55 Chapters
Medium 9781609947101

16 Reporting on Blind Spots: The Gifts of Feedback and Feedforward

Bell, Chip R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The Gifts of Feedback and Feedforward

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.

Franklin P. Jones

Ken Blanchard is credited with labeling the word “feedback” as the “breakfast of champions.” Ken was giving us more than a clever sound bite by borrowing from the tagline from the familiar Wheaties® cereal ad. When you dissect the word into its parts—“feed” and “back”—you get the intended connotation of feedback as a tool for nurturing wisdom. Think of it as learning fuel. And given that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the symbolism is far more significant than calling it the “supper of champions.”

How do you give feedback intended to fuel growth? Start by recognizing that, while giving advice can surface resistance, giving feedback can stir up resentment. Advice is about expanding the scope of knowledge; feedback is about filling a blind spot. We’ll illustrate with a true-life experience.

In the late sixties, Chip served in Vietnam as an army infantry unit commander with the 82nd Airborne. Attached to his combat unit was an artillery officer who worked as the forward observer (FO) for the artillery unit that supported field operations in the rear area. This FO essentially served as the eyes for the gunner pulling the lanyard on the artillery piece. As rounds were fired several miles out, the FO observed their impact and, using a field radio, called back corrections to improve the accuracy of the next artillery shot.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609947101

13 “Give-and-Take” Starts with “Give”: Distinguished Dialogues

Bell, Chip R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Distinguished Dialogues

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you.… It doesn’t happen all at once, you become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Dialogue is defined as an “interchange of ideas, especially when open and frank, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony.” Effective dialogue—with emphasis on “di,” meaning “two”—requires a level playing field, equality, and give-and-take. These dynamics raise dialogue from a simple question-and-answer session to a rich, creative interaction that is more than the sum of its parts. Dialogues are distinguished when they foster becoming real.

Recall the conversations you have most valued in your life. What elements made the dialogue positive and productive? You can probably identify several. First, each player valued the view of the other, even if the views were different. The give-and-take was one in which both parties could give undivided attention and keep the dialogue focused. Finally, the outcome was that learning occurred, issues were resolved, or understanding was reached. These three components—valuing, give-and-take, and closure—will form the basis of our look at dialogue in the mentoring relationship.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576750438

STEP TWO: AUDITIONING: Picking Great Partners

Bell, Chip R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers PDF

Do You Have the Capacity to Be a Great Partner?

Answer these questions candidly and thoughtfully. Your aim is to audition yourself to get a clear and honest understanding of the talent you bring to the dance.

What is your passion? Why are you really dancing this dance?

Recall a relationship that brought you joy and fulfillment. What assets did you bring to that relationship? What did people brag about?

If participants in the relationships of your life were to write your epitaph, and their goal was to capture the essence of the gifts and strengths you contribute to important relationships, what might they say?

When you are a part of a work team, how do you typically contribute, participate, or engage in it?

What are the positive adjectives your close friends would use to describe you?

Then the stage manager called for

“places” for the prom number. It was her big scene!

They began okay. But their routine quickly deteriorated. His stride was way too short, his turns much too slow. He seemed to be dancing a fast waltz, not the frenzied shuffle the number required. He was winded after two minutes . . . and there were still four to go. He almost dropped her during a vigorous spin, just as the director salvaged some of her self-respect by screaming, “Stop!”

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609947101

Tool #4: More Reading on Mentoring

Bell, Chip R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We are often asked to suggest helpful books on mentoring. Below are ten recommendations.


Ensher, Ellen A., and Susan E. Murphy. Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Protégés Get the Most Out of Their Relationships. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005.

Goldsmith, Marshall, Beverly Kaye, and Ken Shelton, eds. Learn Like a Leader: Today’s Top Leaders Share Their Learning Journeys. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2010.

Huang, Chungliang A. Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

Johnson, W. Brad, and Charles R. Ridley. The Elements of Mentoring. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Kaye, Beverly, and Julie Winkle Giulioni. Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2012.

Maxwell, John C. Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

Murray, Margo. Beyond the Myths and Magic of Mentoring: How To Facilitate a Successful Mentoring Process. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781609947101

12 The Ear of an Ally: The Lost Art of Listening

Bell, Chip R. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The Lost Art of Listening

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

Karl A. Menninger


Take a close look at the photo on this page. It happens to be Chip’s youngest granddaughter, Cassie. But she could be your son, daughter, grandchild, or someone special to you. Now imagine you are in a quiet, undistracted conversation with your “Cassie.” If we could secretly eavesdrop on that dialogue, what would be its features?

You would likely be noticeably gentle—softly gauging your cadence and comportment in a fashion that conveys warmth and acceptance. You would likely be completely nonjudgmental and valuing in your style, manner, and attitude. Your interest would be telegraphed through sincere eye hugs, total openness, and complete authenticity. You would care more about cultivating inclusiveness than making an impression, more about fostering trust than winning a point. You would be intensely curious and loudly affirming no matter the elegance of what you heard.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters