Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Listen to the Feedback

Written by: on September 16, 2022

“I would like feedback more often. In fact, I like it, at the end of staff meeting, when you go around to each person and ask us the most important thing we have to do this week.” That was feedback I recently received while going an evaluation for a new employee. I was more clued in to what this employee was saying after reading, The Culture Map. This employee was communicating to me that she desired even more low-context communication. Further, when asked for feedback on my leadership of the team, this employee offered that it would be beneficial to assign each person a role when we take on a new project. 

I found this particularly interesting, not because this person was from a different culture, but because this person is from a different generation. This employee is categorized as “Gen Z” (those born between 1996 to 2012) and happens to be the youngest member of the team. The remaining members are all Millennials (born between 1981-1995). This caused me to consider how communication challenges might extend across generational lines. To compound the generational nuances of communication, is that this team works for a church in which the congregation is primarily of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964). The communication challenges were starting to make sense when viewed from a generational lens.

Coupled with the generational challenges are regional examples of low-contest and high-context. I previously served a large church in an affluent area of Dallas. I was coach on multiple occasions to be less direct with my communication with staff and church members. Instead, I should, “tell it slant” or, perhaps, let them “read the air” a bit to catch my meaning. In other words, it would be less confrontational for me to adjust my communication. I now serve a church in a small town in a rural context and recently observed how forward and direct people were. People “tell it like it is” and seems to mistrust those who are less direct. I attribute this communication pattern to the fact that there are an overlying amount of people who have lived in the community for generations. Even within this low-context environment is a degree of high-context communication because people have been communicating for decades.

This perspective helped me to understand to friction points within my church – conflict among generations and new people in town. There is an aggravating degree of mistrust of people who are new to the community and a perspective that younger people need “to wait their turn.” While I think this is a myopic view of our community, I believe I appreciate that this is not a case of right-and-wrong but of different cultures colliding with one another. 

The only through these choppy waters is to listen to each other. That is what I can do and invite other people to do as well. Like my employee who communicated that more and frequent feedback would be helpful, I can listen to those around me for what they are truly communicating. 

About the Author


Chad McSwain

3 responses to “Listen to the Feedback”

  1. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Hi Chad, Thanks for your blog post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on how the ideas of the Culture Map can also apply to generations and to different parts of a country. That is so interesting that your young teammate wanted increased low-context communication. It’s also interesting that there is a mistrust of newer people to the community. I wonder if and how the current communication patterns of your new community, which you noticed were fairly high context, contribute to this mistrust.

    It will be interesting to follow you in your new role over the next couple years. Does your DLGP project for our 895 class apply to your current work with your current congregation? I look forward to meeting you in South Africa and to learning more about your work.

  2. Kristy Newport says:

    Hello Chad,
    It was great to see you tonight at dinner.
    It can be tricky business knowing how to communicate given the person you are trying to communicate with. I am curious how the communication from your new employee was for you to receive? Did this feedback come across too direct for you or did you appreciate this candid approach? It seemed like you welcomed the feedback that was given to you but hearing what employees expect can also feel like something to add to the “to do” list.

    It is good for us to be challenged to think in terms of low context or high context communication but new layers are revealed considering generational differences, urban/rural differences, and those who are new to a community, to those who have been in a community a long time. I found it interesting that you were coached to be less direct or confrontational while in an urban area but people have appreciated a direct approach in the rural area that you live now.

    Instead of getting bogged down with all the considerations in which context to consider while communicating, listening and receiving feedback were apart of your concluding remarks. “Inviting others to do this as well,” promotes a culture of listening. Listening is a great investment in those we communicate with. I know that you and your congregation will see fruit from the time and intention given to listening.
    My prayer for you and your congregation-
    Romans 15:5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  3. Hi Chad, I enjoyed blog on listening to others. I have found myself impatient in the past, especially when I have a pressing matter at hand. I think you did a very good job communicating your point on the importance of listening no matter how choppy the waters get. Keep up the great work.

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