There she was an old veteran in HR for years and yet she could not recite to me what her contribution was to our team or to our ministry. I was most sad as I had learned through the few weeks prior that this woman leader had indeed done much to serve and lead our region.
However, she was very insecure about what she brought to leadership. And this was not due to the fact that she was younger and not sure of her own giftings. I discovered that it was mainly because in her 7 years of service, she had never been given any real feedback about what she did well in or where she needed growth professionally. This was my least favorite part of leadership development…seeing where leaders lack confidence when they in reality have such unique contributions to God’s teams.
Another reason why I was discouraged was that she was a dear friend of mine. My chagrin also grew in those weeks as I had just become my good friend’s supervisor or boss. Here I was caring for her not only as a close friend but also as her spiritual leader.
As I talked with her, I felt led by God to share with her my heart for our first year together as supervisor and friends. I told her of my commitment to giving her consistent & practical feedback throughout the year and not just merely her quarterly or yearly reviews. I told her that my prayer was that at the end of our year together that she would have confidence in what she brought to our team and our work.
Honestly, the first two months were challenging as we had to deal with the awkwardness of being both friend and supervisor. As her supervisor, I had to be about setting accountability for her growth professionally. Because this was new to her, any input about her work felt a bit threatening to her. As a friend, this put our friendship into a different space for her. At one point, she had to stop spending time with me a bit because I was giving so much hard, but truthful feedback that she needed to regroup into other friendships to process what I was helping her to see. So, for a short season, we did not see each other regularly as close friends.
But we endured that year and stayed connected in our friendship. I stay connected to giving her not only hard feedback, but also made a commitment to affirm her as much as I could. I was consistent and I was ruthless to make sure she knew exactly what she excelled in and where she needed growth. We also both chose to stay communicating through the hardships. As a result, we actually became closer friends after that year! (Praise God for that!)
To God’s glory, we grew together. I grew as both her friend and supervisor. She grew in her ability to see her strengths and weaknesses. My highlight at the end of the year was when I asked again what she brought to our team. Without a beat, she was able to spell out 7 things that she did well in and a few things that she needed to grow in. As she answered my question of what her greatest contribution was to our ministry, we both smiled.
We both talked about our challenging year. She shared how she was originally very insecure and afraid of feedback because she never really had anyone give that to her. But after a while, she became more comfortable with the fact that she was consistently being told what she did well in as well as how she could grow in an environment of grace and truth. Over time, she grew to accept her own unique voice and leadership. She grew to embrace herself, both the good, the bad and the in between. She learned to walk in grace and freedom of who she was created to be.
That year, she had grown in her confidence as a leader.
As we build up Asian American leaders and their confidence, we must be committed to consistent and practical feedback. But this feedback, the growth and the strengths all must be done in relationships of love, trust and respect even through challenges. We must stay connected in all of our feedback, and not be detached from our hearts with each other.
Her story inspires me to continue to develop confident leaders through feedback! Her story encourages me to continue to seek feedback from others as I grow in my own character and leadership development.
What about you? Are you secure in who you are created by God to be? If not, where can you gain consistent and practical feedback about your character and professional growth? Who can you invite to help you receive honest feedback?
If you are seeking to develop more confident leaders, what are some skills you need to hone in to help give consistent and helpful feedback? How are you providing safe and trusting relationships where grace and truth can be spoken of together?
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