Tag Archives: Team

Feedback is a gift…except when it isn’t

I’m sure many of you have heard the old aphorism that, “Feedback is a gift.”

There’s a lot of truth to this.

But, like most things, there’s more to the story.

I hear many stories of CEOs, and others, who may not always present feedback as a gift, and may even “weaponize” it when it suits their purposes.

Have you ever done any of these?

  • Rather than being forthright about the precarious future employment of a team member, you give them feedback that is skewed and unbalanced to the negative side in hopes they will leave the organization without you having to orchestrate a detailed, dignified, and gracious exit.
  • You hear some feedback from other team members about a particular leader. You are having some challenges with this leader. In a moment of annoyance, you share the team’s feedback with this leader in an unfiltered, unprocessed, and unrefined manner in order to make a point, win an argument, or shut down the conversation.
  • YOU received some feedback from your new CFO that YOU are taking on some work that really should not be your focus. She tells you this in an offhanded way without much tack or diplomacy. You shoot back with some off-the-cuff feedback about their weaknesses as a CFO. This “retaliatory feedback” made you feel good in the moment, but time makes you regret your actions.
  • Your CMO just isn’t aligning with and committing to the new goals and strategy. Despite gathering feedback and input for the goals, he still disagrees with your approach to the new year. Even though every one is on board, he expresses sarcastic discontent and limiting comments about the new goals and strategies during a recent team meeting. You have had enough and lob a specific, cutting, and equally sarcastic but inappropriately personal “feedback grenade” back at him in the meeting. He shuts down and the mood of the meeting drastically changes.

If you have ever found yourself in these or similar scenarios, you may want to think twice about your approach to feedback.

Feedback is often more effective when:

  • It is handled with care and concern
  • It is rooted in a genuine desire to help and serve
  • It is thoughtful and well prepared
  • It is proactive rather than reactive
  • It is delivered in private rather than in public

I think many of us have faltered on this when we were not at our best.

The question I think we have to ask ourselves as a Founder & CEO is: Are we truly intending the feedback as a gift, or are we using it as a “weapon”?

What do you think?

Do you need to redefine your “Why Well”?

Over the weekend, I had a long conversation with a Founding CEO who is going through what many of us Startup CEOs know all too well – “the struggle.”

Many define “the struggle” differently during different phases of growing a startup. The truth is it can be different for each person – and it frequently is. In fact, the trite and tidy infographics that float around the internet describing the “phases” of growth for a startup never really fully capture the non-linear experience of a Startup CEO.

The Founder & CEO I spoke with has a lot going for her. She has a product and service that customers pay for. Check. She has customers willing to pay a subscription for an ongoing relationship. Check. She has a relatively low amount of debt. Check. And, she has retained a large portion of the company’s equity. Check.

So, what’s the problem? She has been at it for about four years and has not been able to grow it fast enough to build a team and scale more quickly.

What’s the barrier? Her customers want her to make a tweak to the software that costs a large amount of money that she does not current have.

After working through the scenario with her and coming up with some courses of action, it came down to her. Her will. Her will to continue. Her desire to keep at it. Her underlying motivations to get to the next level.

We’ve all been there. Right?

It’s pretty common for well meaning mentors, advisors, VCs, and former founders to tell her to “remind yourself why you started.”

I am not against this advice. It’s just that I think we need to leave a bit more room for the changes that occur to us along the way. Our original motivators for launching our startup may morph, deepen, and possibly even recede.

Therefore, revisiting your “Why Well” is super important. I would like to remind you that it’s ok to recognize that your “original why” may need to be redefined. And, that’s just fine…maybe even critical.

It was clear to me that the Startup CEO I spoke with this past weekend became animated, excited, and more committed when we reframed her “new why” in a way that was timely and more relevant to her life and business. She was refueled.

Do you need to redefine the elements of your “Why Well?”

Rogue Two: A Startup Story

I watched Rogue One for the second time this past weekend. I do enjoy Star Wars movies like the rest of you, but I only went a second time because my son was invited by his friend to watch it again.

It’s funny how watching a new movie a second time allows you to see things differently, catch things you did not notice the first time, and generally appreciate scenes from a different vantage point.

One of my observations about Rogue One was the seemingly unending series of obstacles that continued to pop up while Jyn and Cassian tried valiantly to complete their mission.

I suppose this is typical for action/adventure movies. There just seemed to be a higher number than usual. In fact, it made me think about the proliferation of obstacles that we encounter as Founder & CEOs.

You know what I mean, right?

  • Your CTO decides to move to San Jose.
  • A few large clients get spooked by an article in TechCrunch and decide to go elsewhere, blowing a gaping hole in your Monthly Recurring Revenue.
  • Your website gets hacked.
  • Your company credit card is shut down due to fraud.
  • etc.

Rather than being the Founder & CEO, you often assume the role as Chief Obstacle Remover.

But, are they really obstacles? Or, are they opportunities to celebrate?

You don’t see Jyn and Cassian stopping to celebrate each victory over another obstacle in Rogue One. That’s probably unrealistic.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to do so. If your startup is still in business, then I have no doubt you have plenty of obstacles to celebrate.

Celebrating the victories over even the smallest of obstacles helps knit your team together in ways that many other activities can not. You just need to be purposeful and intentional about it.

It requires “team reflection.” And, team reflection is just as important as the individual CEO reflection that ought to be part of your learning rhythm.

A great article on the impact of reflection on performance is: “Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance.”

In this piece the authors “argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.”

The same applies to your team, too.

When you celebrate these small victories, it helps the team slow down, process, and reflect on what went right…something we rarely do. We’re conditioned to react to what went wrong.

My recommendation is, take the time twice a month to celebrate the overcoming of obstacles and have your team members share their stories.

You are likely to find out what is “working right,” rather than what is not working.

This not only brings the team closer together, but also focuses on one of the most over-looked insights to fast-growth team success.

Rogue One was great. “Rogue Two” was even better because I appreciated the obstacles they overcame even more. Do the same for your startup and watch your people thrive.

What works for your team?

158 — Andrea Vidler

Podcast Summary:

Andrea (“Drea”) and her team inspire me. I have personally traveled the world and fully appreciate when I am able to authentically connect with the people of the region I am visiting. Drea’s emphasis on authentic experiences rather than simply bus “drive by gazing,” is a refreshing approach to a travel industry that is increasingly dominated by familiar experiences.

As she has built LocalAdventura, she has also experienced her own personal growth. In this interview she gets personal about:

  • Why her favorite quote is from Margaret Mead
  • How overcoming overthinking and over-planning helped her grow the company
  • How using experiments and taking more risks were key to growing the company
  • Why she invites other founders to speak with her team
  • What happens when she sponsors team experiment competitions

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