particularly effective and what might need some adjustment. It is disappointing—though only slightly less so than when feedback is requested and then not used to improve experiences. 

Whether you’re a trainer, facilitator, coach, or truly anyone working with others, here’s my question for you: How do you solicit feedback about your work? What do you do with it when you get it? How do you grow and change through the process? I’d love to know!

PS: If you’re interested in tangling/learning about Zentangle, a meditative, relaxing art form, visit this page to learn more, and this page to see the classes that I am offering. 

Reflecting on the Shape of Our Lives

Two weeks ago, I posed these questions…

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life?

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“)

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I am wondering if you made the time to answer them. I hope so! Here’s the overview of my thoughts:

As promised, I devoted time to reflecting on the people in my life—past and present—who have helped me grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While my drawing identifies few folks by name, I took a walk through my memories, from childhood through to the present. The revisiting of my life experiences—from relationships to schooling, travel, work, and more has led me to appreciate the successes and challenges that have, in part, formed who I am at this moment in time.

Happily, I have an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues who continue to inspire me. Interestingly, I am letting go of just a few of my projects (though I love them) to make more time for what I am deciding matters most to me.

I hope that you have savored your journey from the past to the present too.

Opportunities for learning and growing—oh my!

Gosh, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks! I’m stretching in new and unexpected ways!

What’s your spring been like?

  • In March, I began a course of study that requires me to use new processes and formats. Part of the work is writing/drafting, submitting, revising, submitting, revising, and sending off finished papers about all of our courses. It’s a rigorous (and lengthy) process! 
  • I’ve started working with a mentor. Deciding on the shape of that experience with a person completely new to me is both exciting and challenging. I am at the beginning of a two-year journey and there is much to consider… my background, interests and goals, her expertise, our styles of interaction, the nature of such a relationship—it’s complex!

  • Just last week, I offered a joint coaching session to the two participants who had most successfully followed the guidelines I created for assessing graphic recording work, (from my session for the Visual Jam). It was such a delight working with these women who came in with high-quality visuals and helping them to make their pieces even better. Another set of eyes, a different perspective, it’s a gift.
  • I’m developing a visual storytelling piece to present at a conference in July. While the concept is really clear in my mind, how it comes together on paper/my iPad is still a work in progress. I decided that I needed support and so reached out for an accountability buddy—to get the work and play of it done—and to offer me feedback. It’s been awesome! My colleague, who is an accomplished author, shares ideas that would never have occurred to me. Happily, I do the same for her current project.
  • One of my clients is seeking to dramatically change her approach to digital recording. Each coaching session we review recent pieces together, identifying what’s working and why, then we discuss alternatives to the options chosen re: layout, use of color, lettering hierarchy, iconography, and the harmony of text and drawings. (This is the type of work I do for myself too. At the end of almost every project, I look at what I have created and think of at least one other way to do it completely differently! It is both a blessing and a curse to have those insights.)

What projects are on your plate?

How are you gaining perspective about your work? 

Who are your mentors, guides, or coaches as you continue to learn and grow? 

How is the “feedforward” you’re receiving supporting your goals?

As you can tell, I always believe that it’s possible to do things just a bit better! Old dog, new tricks!

Reach out to me if you want to explore your next best steps.

 

Postscript: In honor of  May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I am going to post again tomorrow with my visual from two weeks ago and one of my favorite resources for taking good care of myself. 

More than love or passion… Dedication

I have had a passion for haiku since high school. It’s a form that felt so easy to create. While I love the poetry of Mary Oliver and David Whyte, to name just two of my favorites, I believe, or should I say that I believed, that writing poetry other than haiku would be much more difficult. Now, I am not so sure.

What is your experience with dabbling in an area of interest and then, as you dive in more deeply, you are surprised to learn how rich and complex the experience can be?

It wasn’t until last March at Haiku: Three Simple Lines – Haiku as Refuge In Our Times with Roshi  Joan Halifax, Sensei Kaz Tanahashi, Natalie Goldberg, and Clark Strand, hosted by the Upaya Institute that I really began to study the form.

 

Beauty of first snow

breathtaking and heart-stopping

Vanishes quickly

jg

 

When, and why, did you take a step in a more serious direction?

Fast forward to January, 2022: In my desire to become more proficient, I enrolled in Clark Strand’s, Haiku Master Class. It’s a year-long program with a small cohort in which we submit up to 18 haiku a week in two different forums and then three more each month to be included in a KuKai, (a peer-reviewed poetry contest).

Winter morning friends

Gather round the feeder to

feel community

jg

How are you exploring your new knowledge or skill?

Folks who know me, are aware that I relish great feedback. Great feedback for me, is that which is both congratulatory and constructive, with information about how I have done things well (so I can repeat and expand on them) and what I can do even better. I need this interaction to make progress. 

How have you integrated receiving feedback about your learning into your practice?

I am still finding my way in this part of the work and play of this endeavor… reading the material that Clark is sharing with us each week, working to keep up with what folks are writing on the two haiku pages on FB that Clark hosts, writing my 18 poems each week plus those for the KuKai, incorporating the feedback I receive on my work, and learning from feedback given to others. It’s close to too much AND I love it! 

How are you working to create harmony among the roles, responsibilities, need to play, and make time to rest and rejuvenate?

This aspect of life remains a work in progress for me—with some days feeling more harmonious than others.

It’s my plan to complete this course and then decide if I want to move forward with learning to teach haiku. I am always interested in finding ways to use art to inspire and heal. I learned of the book, So Happy to See Cherry Blossoms, Haiku from the Year of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami, edited by Madoka Mayuzumi, last year. Perhaps I will teach haiku as a way of helping myself and others work through grief and pain. It’s a star in my universe of possibilities… we will see what this year brings!

How will you integrate your new learning into your life? How will it show up for you or others?

I hope that you will share your thoughts about your experiences with your passions and learning!