After the 11-mile trip down the Tieton, we debriefed with the CLC youth over a potluck meal. As the conversation went back and forth with these self-assured youth, they offered a number of lessons they have learned rafting the river.
The one most often heard is the power of feedback. In the natural world, they remind us, feedback is constant and impersonal. The river doesn’t care about you, one way or another. If you fall in the river, you get to deal with it. And in part because these youth, with the wise guidance of their elders, have become not only competent in their technical skills and knowledge but also in their teaming or togetherness, they get to hold themselves accountable. And, with the river (and mountains and oceans) as a metaphor and a model, they can give each other feedback that is constant and impersonal.
What’s the lesson for us in our organizational worlds, indoors and shielded from the clear feedback from our environment? Here are three questions to consider:
What does continual and impersonal feedback look like? It can be about task, process, attitude or intention. It should be guided by standards or norms that are known to the participants, just as they are known for the outdoors: the water is wet, it is cold; the wind and sun and humidity are all knowns.
How do you give and receive it? Start with kindness and compassion. Move to standards and expectations. Identify what the vision is, what the goals are. Have a discussion about what the perceptions are, what the theories of action are that accompany one’s approach. Get connected and stay connected.
How do you manage the emotional reactivity that arises for oneself and others when feedback of any kind is given? Recognizing the reaction is a start, so that you don’t lapse into an unconscious pattern state. Dealing with the emotions as they arise is next: keeping attention on what is happening. Identifying action choices in the moment completes the cycle.
Feedback: giving and receiving. A key to success.