Chaplain Newsletter Vol 1, no. 4 Sept 2019
The Fall is here, but I hope the summer weather will at least continue into September. As part of our continued response to some aspects and issues we face at our St Joe’s Supper Table and our Summer Project for our volunteers and friends here’s another important issue dealing with people skills!
Celestine Chua writer and founder of PersonalExcellence.co. gives us this week’s theme on How to Give Constructive Criticism: 6 Helpful Tips. She starts off with this quote and tip to remember that, ‘People seldom refuse help, if one offers it in the right way’ by A. C. Benson. And then asks have you ever wanted to give constructive criticism on something, but held back from doing so because you did not know how to convey your ideas across or have seen people do it in the wrong way?
Whether at work or in relationships, sharing and receiving feedback is part and parcel of improvement. If you have ideas on how someone can improve, don’t hold your ideas back — rather, share your criticism constructively. Of course, to be sensitive to others’ feelings and offer feedback when you feel the other person is ready to take it. Otherwise, you may come across as imposing your views on others, especially if you repeatedly tell others what to do without them asking for your opinion. And so:
The feedback sandwich method is a popular method of giving constructive criticism. It is often used in Toastmasters and in the corporate environment. Some refer to it as the feedback sandwich or PIP, which stands for Positive-Improvement-Positive. There are people who use PIP to represent Praise-Improve-Praise which is different from this version. You start off by focusing on the strengths — what you like about the item in question. Then, you provide the criticism — things you don’t like, the areas of improvement. Lastly, you round off the feedback with (a) a reiteration of the positive comments you gave at the start and (b) the positive results that can be expected if the criticism is acted upon.
It’s called the “feedback sandwich” because you wedge your criticism between an opening and an ending — like a patty wedged between two buns.
The feedback sandwich method is most appropriate when you are giving criticism to people you don’t know or don’t know well. Otherwise you may come across as very aggressive and rude if you just jump right into the critique.
Constructive criticism focuses on the situation, not the person. How to apply this tip:
Firstly, detach the situation from the person. This distinction is crucial. Take the person out of the equation and focus on the behavior / action / situation / issue at hand.
Comment on the issue, not the person. For example, “The clothes are dirty” and not “You are dirty.” “The report is late” and not “You are late.” “The food is oily” and not “You are a bad cook.”
Don’t make personal attacks. Comments like “I’m so sick and tired of…” or “You’re so stupid / negative / lazy / unorganized / ” come across as accusatory. Stay away from attacks.
Don’t use active voice; use passive voice. Example of active voice vs. passive voice: “You gave a bad presentation.” vs. “The presentation you gave was bad.” Notice that the passive voice shifts the attention away from the person and brings it to the subject matter.
Share how it affects you. Rather than go on and on about how bad the thing is, share how it affects you. This shifts the focus away from the person and onto yourself, which lets the person take a step back to evaluate the situation. It also gives him/her insight to where you are coming from.
The third tip to providing constructive criticism is to be specific. If you want very actionable outcomes, if you want people to help you in a more targeted way, give specific vs. vague feedback. Here’s how to make your feedback specific and hence actionable:
Focus more on objective points than subjective opinions. Just saying “I don’t like it” is not helpful. On the other hand, stating the specific things you do not like, is helpful.
Break your feedback down into key points. Don’t give your feedback as one big lump. Break it down into various key points, then give your feedback point by point.
Give specific examples of each point. What are the exact situations or examples where the person exhibits the behaviors you highlighted in #2? Point them out. There is no need to highlight every single example – just pointing out 1-2 key examples per point will be sufficient. The intention here is to (a) bring the person’s awareness to things which he/she may be oblivious about and (b) illustrate what you mean.
The whole point of giving feedback is to help the person improve. Hence talk about things which the person can do something about, rather than things that are out of his/her control. Critiquing the former makes your criticism constructive; critiquing the latter just makes the person feel bad because he/she can’t do anything about it, even if he/she wants to. While you can make points on the latter especially if they are very crucial, balance things out by talking about things he/she can control. Knowing what’s actionable and unactionable requires you to be empathetic. Understand the person’s situation and his/her objectives, then provide your critique based on that.
When all is said and done, give recommendations on what the person can do to improve.
Firstly, your recommendations will tie up your critique in a nice bow. Everyone has varying perspectives, which means every critique can be interpreted in different ways. Giving recommendations will give the person a clear idea of what you have in mind. Secondly, recommendations provide a strong call-to-action. You want the person to act on what you have shared, not procrastinate.
With your recommendations, it is recommend to (a) be specific with your suggestions and (b) briefly explain the rationale behind the recommendation.
A final tip for giving constructive criticism is not to make assumptions. When providing criticism, do so within what you know as fact about the person and the subject. There’s no need to make any assumptions. Not only does it make the person look bad, it also makes you look bad — especially when your assumption is wrong. Not having a presumptuous attitude will go a long way in any communication, not just in giving criticism.
Chaplain Newsletter Vol 1, no. 3 Aug 2019
Hi Folks…I hope your summer has gone well…it certainly has gone fast! I haven’t heard yet from many of you, so don’t forget to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, input and comments…
Especially as new people are arriving all the time and educating and supporting each other is so essential to keep St Joe’s Supper table running, let us keep on reminding ourselves to introduce each other as we help in this special ministry.
In accentuating the positive we continue our team building and inspiration here at St Joe’s with our next installment from Building Successful Teams (2006) with the four great traits of effective teams. Well, what are they: how about Respect, Sacrifice, Creativity and Unity.
The good on this one—Respect means we are like a family. And here is a team tip: each team member is different. Treat each person with respect. A family is a beautiful metaphor for the way a team can work effectively toward a common goal yet, at the same time recognize and celebrate each individual member. So another team tip: Make sure the entire team gets rewarded for victories and successes in this volunteer ministry. So reflect on these questions. What are you doing on your team to encourage respect among your teammates? Do you see your team as a family? How would you describe these ‘family’ members, what strengths do they add? What challenges and how can they be turned into strengths?
Here’s a tough one for our society—Sacrifice: are we like an athletic team? Do you realize that the usual big eight offensive lineman on a football teams’ job is to not get their names in the paper. Their job is to support the team so that the quarterback or the running back or wide receiver gets into the paper. Their job is not about the glory but about helping the team win in the trenches. We as staff and volunteers are about supporting the clients in all their life struggles to feel welcome and well fed and valued as sons and daughters of God. So a team tip: sacrifice personal power and glory in order to support the team. You sacrifice so you can be supportive to each member, because any team runs better when it operates on this principle of sacrifice. It’s also the witness of our founder J.C.
Are you surprised that Creativity is an important team building characteristic? Well, it’s because we are like a Choir or Orchestra learning to work together. Creativity is important because it sparks good teams and maximum performance. Why would a team work at being more creative than predictable? The obvious reason is it keeps you from growing complacent. “We’ve always done it that way” or “It’s our way or the highway” are not helpful when it becomes a way to preserve power or keep people or teams from moving into new or better ways and ideas. In education there is a concept known as creative dissonance that comes in those gray areas where it’s not always clear right away what to do. It’s built on the premise that some of the best learning takes place when we enter an uncomfortable situation. Our ministry here at St Joe’s is full of surprising or different situations best handled by being open to creative solutions or compassionate personal responses that are not based on complacent or rigid responses. And sometimes asking new or hard questions pushes a team to take chances or risks that build us or our clients up as taking advantage of opportunities for growth and the Christian charity it can provide.
And finally, it may be obvious or seem impossible at times, but Unity is so important that we act as one in our performance musically or otherwise. Did you ever think of the analogy (like St Paul uses) of the body’s unified effectiveness? We can break it down into four points: We are Diverse—for as all our body parts belong to the same body, yet each is very different form the others. We are all very different, yet that diversity makes us work. We all have a specialty—our eyes on our body are to accomplish something different from our ears. It is a vital task, no less important and no more important than any other body part’s function. Third, we compliment one another—that means we all fit together like pieces from the same human puzzle. And finally, that means in God’s plan we are meant to be one, for if we act independent of one another that breeds disorder to the body and our ministry is rather, one of service. And guess what? We end up being better in life for it. And that’s what teamwork is all about in your life as you volunteer (or as a staff member) to be a part of St Joe’s Supper Table. And we’re sure thankful for it!
Thanks…that’s it for this week… Happy Long Labour Day Weekend
Chaplain Newsletter Vol 1, no. 2 Aug 2019
Well Folks…here’s another attempt to keep you posted and respond to some aspects and issues we face at our St Joe’s Supper Table and our Summer Project for our volunteers and friends!
First, continuing how we can be that special listening and supportive presence… As I mentioned last week we’re all about building team and team work here at St Joe’s, so here’s this week’s tip from Bill Butterworths’, Building Successful Teams (2006). Did you know there are four great barriers to teamwork: the barrier of personal insecurity; the barrier of unhealthy competition; the barrier of non-communication; and the barrier of being afraid to change.
This first barrier limits the team effectiveness as a result of each member’s personal issues we bring to the group. Fear, lack of confidence, anxiety and defensiveness are all signs that someone is feeling insecure. Few of us are trained therapists, so we have to be careful, but sometimes bringing in a professional or making resources available can help. Often, people just need to know they are on equal footing, and with open, honest communication based on a healthy respect for one another can improve a lot the effectiveness of the team. Another way to combat insecurity in team leaders as well as the team is to make a distinction between acceptance and approval. It is realizing that approval is based on performance while acceptance, on the other hand, is based on personal worth. And a wise team leader communicates unconditional acceptance of each team member regardless of performance. Being accepted for who we are naturally frees us up to work more diligently on the task at hand. Even becoming friends of sorts, with the team can go a long way as long as we respect certain boundaries of professional respect. When we put our personal insecurities on the shelf for the good of the team, the team will actually help us deal with some of them amazingly, is how things often work out!
Next, there are many types of competition that seep into non-profit organizations that are part of our society but that are not very helpful here. It can be a misperception that we are competing against fellow team members for importance or self-worth. But as there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy competition, our type of work (or helping ministry) is actually trying to complement one another with our strengths and weaknesses. Unhealthy team boundaries are when infighting, personal insecurities, gossip, and lack of camaraderie get out of hand, and overtake an efficiently functioning team that quickly turn it sour, especially if we are only doing this for ourselves. In other words, that our motive springs from selfishness. Rather, who are we here for in the case of St Joe’s Supper Table? Those who are the working poor, the lonely, the disadvantaged, the addicted and the broken who we seek to offer the love and acceptance (compassion) of Jesus our founder and chief CEO. And in the end, we benefit from helping those who come here because we cared enough to be here volunteering and learning from them about life—the good and the bad.
One of the most common struggles all teams face is the inability to communicate effectively. Whether it’s a language barrier or poor communication in a marriage or with a boss, it’s often like the memorable words from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate!” So what usually happens is what’s called ‘linear communication’ where one the sender (does all the talking) and the other receiver (does all the listening). But the more effective option of course is what is called ‘circular communication’ in which each person, in effect switches roles, acting as both sender and receiver. Of course, how we use words and their meaning is important, because the same word can mean different things to other people. So there is a need to decode our encoding by reframing what we thought we hear to see if that’s what the other person really meant. This is especially important when strong feelings or beliefs are involved. In other words, we have to take into consideration in our everyday conversations the other person’s field of experience or frame of reference in where they are coming from. It means sometimes going the extra mile to seek to discover their world to have effective communication. So paraphrasing what we hear back and moving beyond cliché responses help.
And finally, working through barriers like being afraid of change, includes mastering a few key skills. And none is more important than mastering change. It helps us make friends and gives us tools for handling all kinds of life issues. Realizing much of life is about the process of change, we can use the letter C in eight ways. Calm is what we like when things are under Control as opposed to upheaval, then we tend to be happier. But then it happens, we are faced with a fork in the road that is a Choice. It can lead to somewhere we might not like to go—Change. We can choose to change or resist. But change can bring about wonderful results if we are willing to follow through. This can produce Confidence, when we learn the lessons of change and can consequently become better people for it. This confidence can build or deepen our character on the inside through the struggle or difficult situation that can even inspire us and others to be stronger than before. Then the process of Calm is brought back into focus as life returns to normal, if only for a little while!
So no matter how traumatic something might seem at the time, if we use change as an opportunity to grow, we can gain a sense of confidence and deepen our character. This is especially so if we trust in a loving God who cares for us and is with us during the struggles of life.
(Don’t forget to input either by noting it in our blue input notebook in Ryan our Managers Office or email me at email@example.com).
Thanks again …that’s it for now
Chaplain Newsletter Vol 1, no. 1 Aug 2019
Hi Folks…I thought this would be a great way to keep in touch with our St Joe’s Supper Table Summer Project and keep you updated on our renewal and policies and vision as well as input from people like you—our volunteers and friends!
First, some of you might ask ‘what is a Chaplain?’ Well, it can mean a few things as someone trained in the art of caring like a hospital, or prison Chaplain and originally that person was usually an ordained clergy, but not so much today. And we even minister in homeless shelters like I’ve done in the past at Labre House in Montreal or the Salvation Army a couple of years ago. And as many of you know already, I’m helping out now at St Joe’s and the Supper Table to provide that special listening and supportive presence.
Next, what I’d like to do is remind you of our Project to look at our vision and policies and procedures and offer you an avenue of input to look at all the things (big and small) that go into running our little jewel we call St Joe’s Supper Table. And there’s a lot as you know. Especially new people are arriving all the time and educating and supporting each other is so essential to keep it running. Even our managers come and go so we have to be aware and find ways to help them too with all the different hats they have to wear in this demanding job. Each meal team has various responsibilities inspite of the different character of the volunteers who make them up and the length of time they’ve been doing it, which I’ll touch on in future issues of the Chaplain Newsletter.
I’ll like to mention some different things that we need to be aware of, or address and new ones are popping up all the time. So if we can all be on the same page info wise, that would be great!
I will also include some interesting other tidbits about an organizations like ours and the clients we serve in each issue to again inform and educate ourselves (a function of we Chaplains do also in caring organizations too).
We’re all about building team and team work here at St Joe’s so here’s Three Great Needs of every Team Member from Bill Butterworths’, Building Successful Teams (2006). Psychologist from different schools of thought all agree that when it comes to basic needs of individuals (and especially volunteers) they are: a sense of belonging, a sense of worth, and a sense of competence (or making a contribution). And that’s something we should all strive for as staff, volunteers and friends of St Joe’s. Maybe you can think about some creative ways to do that. (don’t forget to either note it in our blue input notebook in Ryan our Managers Office or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here’s a good one—do you know you’re Conflict Management Style? According to Speed Leas we have a preference for one of these six types of conflict managing styles given our personalities and temperament experiences: Persuading, Compelling, Avoiding/Accommodating, Collaborating, Negotiating, and Supporting. We certainly can overlap these styles but we tend to have a preference especially when stressed. So if we’re aware of this then we can adapt or compensate in healthier ways given the situation we find ourselves in. If you’d like to do the test or get more info then contact me or track down the book.
Finally, how about some of the necessary characteristics of a Manager of a place like St Joe’s Supper Table according to Bruce Powers’ Church Administration Handbook (1997): an outgoing personality; ability to work in harmony with others; emotional maturity under stress; ability to communicate; interest and experience in kitchen management; understanding of food service purposes; dependable and energetic. Boy, sounds like that person has to be a superman/woman! Remember though, a good team always compliments its leaders strengths and weaknesses. That’s what learning about supportive teamwork is all about!
Thanks…that’s it for now
The Choirs of St. Joseph’s Parish will be hosting their annual Christmas concert this Saturday in support of the Supper Table. Admission is a freewill donation. Hope to see you all there! See our poster below for details:
The Supper Table will be celebrating 40 years of service at the end of the month on Thursday, September 27th. It would be great if you could join us for our fundraising dinner in the St. Joseph’s Parish Hall at 174 Wilbrod Street in Ottawa. Check out the official invitation below: