Appreciating knowledge and feedback from all givers

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Why do some people seem to value praise from Laurels and Maunches more than the rest of the populace who don’t have these recognitions?”

A reply from the Minister:

Receiving praise is a wonderful thing. I expect that most of us appreciate someone saying a thoughtful word to us about our efforts. It’s nice to have someone recognize our work and abilities. It feels good.

Now, lets say that praise is coming from someone who you admire or respect. Like a mentor or a teacher. That might feel even better.

Or, perhaps that praise is coming from someone who is a member of an Order to which you aspire. You might have a goal of becoming a member of the Orders of the Laurel or of the Maunche yourself. Then that might feel really great. It then might feel like someone is telling you are on the right track to achieving your goals.

I can’t fault people for feeling good about any of that. Those seem like reasonable and natural responses to me.

Here is where I would caution people.

It would not be beneficial for individuals to dismiss or ignore people who are not members of those Orders.

Focusing only on hearing from people who are members of the Orders to which you aspire means you are missing out on building relationships and learning opportunities. You’re missing opportunities to grow.

You could also risk developing a reputation that you’re less interested in mastery of your skills and knowledge, teaching others, and promoting the arts and sciences as a whole. Even if it is not your intention, you could risk people believing that you’re trying to reach your goals instead through sucking up to Order members.

Making new relationships is good. Building partnerships is laudable. It is worth not risking alienating people who can help you develop by solely focusing on members of these Orders.

Remember.

Every instance of praise is a learning opportunity.

Not everyone who is a Laurel is an expert in the skill you are attempting. Not every expert in the skill you are attempting is Laurel. Be open to hearing from everyone and you give yourself more opportunity to mature as an artisan.

Now, let me add here to the original question. I know we are not only talking about praise.

I have heard people ask similar questions about why artisans seem to only value constructive feedback given by members of the Orders. Or that there are artisans who will only take classes or attend workshops by members of the Orders. If those people do exist then they are missing more opportunities to learn and grow. We have lots of individuals who are capable in their own right to teach classes or provide constructive criticism without being members of the Orders.

My suggestion?

Treat everyone with respect. If someone is taking the time to give you praise (or even feedback) then listen to them. And, thank them.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Unpacking hard feelings about A&S competitions

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“My friend is really upset after entering an A&S competition. They are very angry and are saying they will never enter an A&S activity again. What can I do to help?”

A reply from the Minister:

First off, thank you for offering to help. It is hard to see our friends get upset or angry or sad or frustrated. So we want to help where we can. That’s commendable.

Second, A&S competitions are not for everyone. And really many kinds of A&S activities are not for everyone. Please do not try and convince someone to do something that’s not right for them. They may be best served never participating in an A&S competition again. And, that’s okay. There are lots of ways to enjoy A&S. Let your friend have fun the way that brings them joy.

Now.

If we think about it, many of us have probably experienced this situation ourselves. Right? So it may help to answer this as if we were in the same situation ourselves. What would we do? How could we be a good example? Can we then coach people into the same steps?

Me? I would start with a self-assessment.

Why am I upset? What am I angry about? What’s got me frustrated? Start there. If you can put words to feelings then you can start to take action.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Did you read the rules one way? And then they were implemented another way? Or maybe even changed on you as the competition was happening? Then that’s a problem with how the competition was run. You can talk to the organizer or the A&S Office about that.

Did you get a judge that gave you difficult feedback? You can talk to them. Or talk to the organizers. Or talk to the A&S Office.

Did you not like having your entry judged? That’s okay. You don’t need to enter competitions. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with how the judging works. Maybe it is just not right for you. Try a display or artisans row or something else instead.

Did you show up late and not get the time you expected to show off your entry? That’s not on the activity then. That means you need to arrive in time to get all the feedback you’re hoping to receive.

Did you want to make a deliberate display of expertise or knowledge (i.e. “show off”) to some judges or senior A&S community members? Judges are there to give you feedback and help run a competition. They are typically not signing up for a class. While judges do hope to learn you may want to sign up to teach a class instead.

Did you expect to win? But then you didn’t? Wanting to win is good. Ensuring a win is outside your control. Be reasonable to yourself and reset your expectations. Never walk in expecting you have it in the bag. Try to win, sure, but also go in looking to learn.

Did you expect a different score than you received? You can talk to the organizer or the A&S Office about that. You may need to have your entry rescored.

Those are just a few examples.

Basically.

Figure out why you’re upset. See what you can do to fix it.

Talk to your judge. Or the event organizer. Or the A&S officer. Or a friend.

The A&S Officer could be your Local A&S Officer, or the Regional Officer, or you can even come to me as the Kingdom A&S Officer. We want to see things working out and people happy.

Not sure of who to talk to? Ask for help.

Not sure if you are in the right place? Check.

Get a second opinion and see if there is something else you can do to fix the experience.

Here’s something I suggest not doing:

Going on social media sites to complain. It may feel good to vent. It may feel good to have some affirmation from your social network. You’re also not respecting the people who volunteered to run the activity or be your judge or try their best. Go to them first and give them a chance. Venting online doesn’t actually help you or them.

Here’s what I would like:

I’d like to see entrants and judges working well together. That means constructive criticism and active listening going on between people showing respect and valuing each other.

That’s a reputation we can support throughout our organization.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Visibility for service folks

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“You write about how artists can display their works or enter competitions. And I know the fighters can enter tourneys and fight in battles. What can service minded people do to share what they’re working on?”

A reply from the Minister:

That’s a fair question. Does it seem odd for me to answer as the Kingdom A&S Minister? I think not.

Why? Because I am very interested in the East Kingdom teaching more and learning more. I think there is much we can learn from how artisans work in sharing their experiences and then do very similar things with people who are focused on service.

A note before I begin.

This isn’t about showing off. This isn’t about sucking up. This isn’t about gunning for an award.

True. These things below can help your renown. You may have increased visibility and impact within the Kingdom. It can make it easier for people to recommend you for recognition.

But that’s not the point. That’s a side affect.

Now, back to the question.

Basically much of what I’ll suggest comes down to documentation. And, if there is anything we know about in this office, it is documentation.

Think about your process. Thing about what you’ve done. Think about what you’ve learned. Document it. Then share that with other people.

What do I mean of documentation?

Here are some examples:

  • Event Stewards: Hold a post-mortem. Talk about what worked well. Talk about what could be improved. Take notes. Write them up! Share them with the group to make the next event better. Share them with other groups so that they can learn from you too.
  • Registration: Did you figure out a great way to run gate (troll)? Did you write up an excel spreadsheet that was good for tracking for pre-registration? Did you come up with a process that made things move quickly and efficiently? Write them up! Share your spreadsheets and forms with others. Offer your work to others so that they don’t have to repeat it.
  • Leadership Roles: Were you able to plan well in advance? Have a timeline that you worked on with people? Were you organizing through web tools or other project management teams? Talk to others about these tools and help them learn how to use them too.
  • Team Lead: Promote the team members you worked with and highlight their skills. Recommend them to others. Give them word fame.
  • Local Officer: Share your reports with your local groups. Publish in the newsletter. Share them on social media or on your local website. Let everyone know what’s going on in your group and how everyone is participating. It doesn’t have to just go to your Seneschal and up line officer. You can share things with everyone.
  • Landed Nobles: Share with people what it’s like to lead a local group. How is leadership different than what you expected. Offer to help other newer Landed Nobles in their jobs. Type up a handbook or guidebook on how you did the job and share it with your successors or with other Landed Nobles.
  • Royal Staff: How are you running things? Write it down. You’re in a job that changes every six months. And it is different from Reign to Reign. But some things are worth keeping and continuing. Share it with the next reign. Share it with other people on the Royal Staff.
  • All Volunteers: Did you have a job description? Did you know what you were volunteering for? Then write a job description up. Is your job different than what you expected? Then write that up too. Figure out what you’re actually doing in your job. And figure out what you’re doing that you think is above and beyond. Write that down too.

You get the idea. There are so many ways this could be done. From people running tourneys or battles to people working on voice heraldry to people working in the kitchen.

No job is to “obvious.” No job is too “behind-the-scenes.” No person is too “visible.” No person is too “remote.”

We have a lot of hard-working, talented, and smart people in the East. We are rich with opportunity to learn from each other.

How could you share it?

Here are some examples:

  • Update your East Kingdom Wiki page: Share some of this information there. You can write up some of your “best practices” for others to read.
  • Keep a blog: Write up short (or long) posts about what you are learning. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
  • Engage in Social Media: Start a conversation about what’s worked for you in your job. Ask others about how it might work for them. Ask them what they would do differently.
  • Publish: Write a handout. Write a handbook. Write a set up guidelines. Whatever the thing is type it up into a document so that others can learn from you.
  • Engage in Print: Write up articles for your local newsletter, or for the East Kingdom Gazette, or for SCA websites.
  • In-Person Discussions: Teach a class. Lead a round table. Set up a session. Run a consultation table. Whatever the thing your doing meet with people in person and talk to them about what you’re working on.

Again, these are just examples. And, again, no job is too big or too little to talk about. We can all learn from each other.

It’s up to you to share. This isn’t something only for people who are peers. This isn’t something only or members of well-known households. This isn’t something only for people living in highly populated areas.

We’re all making the East run. We can all be a part of teaching and learning.

Those of us in the far reaches make it happen. Thos of us who can’t travel make it happen. Those of us engaged more behind-the-scenes make it happen.

Your work is not something you need to be embarrassed about. You are allowed to feel good about your hard work. Share it. You have people that want to hear from you.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Complimenting work without adding pressure

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

I get asked, “Why aren’t you a Laurel yet?”
I know they mean well, but, at the same time it is frustrating. How should I handle questions like these?

A reply from the Minister:

We’ve probably all heard something like this at one time or another. We may have even asked it to other people ourselves.

Variations of this question include “If you lived in another Kingdom you’d already be a Laurel” and “Oh, I thought you were already a Laurel.” There’s a number of ways this can come up.

And, it could really be asked of a person about any kind of recognition.

So, there are two people here. And, I’d like to write to both of them. First, the person who gets asked this kind of question. Second, the person who asks these kinds of questions.

I remember getting asked these questions too and getting told these things. It *was* frustrating. I agree!

I didn’t have any control over the award system. There wasn’t an easy to follow checklist to know what I was missing. There wasn’t a list of people that I needed to convince to support me for elevation.

And these things are not changing. There will not be checklists or the like. They can get more transparent. And that’s what is happening. I know I figured things out more by talking to more people and having lots of discussions and learning.

But, back then, how was I supposed to know?

I knew they meant well. They were giving me a compliment. They thought that I was ready for recognition. That was nice!

It was also a reminding me that I hadn’t achieved my goal. Sometimes it felt like I was failing. Or that I wasn’t passing some test. In some ways it felt like a backhanded complement. On one hand they were telling me that I was deserving and on the other hand they were reminding me that I wasn’t. Like I said. Frustrating!

It sounds like a simple question. Yet, it is a complicated and difficult answer.

So, how would I reply?

Honestly and tactfully. That wasn’t always easy to do. And sometimes I was better at it than others.

I found a good reply to be “Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Other replies could be:

  • “I’m on the path and looking forward to when it happens.”
  • “I’m still learning. There is more work I want to do in my field.”
  • “I’m getting to know the community and the job of being a peer.
  • “I’m not interested in being a peer. I know it is a job and my focus is other places.”
  • “I don’t know why so I’m still figuring that out myself.”

All of these things could work. And more. As long as you reply with positivity, honestly address to your circumstances, and stay tactful you’ll be fine.

Remember. They’re likely giving you a compliment. Be nice in return.

Now, to the people who feel tempted to ask these kinds of questions?

You likely really want to give your friend a compliment. So, do just that! Help them avoid the confusion and frustration and awkward reply. Don’t put them on the spot!

Here are some good examples of things to say:

  • “You’ve got a lot of talent!”
  • “You arts are beautiful! You have a great eye!”
  • “I’m totally impressed with your skill!”
  • “You’ve really improved over time.”
  • “I am so excited to see what you’ll be doing next!”

Basically? Say something with honesty. Make your complement with meaning.

You can stop there. Nicely done!

Remember? You just wanted to help your friend feel good.

So, stick with that complement.

Separately, you may want to *also* encourage your friend working towards a certain recognition. Why? Because receiving recognition can be fun and rewarding too. Accepting the responsibilities of peerage or another recognition can *also* be fun. You may want to help them with that.

To do that? Make it a conversation.

Learn more about that recognition. Talk to people holding that recognition already and ask them about their experiences. Share with your friend what you’ve learned and ask if you can help them along their path. Be a partner with them on their journey.

And, remember, you can also write them in for award recognition. Maybe that’s all that is missing!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.