While working remotely, call people or use a video platform: Take the time, so someone can hear your voice and the kindness in your voice. This allows for others to see how you care and that they understand you’re not critiquing just for the sake of critiquing. You’re taking the time to make sure you understand the message.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Rodrigues.
Nicole Rodrigues is a powerhouse founder of two companies, NRPR Group and the Young Dreamers Foundation, as well as the host of the YouTube show, Beverly Hills Boss, and Author of Beverly Hills Boss the book. She has more than 19+ years of experience in PR, social media and digital marketing. She’s the creator and personality behind "PRactical Guide to Publicity," an award-winning video series aimed at helping CEOs, CMOs and others understand the true benefits of utilizing PR and digital marketing.
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?
I’ve been in PR for over 20 years. My first professional PR job was at an enterprise software company, Portal Software in 2000, until I decided to leave tech, briefly, to pursue a PR role with the Oakland Raiders — which helped me to learn about PR through the lens of a completely different industry. It was then, I was motivated to blend what I learned from both worlds to pursue my love for consumer tech, while helping tech companies be more relatable through clearer, consumer-type messaging. As the future saw entertainment merging with technology in Silicon Valley, in 2005 I left the Raiders to take on PR agency life, working alongside great teams on early tech launches for platforms. With the goal of starting my own agency always in my mind, I leveraged every position I held, as an opportunity to build expertise needed to succeed in the role of CEO. I worked hard, built a solid reputation for being accountable, reliable, and creative, knowing that my reputation would follow and ultimately help me in my future.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
NRPR is focused on true, no-blast, thoughtful relationship-building with the media. Oftentimes, agencies are so focused on clients and getting pitches out that they don’t put much thought or strategy into them. We go the extra mile for the media to make sure it’s one to one and make sure we think about them first and, with client agendas as secondary, for the good of the relationship between them. That’s because the relationship with the media is what will carry in the long term and if they don’t like one idea, that should be OK. We open dialogue for the next by thinking of what they need for their audience. Honest dialogue is the key to relationships and helps our clients get media who will cover them on an ongoing basis to increase volume, reach and get great inbound from how widely spread we make their coverage. We are all about integrated marketing and strategy, so we have digital and traditional marketers on the team. Getting great PR doesn’t stop at the hit. You have to bring content onto the website for other campaigns as well.
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?
When I first started, I was making a lot of mistakes in my writing, which is why I focus so heavily on working with my team to perfect theirs early on. Mine were tiny punctuation mistakes and a need to expand my vocabulary, but it helped me learn very early in my PR career how important writing was. I would get called out on my limited writing vocabulary and was told by one mentor that I used too many of the same words and that I needed to expand my writing skills to make it more fun. After my first three to four years, I started writing better press releases and I took my skills to the next level. I started reading more, trying to perfect my own knowledge on the written word. When I started my career, we got on the phone more, but now, 70% of what we do is over email. That’s why I want to help my team even more with their writing. I’m committed to being there with my team with a second set of eyes.
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Be there, care and watch. Watch the work your team does. I don’t mean watch like a hawk to stay on them, but help them police themselves. People come in eager about wanting to work a lot, but you have your whole career to work those extra hours and eventually that’ll happen. When you work those long hours, you get burnt out and the little things become difficult. As a CEO or leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure the company runs well, and you can’t run a company if it’s broken.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader is someone people are willing to follow. Not just because they have a title, but because people believe that person can guide them toward personal and group success. I’ve had bosses that I didn’t think were great leaders at all, and it’s the worst feeling. They become your leader just because they have a more senior title, but that doesn’t make you want to follow them. That just helped show me what leadership qualities were beneficial to anyone who was following me. I always want to lead by example. No matter what, I’m hardest on myself. I set high expectations for myself so that the team can see I’m not just a CEO who is going to sit back and have everyone else do all the work. I don’t want my team to feel like they are working for me. I want them to think about working toward a goal, and working for the clients. You show up for the good of the group and that’s a leader.
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 have music that I play for the mindset I want to be in. This helps me balance my mood. Sounds and music help focus me and relieve stress. If I want to get amped up and excited, there’s motivational music I’ll use. I was going into a big pitch, and I had Lose Yourself by Eminem playing and we went all out and it turned out great.
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?
Giving honest and direct feedback, the right way, builds trust. You need transparency and trust in order for people to want to follow you. If people don’t believe in you, they will be hesitant to follow you.
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.
Everyone’s idea of too harsh is different. Why? I feel like I have thick skin when it comes to feedback because my parents never held back on honesty when I did something. I always say, if you had strict parents, nothing seems too harsh. If it was the opposite, even the slightest bit of feedback will likely hurt your feelings. I’ve seen it. Here are some suggestions to give great constructive criticism to a remote employee:
- Have Empathy: You have to approach each person as an individual. There’s no one size fits all for feedback, so you have to use emotional intelligence and empathy. Imagine that even though critiquing is for someone’s own good, the last thing that you want is that someone takes it so personal that it stops their productivity.
- Think about where to have these conversations: If others can benefit from the critique, you can have these conversations in front of other people. If not, then have the conversation in private. When I was a Raidertte, if someone made a mistake and others were making the same mistake, we’d be called out on it, so others could learn from it as well.
- Be kind: You’re going to have bad news to deliver, so remember that kindness goes a long way. Make sure that you are using the right kind of tone that exudes kindness. Otherwise, it can lead to people being upset with you. If it comes across as being mean, the advice isn’t constructive for the other person.
- While working remotely, call people or use a video platform: Take the time, so someone can hear your voice and the kindness in your voice. This allows for others to see how you care and that they understand you’re not critiquing just for the sake of critiquing. You’re taking the time to make sure you understand the message.
- Two-way communication: Was there confusion that led to a mistake? You want to let them know their voice is being heard. Being on the phone or on video allows their voice to be heard.
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?
Even if you do start via email, the best way to ensure the message is heard is to follow-up with a phone call. Something that allows them to hear the kindness in your voice and have you hear from them where the root cause of the mistake may have been. A lot can be misread in an email. Your voice helps here. Emails can be clear and concise, but conversation is imperative for making the most of your conversation.
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?
It really depends on the urgency of the need for their understanding. If it’s something that can be handled at the end of the day, great. If they need to know right away, so they don’t keep making the same mistake throughout the day, it should happen at that moment. Each critique is different, so considering how important fixing the mistake is in the moment will determine when to have these conversations.
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. :-)
I’d inspire a movement to force good infrastructure on all companies. This will lead to happier employees, less confusion, more time on your hands and people feeling good about the work they are producing. You’d have less companies failing and more people working. In times like these with the pandemic in full force, this is what keeps a company afloat. It starts with the leadership and I encourage all leaders to look at themselves as people who can improve and how to improve themselves and their organization, so that more jobs can be created and saved.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward” — Rocky Balboa
Life is meant to knock you down and test you, but moving forward and pivoting is how you keep going in life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.