How To Receive Feedback And Its Importance
Originally published on Forbes
After my recent interactions with several entrepreneurs, I realized that I needed to write an article about the importance of being receptive to feedback. It is just as important to be professional and open when receiving feedback as it is when listening to it, because one without the other leads to a zero-sum game.
I was doing an episode of a show similar to Shark Tank for YouTube, and I had an interesting interaction with one of the entrepreneurs presenting on the show. They had given their pitch, and it was up to the panel of investors to provide feedback on the challenges they might face, and why we would or would not invest in them. The entrepreneur had explicitly asked me not to go easy on the pitch and to give real, insightful feedback on the challenges I thought the company would face. Unfortunately, I did, and I immediately regretted it.
A lot of venture capitalists (VCs) will not offer feedback because they suspect the entrepreneurs may refuse to listen, or that they will lash out defensively and explain why the VCs are wrong. The challenge in a community as small as ours is that if VCs give candid feedback and there is an immediate backlash, they can potentially gain a reputation for not being founder-friendly and therefore, miss out on future deals. Because of this, many VCs choose to abstain from giving feedback at all.
In this instance, I had hoped that my feedback wouldn’t be taken negatively, but rather as a sign of something to watch out for. It wasn’t. The entrepreneur immediately became defensive and lashed out a few times. From my perspective, this encounter reinforced the idea that many entrepreneurs don’t actually want feedback, and scenarios like these negatively impact those who do seek insights.
Gracefully accepting feedback communicates an enormous amount to me. It shows you have higher emotional intelligence (EI) than most and it shows me that you are coachable. EI is paramount for a leader. In one interaction, you can tell me how well you will do when you face true adversity, something I guarantee every startup founder will face.
As an entrepreneur, you know your business better than anyone. Certainly better than a VC or mentor. You are in the trenches every day and have a deeper understanding than I ever could, but if you are asking for my feedback, I would encourage you to listen.
When I talk about listening, I mean absorbing the information, processing it and then deciding if it is useful to you or not. You do not need to accept everything anyone says, nor do you need to act on it, but because others have different experiences and expertise than you, they may suggest something that you haven’t considered.
I am all for being wrong. In all honesty, I hope I am. My mission from the very beginning of jumping into the startup world has been, and always will be, to move the needle on founder failure, and if you can prove me wrong, that is one more person that doesn’t go towards our high rate of failure.
If we can get back to listening to each other and truly hearing the other person, it could be the difference between your startup succeeding and failing.
Lucas is the founder of Spark xyz, platform management software for incubators, accelerators, Angel groups, and VC’s.