As An Entrepreneur, How Do You Respond To Feedback?

Photo Credit Goes To Arabian Ethicals.

So question. As an entrepreneur, how do you respond to feedback?

“What’s the number one thing you look for in someone who can scale with a company?” Someone asked Sheryl Sandberg the question as she visited Airbnb to share the lessons she learned from being at Facebook and Google.

Sandberg’s reply:

“Someone who takes feedback well. Because people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

Why We Should Embrace Feedback

Sometimes, it’s great to listen to ideas other than yours.

Nobody’s right all the time. Feedback can help us grow; unfortunately, emotions often prevent us from taking advantage of negative feedback. According to HBR’s article on giving and receiving feedback, you should be mentally in the right place to receive feedback. For example, a tendency is to ask for advice when one’s real goal is to gain validation or praise. Let’s face it, we all like to hear people compliments.

If you ask for feedback, but get offended when they are being honest, then you should go back and re-examine your emotions. You were looking for people to savage your ego, not guidance on how to improve yourself. When you are ready to receive feedback and open minded about what the other person has to say, THEN you should ask.

I remember in school, I hated when I asked for feedback in my organizations, and many people did not want to be honest. I wasn’t asking them to say nice things to stroke my ego. I was asking to improve. Yet they would tell other people what I needed to do to get better. I heard after my run for president all the feedback I ever wanted to hear. But in front of me, I couldn’t get them to give me feedback and their reasons behind it.

One time, I did make a mistake and I did have someone tell me right away what the mistake was. I actually appreciated that. Because other times when I asked, I received “uh” and “duh” responses. This might work for a caveman game, but not for making me better.

This example? Another VP said some semesters I was good, others not so much. When I pressed to ask why those semesters were not good, she said “uh.” She couldn’t even say how it was bad and how it was better.

I asked outsiders why this was and I was told that I was intimidating. I’m 5'4, weigh close to 100 pounds and I’m intimidating? If anyone can explain in the comment section why some won’t give you honest feedback even when you ask for honest truth, I’ll be a happy camper.

Today, it’s not a problem. I have honest business partners that will just tell me what’s on their mind. No I don’t get mad if they don’t like something. Why? Because my business relationships are based on trust. Their constructive feedback comes from a great place, it’s not meant to be hurtful. I know the difference between constructive feedback and insults.

For example. A CGT professor said my work sucked. When I asked him why it sucked and what ways I could make it better, he had no explanation.

If he would have said “Hey Alesha, I didn’t like colors, they stand out, but not in a good way. Why don’t you choose colors that’s easy on the eyes, and compliment each other. Or hey, there’s a aspect to your coding that is not processing. Why not go back into the tags to see what’s going on?

I would have taken the feedback seriously. Since he said it sucked, I took it as a insult instead. I told the department head about it, and offered a suggestion: if they want students to respond better to feedback and embrace what they are saying, stop telling students they suck. I would have taken the advice the way it was intended (to help me) if it was delivered with good intentions, and action steps on how to make it better. After that I didn’t think too much about it.

To make it clear. No one should be trying to insult you or personally attack you. Everyone deserves to be praised for something. But only if it’s real. If it’s not genuine or sincere, don’t do it! Don’t lie to people. I’ve seen that way too many times.

Let me give you another example.

During a Circle of Lights audition in 2015, there was a singer that did not sing that well. The audience said it, and the look on the judges faces said it all. After she stopped singing, for a whole moment, there was that awkward silence (the kind of silence that screamed that someone’s presentation/performance did not go well). I can’t believe the judges collectively clapped for this girl like she put on a show-stopping Beyonce performance. As this was happening, other people looked at each other around the room like “Are you f*cking kidding me?”

There were singers there that did not get a single clap that sung way better.

The judges were trying to be nice, but by being nice, they missed the opportunity to make critiques, or maybe suggest that singing is not her strongest point (and help this person find what she is strong in.

I’m not saying be mean. But what I’m staying is don’t be fake or dishonest.

I absolutely hated when peers in organizations were not honest with me and avoided telling me ways that I could improve. I made a promise to be honest, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. My friends will know if I like a dress. They will know if I don’t like a dress. Yes there’s exceptions (like if someone give you a gift and you don’t like it, don’t be a meanie about that! It’s the thought that counts. Or if a sick kid paints you a picture, and they draw stick figures of what they did from the previous day, and you expect a Pissaro looking piece of work and say this sucks. Don’t be a d*uchbag and use common sense.)

Justin Bariso says a way to give feedback is to compliment and give constructive criticism at the same time.

Have you taken constructive criticism personally? Or are you open minded?

  • If someone is trying to give you feedback to make you better, most people do have good intentions (and are not mean like my professors, I promise). It’s great to look at things from a different perspective by putting your feelings aside.
  • Feedback sometimes is not delivered the way it should be. If you have to, ask the person to give you specific examples. Use the feedback to help you improve. You can get angry and let emotion get the best of you. Or, you can put your feelings aside and try to learn from the situation.
  • Don’t you hate it when you try to tell someone something, and they make up excuses or blame other people? For some people, it’s always the other person’s fault. We can’t control other people, but we can work on ourselves. Refusing to tackle issues head on won’t make it go away. The first step in improving any weakness: Acknowledge the issue.
  • When receiving unexpected feedback, your first thought might be: Is it really that big of a deal? Why are they saying something like that? It might be? Who knows? When we accept constructive criticism, apply it, and move forward, not only do we benefit — but others benefit from our example.
  • When someone has the strength to tell you that something of yours didn’t go well, don’t spend time justifying why it wasn’t the best. Ask what didn’t work and stay opened minded to what they are telling you. If they can’t give you a reason, ask others if they thought of it the same way. There are times when you did well and someone wants to rain on your parade. Recognize the difference.
  • Look for the good: Everyone deserves to be praised for something. Nobody’s perfect; we might not like what we are being told. We might even try to look for ways to criticize the person who is criticizing us. But if you work at controlling yourself and your emotions, every scenario becomes a chance to get better.

Here’s a great video I came across!

Hello! I’m Alesha! I’m a musician, actress, entrepreneur and writer and recent hospital patient (I still can’t believe that is real). Follow on Twitter. If you like what I’m writing, give me a heart and share! :) I like hearts. Let me know what you want me to write! Click here!

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