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99 positives and 1 negative …

Years ago, I did a day-long workshop at a national convention in Palm Springs.

For six hours, 350 people were my audience for a leadership and communications training program. The resort was beautiful, the weather amazing and the convention was well planned. This was a prestigious organization, and I was excited for the opportunity.

"My group was energetic and engaged."

They enjoyed the presentation, participated actively in the activities and were a delight to teach. During the breaks and at the end of the day, I was grateful for their positive comments and requests for more information. I left the group pleased with the program and my presentation.

As I do following every presentation, that evening before I went to dinner,

I did my own style of a debrief.

I reviewed the program, made notes for improvement, added comments for future edits, added new ideas and evaluated my personal performance. I remember making a note that I needed to wear more comfortable shoes in the future! This debrief enables me to capture, while still fresh in my mind, anything I want to improve, change, add to or address.

I left for dinner feeling good. I had done good work that day and had a personal sense of accomplishment. At dinner, I ran into participants and enjoyed the conversations and networking.

When I returned to my room, I had an email from the group with my evaluations of the program. I was eager to see the comments! The group used a numeric rating system as well as including a listing of comments. It was a 10-point system, with 10 being the highest rating and one the lowest. Everything from the location, room, timing, content, presentation, opportunities for interaction and value of the information shared were addressed.

First, I went to the numeric ratings. I was ecstatic to see that my ratings on different areas ranged from 9.5 to 10. My overall rating was a 9.9! Wow! How awesome was that! And then, I read the comments. Each comment was identified with an indicator that showed who made the comment. While I did not know who the commenters were, the organization could tell. I could just tell if the comment came from the same person or people.

Apparently, for one of the participants, I must have reminded them of their ex-wife, former mother-in-law or hated school teacher.

This person brutally criticized everything about the session, from the fonts I used in the materials, to the materials themselves, to the examples, to my dress, my way of presenting and even my credibility. I was overwhelmed by the negativity and the intensity of the remarks. I tried to see if I could find any truth in them, because I’m always looking for kernels of information to help me to improve. Frankly, all I could see was anger and hate.

I read all the comments from this participant and ignored the positive comments. It was depressing, and I could feel my former positivity and excitement waning. Divine intervention brought me a call during this period from a very trusted friend and colleague. They picked up on my angst and asked me what was the matter? I got very animated and shared with them the horrible things that had been written.

My dear friend said, OK, what were the ratings? I told them. They asked about the other comments, and I admitted that I had not yet read them. They told me to stop, read them and call them back. I spent the next hour reading and was grateful for the positivity and good comments.

"When I called my friend back, they were not surprised by what I had found. They asked me why I was giving my power to the one naysayer and ignoring the others? Ouch – good point. I got it. I allowed one person to shift my focus and occupy my thoughts. I was almost drawn to the negative and the drama they brought to my work. A powerful lesson."

In life, we all encounter critics. Sometimes they have something powerful to say that can help us adjust or improve. Sometimes they have personal issues that cloud their judgment. Be careful how you view their criticism and keep your perspective.

The overwhelming positive evaluation of my workshop was

almost lost in the comments of a single person!

This experience made a lasting impression on my career, something I will never forget. While I value evaluations and comments, the real evaluation of my work is an inside job for me.

The evaluations and comments are just tools to improve!



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