The Best Way Out is Always Through

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost.

This seems counter intuitive. Why go through if there is a faster, seemingly easier way around? Why not just avoid the gnarly, ugly problem, conflict, or ordeal? How about just escape? Perhaps just numb out? I am an expert at all of these attempts at avoidance and procrastination.  I have tried them all with little success. Like right now, I do not want to write. I’m forcing myself to “go through” as I want to get this written and…”it’s not going to write itself.” It is not that the writing is painful. It is the reliving of the grief, betrayal and suffering I’ve experienced that feels like picking at a scab. I reflect back on the last five years and it’s amazing how far I have come, but it was not easy and I can assure you that I “went through.” The hurricane, the end of a marriage, the decline and death of my beloved father, and the endless, costly fight over property with my ex. At every milestone, there always seems like there was one more hurdle.

I am not a professional at grief and betrayal, but I have learned a few things along the way. I am resilient and much more aware of what is important to me than I was a decade ago.

Here are few things I have learned about getting out by going through:

Feel the feels
If I have learned anything, it is to feel the feels. I stuffed, drowned, ignored, and glossed over my feelings for most of my adult life. I was a temper tantrum adolescent. I can remember vividly stomping up the stairs in my childhood house and slamming the door when my parents either grounded or forbade me from some (at the time) life-altering excursion (say roller skating or going to an R-rated movie). I was, to say the least, a bit melodramatic. At some point, most likely in college, I found other ways to disregard my discontent. I numbed it instead of feeling it. Got dumped? Pour a glass of wine. Failed an exam? Bloody Mary’s with Julie. Parking ticket? Pitchers with the gang. To feel the feels is to acknowledge the feeling and pay attention. Accept the onset of what is going on in your body and feel it. Seems strange that I needed to learn this. As an infant, I’m sure if I was hungry, lonely or wet, I cried. I spent the next twenty years trying to ignore or avoid whatever ailed me. I let the heat rise in my neck, my stomach turn, the tension mount in my shoulders, I let it in. To go through, you must feel it.

Label it
This has been the most important learning for me. It is to not only feel the discomfort but to label it. It is the same as labeling thoughts while trying to meditate. By acknowledging and labeling the thought, it is easier to let it go. Name it and let it rise. I remember vividly being angry at my ex’s betrayal. I labeled it “betrayal”. So, this is what betrayal feels like: tight stomach, clenched shoulders, tears running down my face. It helped me be with the feeling but announcing it to myself as “betrayal” somehow let me observe myself.  So allow the pain and it will dissipate. The loss of my father and labeling it “grief” as I felt the heat on my face, the tears streaming and the shuddering of sobs. This is what “grief” feels like. It turns me into the omniscient observer as I watch the feelings rise and lift away once labeled. Going through you must label the path.

No judgement
This is the heart of it all to me. If I feel it, I will judge it and then hold on tight. The key is to not allow judgment in. People grieve. People get angry. People cry. All of us, if we let it, experience feelings. I can think, why is a 60 something grown ass woman crying for her Daddy or I can think, it’s completely natural to grieve. I have found that when I allow the feelings to rise and don’t try to hid it from the daylight, it passes more easily. It’s when I try to bury it, blink away the tears and stuff the feeling down so that I won’t be judged a cry baby that it lingers, sometimes for years or decades. August Gold wrote, “To enter the conversation with Life we only have to change one key word: We have to stop asking, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and start asking, ‘Why is this happening for me?’ When we can do this, we’re free.” Going through is accepting each twist in the path and seeing the gift in it.

Getting sober over four years ago was a game changer. Everything is available with clean edges. No longer muted by Chardonnay or Gin. Somehow numbing out only increased and prolonged the suffering. I feel an empty vessel that permits it in, acknowledge it and then softly, setting it free. The best way out is always through.

7 Tactics to Giving Effective Feedback

My years of being a Human Resource professional have taught me one thing, if you don’t give feedback, performance will not change. A manager cannot gossip, shun or pray a poor performer into an outstanding performer. There have been hundreds of managers who sulk into my office wanting to terminate a poor performing employee and when I ask, “Do they know they aren’t performing?” The answer is usually, “Well, they should know they aren’t”. Me, “So you haven’t told them?” Reply was typically, “No”. Hmmm. Wonder why the employee has not done a dramatic turn around?7 Tactics to Giving Effective Feedback

Most people avoid feedback because they are afraid of conflict. Most of us are afraid of conflict. It’s uncomfortable. It’s much easier to stand by the water cooler and complain to my co-worker about my slacker assistant than to actually tell my assistant that he’s been late every day this week and what solutions can happen for his tardiness. We often hope and pray that the slacker assistant will wake up and realize that the cold shoulder they’ve been given will prompt him or her to realize that we’re angry that they don’t show up on time. These tactics will not work.

So here are my tactics on how to give effective feedback:

1. Objective. The feedback needs to be unbiased and equitable. This can be difficult if you have many direct reports. We naturally have affinity for folks “just like me”. Bias is difficult to acknowledge so try to use information that is easily quantified and can be compared to others. This might mean number of customers served, average daily sales, or customer survey scores. Make sure the feedback comes from objective sources.

2. Measurable. What gets measured gets done. I can remember having sales contests in the restaurant I owned. When we started measuring how many desserts were sold on each shift, suddenly our dessert sales went through the roof. We didn’t even have an incentive associated with selling the most desserts. Everyone wants to know the score. A score lets you know if you are ahead or behind. Make sure everyone knows the score.

3. Rationale. Make sure you link the feedback to the rationale of how it fits into the big picture. If we can reduce input errors by 5%, we will reduce our turnaround time by 12 hours. If you serve 3 more customers a day, we will increase net profit. Employees need to know how they affect the big picture and they need to know that they have a line of sight to the end goal.

4. Timely. Many managers wait and hesitate to give feedback. They hope that the employee will turn around all on their own. By the time they give the feedback, the shelf life has expired. You can’t talk about the customer complaint from three months ago and expect there to be a performance improvement. Studies have shown that immediate feedback produces the best results (Codding, Feinberg, Dunn, & Pace, 2005). Employees need relevant information as soon as possible. Treat performance feedback like a carton of milk that will expire in 5 days.

5. Repeat. Good or bad, keep giving feedback. I wrote a post about Gen Y in the workplace. Twenty-somethings right out of college or high school, have been receiving daily and hourly feedback for twelve plus years. They get grades on the quiz, they get called on in class, and there is constant interaction with classmates. Then they get hired, come to a cube farm, get trained for a few weeks and are left on their own. Feedback produces the best results when it is delivered frequently (Hattie, 2009). From a management standpoint, it’s easier to give the feedback if you are doing it on a daily basis. Make it your habit.

6. Not personal. Keep the information to specific facts. So the report was two days late, the spreadsheet had six errors, or you had three dropped calls yesterday. These are facts. They are not value judgments. You might think your assistant is a slacker or lazy or sloppy, just don’t say that out loud. Facts are facts. Personal judgments are damaging to performance. Feedback produces the better results when it is directed at the performance and actually produces negative effects when it is personal (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). Don’t make it personal and deliver it without judgement

7. Collaboration. Try and take a coaching approach to issues. My 22 year old daughter said “we must always be willing to learn from one another no matter where one lies in the hierarchy. That’s something I take very seriously, but I don’t think those higher up are sometimes willing to accept that all of this is much more free flowing and improvisational than it seems.” I know when I coach folks, it’s important for me to not be attached to an outcome. I think employees are much more empowered when they can improvise and have say in the solution. So ask them for help in solving the problem and take their suggestion if at all possible.

Accept that you won’t be perfect at first. Get out there and try. Frequency is the key. Learn from your mistakes and keep honing it in.