Fearless Feedback: The White Flag®

White-Flag

In a previous blog I identified the three barriers preventing effective feedback namely confusion between feedback and criticism, the fear of making things worse, and not knowing how to deliver feedback to ensure it is positively accepted.

What if there was a way to provide feedback clearly and safely so it is welcomed? What if there was a tool to eliminate the fear for both the giver and receiver? That tool is called the White Flag®.

One of my very first clients was a very tall woman who often received complaints claiming she intimidated others. She did not have a “mean bone” in her. She had an assertive manner which could often be interpreted by others as harsh and intimidating.

Although I was able to share powerful techniques and she demonstrated a desire to change her communication she would fall back on bad habits. She would forget to make the changes and I could not always be there to remind her to use the new techniques. I needed to find her help in the moment.

She had a few highly trusted and trusting employees who loved working with her. If I could somehow get them to help remind her when she fell back on bad habits perhaps it would help her make the changes we were all looking her to make.

I was watching the movie the Patriot starring Mel Gibson. His men had been captured by the British and he was on his way to negotiate with General Charles Cornwallis to release them. He was carrying a large white flag. He was safe from attack. He had information Cornwallis wanted to hear.

The white flag is an international sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation. It is also often associated with surrender, since it is often the weaker military party which requests negotiation. A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. The American Red Cross has a similar symbol to protect neutral parties help the wounded in a war or a disaster.

If I could get the trusted employees to use the White Flag® in the moment they could help her make the desired changes. She had good intentions. She wanted to manager good performance in her department. She was not using the right methods and needed help. The White Flag® tool is important to provide safety for both the giver and the receiver of feedback.

The White Flag® is about learning and not about attacking. The White Flag® initiates a valuable discussion about process and method. It optimizes learning about method while minimizing or eliminating the possibility for criticism.

My client was able to hear the feedback from her trusted employees exactly when she needed it. She was able to make the changes needed to her method of communication. She stopped being threatening and intimidating.

How does the White Flag work? What is the technique? The next blog will clarify. Stay tuned.

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