sketchnote feedback

It’s hard enough for many of us to summon the nerve to provide someone with constructive feedback. Ideally we’ve done some work preparing for the conversation: we’ve thought about a way to convey that we mean well from the start, we’ve identified the specific behavior in question (rather than focusing on someone’s personality), we can use data to evidence observation of said behavior and we know how to articulate our expectation for that person moving forward.

Therefore it’s particularly difficult when, despite our best laid plans, we encounter resistance, blame or outright denial that there is a problem. Below are some ways to effectively respond to specific types of defensiveness. However, the overall general formula for responding is three-fold:

  • Listen to the person’s objections thoroughly without arguing against them. If necessary, convey that you understand their point-of-view by restating the essence of their position or perception.
  • Validate and empathize with the emotions that accompany their position in order to diffuse the tension. Agree if they raise a legitimate point and reaffirm that you’re not interested in blame – rather you are just trying to find an effective way forward.
  • Redirect by restating the expectation and ask if they are willing to help you reach a solution. (Note: Do everything possible to avoid saying the word “but” between your validation and your redirection. It comes across as undoing the validation you just provided. Instead segue with the word “and.”)

Sometimes you may need to repeat these three steps as new objections are raised. However, it’s important to respond to each new point in a similar fashion.

Here are some common types of defensive responses you may encounter and some potential ways to reply:

Scenario: Two or more people in the office are not getting along or experiencing a breakdown in communication. When addressing the situation one-on-one with one of the individuals they put the bulk (or all) of the blame on the other person.

Response: It sounds like you think I’m taking sides or putting all the blame on you for the situation. I can see why it feels that way – after all you and I are the only ones here. I want to be clear that I’m not putting this all on you. And, at the same time, I think that in any communication breakdown or disagreement some responsibility lies on both sides. What I’d like is to discuss ways to improve communication moving forward. Can you help me with that?

Scenario: That person responds by saying it’s more the other person’s fault.

Response: Perhaps. We could probably talk all day about what percentage each person is responsible. I’d rather focus our time and energy on a solution rather than blame. How about you?

Scenario: That person says their behavior isn’t a big deal or that you or someone else is just being “too sensitive.”

Response: I understand that you didn’t mean any harm and why the same thing might not bother you. At the same time, everyone has different sensitivities regarding different things. There might be something that bothers you that doesn’t bother someone else. In either situation it’s important to try to adapt to the other person’s preferences since it’s essential to creating a respectful and effective workplace. Given that, would you be willing to try a different approach with so-and-so?

Granted, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard not to follow someone down the rabbit hole of blame, deflection and other tangents. Yet, if we can remember to genuinely listen, validate, and redirect back to the underlying issue we’re more likely to have a productive conversation.

Cascade Employers Association provides varying training on giving feedback, conflict resolution and supervision skills.



View of Buchanan Cellers Mill in 1954

Housed in one of McMinnville’s oldest industrial/commercial buildings, and with tangible reminders of the City’s agricultural beginnings, this Cascade member provides a shopping experience that sets you back in time. Did you know…

  1. In 1977, Jerry Legard purchased Valley Feed and Supply on the north end of McMinnville, Oregon. Just a couple of years later, the McDaniel Grain Company sold its retail and feed business to Jerry. He decided to combine the two businesses, keeping the name Valley Feed and Supply and operating out of the historic Buchanan Cellers Mill building. It was in 2007 that the business decided to rebrand its operation from Valley Feed and Supply to the current Buchanan Cellers name, keeping with the historic feel and ties to the local community.
  2. In the beginning, Jerry would personally drive the company truck each morning to pick up animal feed in downtown Portland, making it back to McMinnville in time to open up the store for business. The retail store eventually evolved from a focus on commercial accounts (primarily local dairies) to a store serving the needs of pet owners, wild bird enthusiasts and hobby farmers.
  3. The distribution side of the business has grown from using a 4,500 square foot warehouse with one small delivery vehicle to their current 72,000 square foot distribution warehouse on over six acres, utilizing eight tractor trailers and a 26’ box truck. The distribution warehouse also houses a mineral blending operation where the company produces a number of products under their Equi-Lux, Nutri-Lux and Beaver brands. Jerry has been instrumental in developing a wide range of products for livestock and pets that has led to a dramatic increase in sales over the decades.
  4. While Jerry remains active in the business, his son Jay now serves as the General Manager for the family business. Jay is a perfect match for the role, after all he grew up working at the store and earned an accounting degree from Oregon State University.
  5. In 2012, after years of hard work by Margaret Legard, Jerry’s wife, the Buchanan Cellers Mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the five-story downtown shop offers more than 8,000 square feet of retail space in addition to its warehouse.

Cascade is proud to feature this member, where customers can meander past historic relics of an old feed mill on wood plank floors under huge fir beams hewn from logs salvaged from the Tillamook Burn as they shop for livestock feed, pet food, wild bird food, seed, fertilizer, garden supplies and more.




Mindful Inquiry is a tool used by therapists, teachers, and empathetic leaders alike. It is the art of using questions to gain additional information without judgement. I argue it is a tool that needs to make its way into not-for-profit and corporate cultures.

As leaders we tend to lead from a place declaration using imperatives or exclamation. How might your company’s culture change if you made a shift to using Mindful Inquiry more often?

While the declarative (“I think you should do this”), the imperative (“Do this”) and even the exclamatory (“Do this now!”) all get a fair amount of play (hopefully with “please” peppered in), not enough leaders are asking enough questions. Surely, all interrogatory sentences are not equal. Although leading questions (“Don’t you think I’m right?”) and rhetorical questions (“What do you think I am, an idiot?”) are technically interrogatives, they will not advance your leadership competency.

Behold the humble question. I define it as being genuinely solicitous of another’s perspective, and requires relinquishing both ego and control. For example, the interrogatory “What do you think?” may suggest you don’t know. The answer you receive may undermine your plan or approach, and therefore your control over the situation. However, a wise person knows that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Asking questions gives you additional perspectives. Additional perspectives help ensure an informed decision, approach or direction. If someone feels that their perspective is respected, it is more likely you will obtain buy-in even if you are not in total agreement. And if you have buy-in you’re less likely to have subtle (or not-so-subtle) attempts to undermine your decision down the road.

Questioning why we don’t ask more questions is itself an interrogatory that would benefit most leaders. From where does this reluctance stem? A distaste for conflict? Fear of appearing ill-informed? Concerns about relinquishing control? Afraid you won’t like the answer? All are worthy of exploration and will serve as valuable leadership development lessons. Besides, there are better ways to address these concerns than pretending they don’t exist and avoiding questions entirely.

Some might consider using questions as a leadership tool to be prosaic, others profound. But they make employees happy. They make clients happy. Want to be a better leader? Ask more questions!

See below for questions based from Mindful Inquiry practices:

“What I heard you say was…”
“Tell me more about what you meant by…”
“How can I support you with…”

Find out more about everyday applications of Mindful Inquiry in our Effective Meeting Facilitation training.



Cascade Employers Association is pleased to present key findings from the 2019 Nonprofit Pay and Benefits Survey report. Cascade’s Nonprofit Pay and Benefits survey is comprised of over 250 job descriptions and 100 benefit-related questions. This survey provides in-depth market pay and benefit data stemming from nonprofit organizations throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Data for this survey was collected between March and May of 2019, with 171 nonprofit organizations participating. Key findings include:

1. Participation Remaining Steady

From 2018 to 2019, participation counts have remained steady, with only a 5 +/- difference in number of organizations participating and number of reportable jobs. This result should make data from 2018 and 2019 more comparable, allowing for a better analysis of trends and patterns.

2. Geographic Location and Total Employment Count Shift Participant Distribution

The number of participating organizations from the Mid-Willamette area has remained steady at 47% in 2019; however, we see a shift away from Portland Metro to the Surrounding Area. Portland Metro’s participation rate has dropped in 2019 from 41% to 35%, while the Surrounding Area rose from 12% to 18%.

This shows a greater participation rate from Southern and Eastern Oregon, which begins to even out the geographic cuts from the overwhelming domination of the Portland Metro and Mid-Willamette in the 2017 report.

3. Top Three Reported Positions

Nonprofit Survey Illustration 1

4. Decline in Group Health Insurance?

In 2017, 92% of employers offered group health insurance. However, that percentage has dropped to 88% now in 2019. While a large majority still provide group health insurance, it is interesting to see this trending downwards, and makes it a benefit to watch in the coming years.

5. Health Insurance Offerings to Domestic Partners Rising

Health insurance offerings to domestic partners has been on the rise. In 2017, 69% of companies offered health insurance to same sex domestic partners, and 62% offered health insurance to opposite sex domestic partners. These percentages have been on a rise since, and in 2019 are at 79% and 73% respectively.

6. Changes in Employer Contribution to Health Insurance Options

2019 has seen Employer Contribution to Traditional/Indemnity/Fee for Service Plans rise to 99%, up from 93% in 2018. We have also seen a rise in the number of organizations that offer Health Maintenance (HMO) insurance options from 24% in 2017 to 31% in 2019. However, the Employer Contribution to HMO plans has decreased through the years, from 93% in 2017, 88% in 2018, to 83% in 2019.

Nonprofit Survey Illustration 2

Finally, we’d like to extend a big “Thank You” to our partners and sponsors for this survey.

2019 Nonprofit Pay and Benefits Survey Partners & Sponsors:

CSNW Benefits Logo   Health Net Logo   Jones and Roth Logo

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