Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

Story of a life

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

When I was doing my ‘A’ levels many years ago here in England, there was a guy in my English Literature group who had just transferred from a school in New York. I can’t remember his name. There was always an air of mystery as to how and why he had arrived at our school. He was regarded as being very street-wise and was a key member of the in-crowd.  I didn’t mix with him too much, but did walk with him towards our homes on a few occasions – generally after we had an English lesson at the end of the day.

I have two key recollections of him. The first was when we were walking past some horses and before I could tell him not to walk behind them, he did and got booted to the floor. He may have been street-wise, but was not animal-wise. The second was that he introduced me to the words and music of Harry Chapin. He was a big fan, a very big fan.  I am now a big fan and have been for many years, and I have him to thank for introducing me.

Harry Chapin

Within the training context I have used Harry’s music and words on many occasions over the years. They can be really impactive for delegates in some key learning areas, and the affective nature of the experience can leave a lasting impression – as long as it is debriefed with skill and care. The two songs that I have used most regularly are “Flowers are Red” and “Why do Little Girls?” They are great for exploring diversity issues.

I used one this week that I have never used before. It’s “Mr Tanner” and it tells the story of Martin Tanner, who loves to sing. Singing wasn’t his profession – he ran a cleaning shop – but singing made his life whole. And apparently he was pretty good at it. He knew he had a few flaws, but all his friends said he could take it further. I suppose in today’s world, he would have been encouraged to audition for The X Factor or similar. Mr Tanner listened to the friends, and decided to give it a go, and so hired a hall and gave a concert. The critics lambasted him. As a result he never sang again. “Music was his life”, Harry tells us, and in the space of a couple of hours at the concert, this had been lost and his life continued incomplete.

I used it to illustrate the impact a trainer – or manager – can have when giving feedback and encouraging people to take risks.  With false encouragement and (or) poor quality feedback that is imbalanced, there can be a huge negative impact for those we should be helping to develop. That’s not to say we shouldn’t encourage people to develop, just that we should do it with care and empathy.

And I’m pleased to say it went really well with the group of trainers I was working with – very impactive, created some great discussion and left a lasting impression.

As for Harry Chapin, I got to one of his concerts. An altogether different affair.  It was back in 1981, and I just wish I had known more of his songs before I went. After the show he signed programmes and was happy to go to the bar with people – all driven by his desire to sell as much merchandise as possible to help the World Health Organisation. He did about 100 concerts a year purely for raising money for charity.

Very sadly, three months later he died in a car crash in New York – which geographically takes us back to where I started from in this post.  As Harry used to sing to end his concerts, “All my life’s a circle …”


That’s one small step for most people; one giant leap for Paul

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I think I have now got to grips with a blog – or at least the basics of a blog. Unless you tell me differently?  I have also received some great feedback about the website.

What is even better is that two people have said that the site doesn’t do quite what they would like it to. One person said they really liked it and wanted to leave some comments both on it and about it, but couldn’t, and another person said that they wanted to ask for a bit of help / advice but thought that the contact section felt a bit too formal.  To me, the common denominator in those comments was that it needed to be more interactive.

Having had my thinking hat on, and having spent many hours tinkering (and I mean ‘many’, due to my lack of computer skills!), I have hatched a cunning plan … so cunning – Blackadder might say – you could put a tail on it and call it a fox!  A plan that will – I think – go a good way to addressing that feedback. In fact, I’m really excited about what I have come up with!

The excitement is mainly due my ‘solution’ also enabling me to work on something else I have been thinking about for some time. Lots of the websites that I frequent or have looked at have forums for their members – CIPD, TainingZone, CMI, Glasstap, etc. These are great, however, you also have to pay to access them and / or they are very specialist.

Many of the first line managers or aspiring managers who I coach or train do not have access to any such forums. From the discussions we’ve had, they would find such a facility of great use. I know from delivering learning events that often the most beneficial, valuable and thought provoking aspects are when  we look at case studies  to which there are no obvious right or wrong answers. Because that’s what happens in reality.

But I don’t have the capability or resources to set up anything on the scale of those previously mentioned sites. But I would like to offer a facility to those who have attended courses (and those who come across the facility and find it of use) whereby I can continue to offer them support.

 People also tell me that they would sometimes like the chance to make contact away from a workplace computer, and it isn’t lost on me just how many people use Facebook – and how versatile it has become.

So, how can I deal with all that? Well, I have created a ‘Breathe Personal and Organisational Development Facebook Page’. This will enable people to leave comments on the website and to ask questions in a more informal way. It will also give others the opportunity to contribute to posts that people have left. People will be able to pick up ideas from reading questions and comments that others raise. Almost a virtual action learning set. And, of course, it’s all free!

I hope people will use it to pose a question, get a bit of advice or perhaps a resource they have mislaid. I’ll not have the answers to all the points raised, but in such cases there’s a good chance I’ll know someone who will.  It will be interesting to see how well it works or what level of take up there is. I’ve had great fun learning as I have put it all in place, so if it’s of use to one person, it will have been worth the effort!

And, dear reader, you can help me. As you may be aware, it is possible to create a ‘Username’ for a ‘Facebook Page’, however, a page has to have at least 25 ‘fans’ for this to happen. So if you would be happy to be a ‘fan’, it would be great if you could support this little venture by going the Breathe Facebook Page (via this link) and pressing the ‘like’ button – assuming you do like the idea – and that will enable me to give it a proper name!

And if you can see any other improvements I could make, please do let me know …

But – unfortunately – I haven’t solved the whole problem as I have now found out that one of the people who sent me the feedback isn’t on Facebook! – So let’s get back to that drawing board …


Self belief in the palms of your hands

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

One of the few quotes that I can remember (and still think of in certain situations) from studying English Literature at school is from “The Rivals” by R. B. Sheridan. From my hazy recollection, it occurs in the run up to a duel and Acres, the farm hand, says, “My valour is certainly going! – it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!” Quite brilliant. I can smile now as I recall having on such occasions actually looked at my hands to see if I can see it oozing out! But if you don’t have that self belief, can you ever feel it deserting you?

I received a lovely email from a person a couple of days ago.  I happened to see a post from her on the CIPD website and she seemed to be struggling in preparing for an exam. I offered to help, she accepted, and we had a number of telephone coaching sessions – on a no payment basis – leading up to her exam. I have never met her before and it may well be that we don’t communicate again.

She wrote, “I really wanted to thank you again for all your help. I don’t find very often in life that people are prepared to give up so much time and effort to help a stranger, and I really appreciate it. As I said before I believe it made a vital difference in allowing me to believe in myself a bit, and even if I don’t pass the exam, I at least feel that I did everything I could at that point.”

Two reasons for sharing this. Firstly, it is a great example of what I was trying to explain I wanted this blog to be all about in my last post – this will possibly make it clearer to you! The second aspect relates to confidence. It never ceases to amaze me just how many very capable people need that little bit of support and encouragement to start believing in themselves. And once they do, things just seem to start happening for them …

I was out coaching a person yesterday, and the person I was with also falls into this category. Someone who gets very little praise at work yet who has so many positive qualities. Working very hard, but no one is encouraging her development. Her company is not getting the best out of her. She is not as motivated as she could be.

There is a great site at that has all sort of tools and ideas for so many different development situations. If you think you could benefit from believing in yourself a little more, or if you are just interested in different ideas, have a look at what it has to offer at .