Damon Nailer of Kitril: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful
You always start off with commendation before recommendations or condemnation. This softens the blow a little bit. Before correcting somebody, I always start off with praise by saying, Good job, Great work, I love your effort or something to that effect.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Damon Nailer.
Mr. Nailer has become known as a Renaissance Man, Inspirational Communicator, Gift Guru, and Authority/Expert who is able to provide direction, inspiration, and education to any audience because of his wealth of knowledge in the following areas: educational, entrepreneurial/business, religious, entertainment, relationships, leadership, and parenting. As a result of his tremendous accomplishments and expertise, he has been featured hundreds of times in various media outlets, including The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Thrive Global, Goalcast, Redbook, MSN, Yahoo, Medium, podcasts, radio/TV shows, magazines, and newspapers.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My professional journey has been quite a unique and fascinating one. It all started with me initially serving as an elementary educator. I taught for 7 years and then transitioned into entrepreneurship, namely motivational speaking, writing, and music production. I was doing this for a while until things kind of came to a standstill. At this point, I pivoted and started a janitorial business, which I owned for 12 years. Finally, I moved into my current roles of parent educator, consultant/coach, and leadership trainer.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What truly makes my company stand out is the fact that I wear so many hats, which enables me to complete most of the tasks by myself. Of course, I have a team of individuals who help me in various ways. But I can do the bulk of the work by myself. Here are two examples. For my latest musical project, I did the producing, recording, mixing, mastering, and graphic designing. For my latest book, I did the writing, formatting, editing, and graphic designing. As a result, many classify me as a one-man record label and a one-man publishing company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting story of my professional career occurred about a year ago. My current organization hired a consultant firm to conduct what’s called Cultural Intuitiveness training. One of the main components of the process involved the selection of what was called achieved leaders. Of course, when these individuals were chosen, I was not present. And as you may have guessed, my team chose me to be the achieved leader to represent our group. Boy, I was upset. Eventually, the team came down to facilitate the training, and I reluctantly attended. Although I was apprehensive at first, I decided I would keep an open mind and give it a chance. I am so glad I did. The sessions were great. I learned a lot, but most importantly, I impressed the owner of the firm. A few months later, he contacted me to see if I would be interested in joining his team to do some coaching/consulting. I said yes, and the rest is history. I have been working as an independent contractor with the company, and it has been nothing short of amazing. Looking back over it all, I am so thankful that my coworkers nominated me to be the achieved leader because had that not happened, I more than likely would have missed out on a fabulous business opportunity.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when first starting out in business was attempting to create a partnership twice. My first partnership was in the form of a record label. Things went well for a while, and then, they took a turn for the worst. My second partnership I formed was for a janitorial service. Everything was perfect, and I was really beginning to feel that I had made the best decision in the world. Suddenly, things went seriously awry. This time, the effects were not just limited to the business, but it spilled over into my personal life as well. What I learned from both experiences is that I am not built for partnerships. I can collaborate with others, but I must maintain my autonomy and independence.
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Make sure to show appreciation to your employees by listening to their feedback, praising their efforts, granting them rewards/incentives, and maintaining a fair, equitable workload.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership with one word- servanthood. It’s all about working the most and the hardest. The leader should be the individual who shows up early and leaves late. Nobody in the company should outwork the boss.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I typically say a prayer and meditate to calm my nerves and reach a place of clarity. I also practice deep breathing to relax myself before I begin a meeting/conversation or make a major decision. One of the most critical decisions of my life was when I decided to leave the teaching profession to pursue entrepreneurship. Before I shared it with my spouse, I made sure to pray, meditate, and feel absolutely at peace before approaching her to discuss the matter. Once I arrived at a place of serenity, I informed her of my decision, and she responded in a very loving, supportive manner.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?
As a former elementary educator and a current CEO, author, and coach/consultant, I have lots of experience with having to correct people in tactful ways. In addition, I am a parent, so I must constantly incorporate this concept when providing feedback and constructive criticism to my children. At the end of the day, it’s all about encouraging individuals to do better and make improvements, not humiliating or demoralizing them.
This might seem intuitive, but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?
- People respect your opinion- As a leader, your word carries weight. What you say affects people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. If individuals aren’t delivering satisfactory results, then it must be addressed.
- A person can’t correct what you don’t check- In many cases, employees are not aware when they are doing something wrong or inappropriate. However, once the issue is addressed or brought to their attention, they can correct it, but if they don’t know, then ignorance is bliss.
- As the leader, you are ultimately responsible for the performance and results of those under your supervision- The buck stops with the leader. If things go well, the leader receives kudos. If things go awry, the leader faces criticism. Since this is the case, it is his/her responsibility to make sure everyone is rendering their best efforts and consistently performing at a high level.
One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.
- You always start off with commendation before recommendations or condemnation. This softens the blow a little bit. Before correcting somebody, I always start off with praise by saying, Good job, Great work, I love your effort or something to that effect.
- Avoid being aggravated or upset when preparing to give honest feedback. Believe it or not, I counsel leaders to actually take an adult timeout before giving feedback or constructive criticism. This allows you some time to settle down and gain control of your emotions. Before addressing any type of mistake, I take a deep breath and empathize with the person before proceeding to correct them.
- Focus on the project, tasks, or activity instead of the individual. When you make this distinction, it oftentimes comes off better and is readily received. If you focus on the person, this is what typically results in barriers and animosity being formed within the heart of the individual. I always point out the acts/behavior. I’ll say You forgot to do…, You should have tried…, or ask What motivated you to do it that way?
- Make it clear to the person that what you are about to say is not personal but professional. Although most people have trouble separating the two, you want to emphasize that point. I normally reassure the person that I care for him/her, and I am only looking out for his/her good before offering my feedback.
- Most importantly, it’s critical to connect with a person before you attempt to correct the person. Having a bond/relationship will enable him/her to trust that what you are saying is true and that you have his/her best interest at heart. I always form a personal bond/connection with every individual I manage or lead. As a result, they normally receive my feedback/critiques.
Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.
How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh? 1. You must read your response in an objective manner several times before sending it. 2. You can ask a trusted person to read your email and ask the person, “How does this sound to you?” “Does this sound mean or harsh?”. 3. You can include a smiley face somewhere in your email to lighten it up a bit.
In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?
The timing for providing a critique is based upon the severity of the situation, infraction, or action. If it’s something that can damage the company or the person, you must do it immediately. If it’s something minor, you can wait and do it at a time when you and the employee are not all in your feelings. In many cases, you can arrange performance review times where you can issue constructive criticism in a positive, beneficial manner.
How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?
A great boss is sacrificial, highly visible, patient, and diligent. Sacrificial- A great boss is sacrificial in that he/she gives his/her all, and in many cases, places the employees’ needs before his/her own. These individuals are considerate of how their decisions and actions will affect the lives of the employees. They will try to ensure that the changes in policies/procedures are fair and just for everyone. Highly Visible- Being out front in the open is the best place a great boss should be. Behind closed doors or miles away trying to manage and control people proves to be ineffective. Oftentimes, it causes employees to lose respect and become resentful because they feel as though the leader doesn’t value the work, or he/she considers it beneath him/her. Patience- Patience is a key characteristic of a great boss. A synonym of patience is long suffering, which means this person is equipped for suffering long. When managing people, a boss will more than likely witness the flaws and mistakes of their subordinates. Because of this, he/she must possess the ability to overlook and accept these shortcomings and errors. Diligence- The ability to work smart/hard is imperative for a boss. This will make the company efficient as well as effective. When bosses are unorganized and undisciplined, they overwork their employees and make tons of blunders. When bosses are slothful, they avoid work and put everything off on everyone else. And to add insult to injury, because they delegate every task, which makes them not have anything to do, they become idle and very judgmental of everyone else’s efforts. That’s why a great boss must be organized and good with planning, but also great at being hands on with the execution of the plan.
Personally, I have experienced many bosses. However, the one who truly exemplified the previously mentioned characteristics (sacrificial, highly visible, patient, and diligent) was my principal at Lexington Elementary, Mrs. Lynn Hodge. She was always considerate and transparent with her staff, she was constantly visible, she was very patient and gracious because she gave individuals ample opportunities to fix their mistakes or make improvements, and most of all, she worked hard. She seldom took days off, and when she wasn’t present at our school, she was somewhere else in the district, assisting other principals with discipline strategies and other school related policies.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Reach Back and Push Forward- Everyone who is successful would be responsible for searching their families and communities to determine who they could teach, mentor, and invest in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Have the mind of a leader but the heart of a follower.” This quote has helped me to think, reason as a leader while maintaining humility and compassion when interacting with followers. Many leaders lose touch with people and become apathetic. This statement above always keeps things in perspective for me. No matter how successful and prosperous God enables me to become, I must never detach myself and lack empathy for others.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
www.livinglovingleading.net, www.facebook.com/damon.nailer, www.instagram.com/damon.nailer, www.twitter.com/daril1
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.