A few weeks ago, Andrea and I led a webinar about teaching board members to ask for gifts.
It was a lively workshop. We shared five training exercises and answered lots of questions about board involvement. Overall, it felt like an effective, engaging experience.
Tell us what you really think
As we were wrapping up, someone wrote an unhappy rant in the chat box about how the content was loose, how we had spent too much time swapping stories, and on and on.
Argh! A wave of frustration rolled through me. For a few moments, I felt a sense of failure, because somebody had walked away dissatisfied.
Then I read the evaluations. While at least one person actively disliked our approach, several others complimented us on the informal, conversational style of the webinar. They found it accessible and useful.
We hear criticism differently than praise
Maybe we’re wired to experience criticism more intensely than positive feedback.
However, unless these negative responses are the norm, we need to consider them in a broader context.
Feedback – both positive and negative – helps us appreciate the various learning styles of our participants. As trainers and facilitators, we should proactively embrace different learning styles, while doing our best to deliver useful information and encourage participation.
It happens in fundraising, too
Here’s the fundraising version of this scenario.
Your year-end appeal generates 100 donations and two complaints, yet you experience the complaints more intensely than the contributions.
Then you spend the next staff meeting figuring out how to resolve the two complaints, rather than celebrating the one hundred people who endorsed your work with their financial support.
To be clear, you must listen to your donors and try to meet their needs, even when (especially when) they’re unhappy.
But you also need to understand this baseline fact. As a fundraiser, sooner or later you will annoy somebody. Do your best to minimize the “annoyance factor,” but you can’t reduce it to zero.
Your primary goal is to take good care of the people who support your cause, rather than worry too much about those who choose not to give.
Note to trainers: Less than perfect = awesome!
If you work with groups – as a facilitator, trainer, teacher, board or committee chair, group leader, etc. – your goal is to do the best you can.
Learn new tools. Prepare accordingly. Engage people with different learning styles. Challenge yourself. Try out new stuff. Take risks. Empower the group to work as hard as you do.
When the job is over, encourage feedback. As you review the evaluations, celebrate the compliments. Try to keep the complaints and suggestions in context. Learn what you can from these comments and adapt accordingly.
And remember this: Even when you do your very best work, you won’t make everyone happy. That’s OK.