Pagan Leadership: Community Building, Facilitation, and Personal Growth

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Facilitating an Effective Feedback Session: Part 1


I recently wrote two articles on how to give--and how to receive and work with--feedback, particularly as a ritualist but also in general as a Pagan group leader. I mentioned feedback sessions and a few folks asked me what's a good way to run one of these. It's a good question, because getting useful feedback is difficult, and the details are often in how you facilitate the session.

So technically, you  might consider this series of articles part of the larger Feedback series; I'll post links to the whole series at the bottom as I go along.

Feedback Methods

In previous posts, I've talked about "unscheduled" feedback. That is to say, you get an email from someone, or someone stops you during or after an event, to tell you what they think is wrong with what you did. Or, someone FB messages you and tells you about a blog post written about you/an event you did.

What we'll talk about here is planned feedback via running a feedback session.

I'm aware of some feedback methods where no one is allowed to offer negative/constructive feedback unless they also offer up a solution. The intention there is to reduce the nitpicking that often happens at Pagan events. Or armchair quarterbacking of rituals. I can see where people are going with that method, but it's not one I use, largely because there's often a big difference between identifying the problem and coming up with the solution.

Problem and Solution

The solution needs to be the right solution. Often, folks will offer up a solution but it's not the correct solution. Or more specifically, it's not the solution to the right problem. It's much like when doctors treat the symptom, not the disease. You need to be able to understand the difference between a solution suggestion, and a problem statement.

Here's an example. I was at a feedback session where we were talking about what didn't go so well at our ritual. One person said, "We really need to disable that doorbell. That sound is so annoying, and I was so worried that a latecomer would ring it right during ritual!"

Someone else says, "Did we have a sign up?"

"Yeah, we totally did. We had a sign right on the door that told people to just come in, to not ring the bell."

Let's pause a moment. The solution being offered is to disable the doorbell. Nobody has articulated a clear problem. The problem is: the doorbell is being rung which 1. is loud and annoying, and 2. could interrupt the ritual.

Now, what's also important is context. In some feedback sessions, people will start throwing out solutions and fixes that treat the symptoms, as it were. At this particular event, there are a few other factors that are important to note, but would get buried if we spent 20 minutes talking about how to fix the doorbell.

  • The venue has crappy parking
  • The venue's not located in a convenient location for most of our organizers
  • The venue's not located in a location that many of our attendees feel comfortable attending
  • The venue smells horribly of cigarette smoke and pot
  • We have to arrive early to clean the kitchen of the venue, which is always a disgusting wreck
  • The venue has an odd shape which makes it not ideal for ritual but we've worked with it
  • The venue is not accessible
  • And a host of other issues

So...the problem isn't the doorbell, it's the venue. This is why I recommend a feedback method that focuses first on identifying the problems and categorizing them, and only then talking about solutions to those problems once the problems have been clarified and we can focus in on the most pressing problems.

I've seen groups spend a half hour of a 2-hour feedback session grinding on a minor problem (like the doorbell) when there are larger, more pressing problems, and we don't even get to those until the last 10 minutes, and then everyone is saying they can't stay late, they have to get going, and then those problems sit unresolved.

Next post: The Three-Round Feedback method. We'll look at a feedback session with three rounds; What Went Well, What Didn't Go So Well, and Solutions Brainstorming.

Feedback Series:
Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback Part 1
Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback Part 2

Facilitating an Effective Feedback Session Part 2
Facilitating an Effective Feedback Session Part 3


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An artist, author, ritualist, presenter, and spiritual seeker, Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of ritual, community leadership, and personal growth. She is the author of The Leader Within, Ritual Facilitation, and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path. She’s a columnist on ritual techniques for Circle Magazine, and her writing also appears in several anthologies. She’s also the author of several fantasy and paranormal romance novels. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces. Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.  


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