The Inner Critic

In my role both as a facilitator and a coach I lead a lot of debrief sessions, from dialog at the end of breakout / table groups to the discussions when returning from a sales call or presentation; a role play or skill practice or even reviewing a 360 degree or self assessment. And as I've written before the debrief has a fairly simple formula


  • What went well?

  • (what would make it) even better? and

  • what are your / their) next steps?


What I've found consistently over my career is whomever I ask the question of will say a variation on, "I started well (sometimes there is an example thrown in here) but I could have (and several examples of underperformance are included)."


Spotted on a London street the Universe is telling you something

And time and time again I have to pull them back to what they did well. Read that again... pull them back to what they did well. THEN once I have them giving additional things they did well I use the AWE question (And What Else? courtesy of Michael Bungay Stanier) to draw out even more good which builds confidence and willingness to keep trying.


Sad to say, our inner critic undermines what we do well by focusing on where we are still learning / practicing and the language used is negative. Wait, what? our inner critic uses negative language to describe our learning process? Yes. It. Does.


So I ask you, next time you are asked to reflect on a meeting, a training, a conversation or project, (or a meal you just cooked, a song you learned to play, a picture you painted...), take the time to fully explore what you did well, don't worry, there will be plenty of others willing to tell you where you could do better, there's just no need to join them immediately.



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