What about when the feedback feels personal to you as the founder?
Yeah, it will almost always feel personal. That's the first thing, because it's your business. You started it. You know, you own and operate it. You made the decision that got you into whatever the complaint or feedback is about. So, it's almost always gonna feel personal, which is when you have to have the discretion and maturity to take a step back and take a look at it and go, hey, is this valid feedback?
And don’t be so stuck in your ways that you just say, ‘This is the way I am, and this is the way the company is. And if you don't like it, don't work here.’ With that attitude, you're gonna lose top talent, and you're not gonna attract more top talent. You're not gonna grow your people. You're just gonna grow a bunch of followers, not a bunch of new leaders.
How do you become objective enough to assess the feedback in a way that's actually going to work for everybody?
You're hitting on a sensitive point. We’ve got everything from the narcissist and the insecure leader who's just going to immediately fall apart as soon as they see the feedback, to the person who will see it and tell everybody to piss off.
So, if you're unclear on how to act on it, you should sit down and talk to the individual. Or if it’s them that comes up with several people, understand that it is the reality, and talk with the group. Have a real, raw conversation where you're willing to accept feedback. Now, this does not become a tit-for-tat; you deliver your own feedback on the person or group at a different time.
What experiences taught you this is how you should do it?
I've just learned that the more I talk and the less I listen, the less happy everybody around me is. So, I found that by asking better questions, by being open-minded, I learn what makes people tick, what makes them comfortable, what puts 'em in a position to do their best work.
I understand that not everybody needs to be led the same. Not everybody works the same. Not everybody comes from the same place, has the same background, wants the same things out of life and work. So, if I try to paint with one broad brush, then I'm gonna fail and the team’s gonna fail.
How often do you solicit feedback from your team?
Team leaders do monthly one-to-one conversations with every teammate, asking: What can I do to remove obstacles from your way? What can I do to put you in a better situation to succeed? How happy are you in your role right now? We're looking to do more of that electronically as well, as we develop our custom app so people can also give more frequent, anonymous feedback.
Have you ever had feedback that you didn't want to accept?
Yeah, most of it [laughs]. But seriously, I think it's less about having feedback that you don't want to accept and more about understanding that you haven't clearly articulated something that you thought you had, or you hadn't clearly communicated the vision for the organization and why things are happening the way they are.
With most feedback, it is easy to get defensive. In our last survey, I was seeing terms like “drinking from a fire hose” and “we want you to notice how busy we are at this time of year.” Whereas sometimes my mindset is like, “Look, this is the busy season. Put on your big boys’ and girls’ pants, we're gonna ride.”
That mindset is not how everybody wants to be led, obviously. And I'm pretty sensitive to that, or I thought I was. In my desire to instill reality, I had overlooked some feelings in the process.
Since you can’t change the busy season, did you just change the way you talked about things?
That’s exactly it. People just wanted to feel seen for their efforts. Even though they knew it was what was expected, they knew it was what was gonna happen, they still just had to hear, “Hey, thank you and great job, this is appreciated. And we know the busy season is hard.” It didn't need to go much further than that.