Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Leveraging External Feedback

In a recent conversation with a dear friend, I was telling him about a current volunteer effort.

I will be helping my local Toastmasters chapter move from an older curriculum (Legacy) to a new, online-based curriculum (Pathways – the “engine” is Cornerstone OnDemand).

Our chapter has a number of veteran Toastmasters who are working on projects within the older curriculum. Many are suspicious of online learning, some of the subject-matter changes made to the curriculum, and computers in general.

I need to move them over to the online-based curriculum by June 30, 2020.

At the core, this project is a paper-to-computer transition.

My friend’s chuckling response – “Yup, sounds like something you would say ‘yes’ to. Classic Wendy project.”

I couldn’t tell whether his tone was filled with admiration or recognition of my insanity.

I haven’t had to do a paper-to-computer transition in 10 years. This was the bread-and-butter of my early career as I moved recalcitrant doctors over to electronic medical records.

I suspect I won’t need to do another one of these things again.

And, unlike the EHR/EMR experience, there is already a crew of respected veteran Toastmasters in my District who have already moved over to the new curriculum and are informally serving as champions.

Furthermore, I’m at a point in my career where I don’t need to prove myself in this arena. I’ve done this many times before.

The stakes are also lower. I don’t have the usual pressure to inflict this change on others. This entire endeavor is volunteer and I don’t have a “boss.” My fellow Toastmasters will ultimately do what is right for them. If they want my help, great. I’m there for them.

I will also admit, my friend’s admiration of my insanity gave me some pause.

What does his reaction say about me and where I am at internally?


I learn a lot about myself when I reflect on how people interact with me.

  • How is my inner state reflected by their response to my words and actions?
  • How am I responding to others?
  • What is being asked of me? Is it a reflection of what I am bringing to the table?
  • What do I find myself saying “yes” to and why?
  • What are people saying to me and about me? Is it accurate?

It helps that I’ve become more skilled at determining whether someone is accurately reflecting, tippy-toeing around me (information by itself), or being a jerk.

Part of that skill is a result of 10+ years of guided navel-gazing and learning how to evaluate where my head is at before and during conversations with others.

I know that I am much more likely to see someone as being a jerk if I am already going into the engagement angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed.

I also know that I am more likely to take negative feedback (true or not) to heart if I am sad, insecure, or uncertain.

After some reflection, I realized that both my chapter’s request that I take on this project AND my friend’s admiration for my insanity reflect the skills and experiences that I have gained over the years.

My friend is right. This is a “Classic Wendy Project.”

And my goal is to prove my fellow Toastmasters right in selecting me for this task.

Wish me luck.

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