How to Harness the Power of TNT

Positive Learning from Negative Feedback

Leaders in all sizes and types of organizations often face negative feedback and criticism – and many have problems dealing with it.

Maybe it’s time to blow criticism away with “TNT”.

Recently I was reading HBR.org and came across a great article by John Butman entitled “The Benefits of Negative Feedback.”

I recently gave a lunchtime “author’s talk” at Children’s Hospital in Boston and, although I thought the talk went well, somebody in the audience didn’t like it at all. On the evaluation form, the person in question wrote a single word in the comment box: CONFUSING.

Thank you, whoever you are. While everybody else gave me good marks and said nice things, which I appreciated, my critic forced me into self-examination. Was he the only one forthright enough to speak up, or was he the only one not paying enough attention to get it? What was confusing? The ideas? The presentation?

His thoughtful suggestions contained in the article on dealing with negative feedback reminded me of a simple but powerful tool that I use whenever I receive criticism.

It’s called TNT, and I learned it over twenty years ago from Sue Mallory, a training instructor for the Leadership Network. I’ve been using it in every shape and form since then.

Are you ready?

The Next Time.

That’s right – once something has been said or done, you can’t do anything about it – for good or bad! Why should you beat yourself up and let it drag you down?

But you can learn from it and apply that learning to The Next Time the situation presents itself.

Here’s a great example: A presentation I gave at a national conference in Dallas TX. I was no stranger to the conference – I’ve been speaking at it for over ten years. The topic was not new to me even though it was the first time I had presented it in its current form. I had prepared adequately – or at least I thought.

As it turns out, I had mistakenly assumed that the attendees of this year’s conference attending my session would be the same as in prior years, and I neglected to gauge the makeup of the audience before I launched into the presentation.

Over half of the session’s attendees were from a technical background, when I had expected most of them to be from a church ministry staff background. The presentation was only 5 minutes old before the quizzical looks and a few responses to my questions made me realize a mid-course correction was required!

Fortunately, I have a background (albeit several decades ago) in the technical production aspect of church ministry, and I was able to shift on the fly to orient the presentation more in that direction. The formal evaluations I received backed up the comments from several attendees following the session, indicating the midstream switch was a success.

Looking back, I could have avoided the situation by noting what other sessions were being offered at the same time (and thus gauging potential attendance) as well as taking a quick audience poll to see who was present (to adjust the presentation at the beginning).

But it happened, and I couldn’t change a thing.

There’s always The Next Time.

What about in your leadership position? How will you use the power of TNT in evaluating an event or lesson or sermon that got some negative feedback in order to provide a positive launching point for improvement in the future?

Don’t let the negatives get you down – instead, blow them away with TNT.

Have You Watched Your “Game” Film Lately?

Working an an article for VisionRoom.com about the power of TNT (it’s probably not what you think), I was reminded of this post from a couple of years ago. Since we’re in the middle of football season this time of year, I thought it would be appropriate to bring it back again.

There are a few scenes in the movie “Remember the Titans” in which “game film” plays a critical role: the school’s math teacher breaks down an opponent’s plays; one coach’s daughter loves watching game film with her dad while the other coach’s daughter thinks it’s silly; by the final game the reluctant daughter has come around and joins her new friend watching the team’s film every week.

It’s a great film with lots of leadership lessons – one of which is the importance of leaders watching their own “game film.

Seeing the movie reminded me of a great article by Dan and Chip Heath (authors of Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive). Published in Fast Company magazine, it’s entitled “Watch the Game Film.” You really need to check out the whole article, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Football coaches use game film to spot things they’d never see in real time. They have an entire week to review a 60-minute game.
  • In the business world, every day is game day, and leaders don’t take the time to “study the film” of their activities. It’s unfortunate, because studying game film can yield unexpected results.
  • Doug Lemov, a consultant to school districts, utilized film of top-tier teachers in the classroom to train other teachers – resulting in raising students a grade level and a half in one year.
  • It doesn’t have to be film – Jump Associates, a strategy consulting firm, uses trained observers to record client meetings. After the meeting, the Jump staff holds a debriefing, modeled on the Army’s after-action reviews.

What insights might your team be overlooking because no one is observing carefully enough?

Maybe it’s time to press the PAUSE button and start screening some game film. There are some things you’ll never see unless you look.