Tag: leadership

There is almost nothing worse than creating something… or doing something you are proud of and getting no feedback… Wait, I take that back; putting your heart and soul into something and then getting negative or dismissive feedback can be worse.

How many times have you emailed a quote, a design, or photos of something asking for feedback, and then sit staring at your email screen, hitting refresh, waiting to see what they are going to respond with? Hoping against hope that they will give you some feedback, and by feedback you mean validation

For techs, it comes in the form of doing your best work and receiving no recognition or asking your supervisor what they think of your work and they nitpick at a detail.

I had one of my team members walk into my office the other day and ask me if I had a second to look at something on my computer, something he had a part in creating. He said he wanted some feedback on it, but here’s the thing, I know he had everything he needed to make the right decision and my opinion about it actually mattered very little for the success of the project, so I asked him, “Are you looking for feedback or validation?” Jerk move on my part? Maybe.. but he knows me enough to know that I trust him to make the choices that need to be made. I also understand that none of us ever get over that desire for affirmation, but we must learn to hit ‘send’ and close out a task without waiting for others’ approval. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is a HUGE role for feedback in business.

A Time for Feedback   

Feedback is an important part of any project or job, but especially highly creative ones. I’ve had the chance to work briefly with the blockbuster radio show/podcast This American Life. They, like most high produced radio shows, have a rigorous editorial process in which all of the producers sit in a room and give one another feedback on their stories as they are being produced. They call this process an “Edit”, and most of the producers as well as the host of the show, Ira Glass, credit the depth of the storytelling and production to these intense, well structured editorial sessions.

These are all about real feedback and they can be BRUTAL… but the goal is quality radio and everyone puts their ego aside for that result. 

It’s Not What You Think 

Useful feedback is not the haphazard impression of the partially engaged. Truly useful feedback has its roots in structure and process much more than it does in “opinions” or “first impressions”. When we ask someone to give us their feedback we can pretend like it’s just a passing question where we want a simple observation… We don’t. We want a thoughtful answer, we want the attention of the person we are asking, and attention is a hard currency to trade-in. 

Be Intentional 

Feedback requires structure. If you truly want feedback, then create a structure where feedback can actually occur. For creative businesses, have internal feedback sessions where you analyze one another’s work and give thoughtful critiques. If you are seeking feedback from a customer, ask them specific questions, don’t just ask open-endedly for feedback unless you want a vague and open-ended answer. Ask “How do you feel about the texture?” not “Are you happy with the work?”. The more clear you can be about what feedback you are looking to get, the more useful the feedback will be. But there is an issue…

The Hard Pill to Swallow 

Many times I ask for feedback and when I get it, I feel mad, sad, or it makes me want to quit. When that happens you can be pretty sure I didn’t really want feedback, no, I wanted validation. So now when I’m tempted to ask for feedback I stop for a second and ask myself, “Do I really want feedback?” 

If you truly want feedback, GREAT! Now go create a structure so that you actually get it. 

If you want validation, someone to tell you that everything is OK and you’re doing great, that’s OK, too; just take that request to someone who will give you the validation you are looking for. 

Feedback requires structure, validation is best saved for calls to Mom. 

— Bryan




As a leader  it’s healthy to take a step back and see if you’ve become “That Boss,” you know, the one that nobody wants to work for who doesn’t have a shred of self-awareness.


I worked at a large corporation for 5+ years and it was easy to tell which managers valued employees. It was also easy to tell which ones had their ego all wrapped up in their jobs and allowed it to ooze forth every time you were in their presence.


When I started out as an owner, I made a personal resolve to not be “That Boss.”


Lo and behold, that  is easier said than done. After the first few years of doing whatever it took to get our business rocking, we came into a season where I was out in the field less. We had hired more people, and I was able to focus more on specific aspects of the business, without being constantly connected to every petty detail. Naturally, I was able to distance myself and tune into the more “macro” vision of the company.

This was a good thing, but it was startling to see how quickly I saw glimpses of my old bosses playing out in how I treated my employees. Here are 4 areas that can easily go sour when you are disconnected from your employees.


#1 – The Nasty, Knee-Jerk Emailer 


Hate mail, threatening emails, and complaints are never a fun reality of doing business.
A tendency we may have as a leader is to immediately react towards which team member was involved in this negative experience for a customer. Upon receiving it I may want to forward the email to all employees so that they can see that somebody isn’t doing their job right.  Who is to blame?


Instead, take some time to figure out the specific complaint/situation. After doing some tracking, you may be able to be more specific in which team member was involved. Then pull them aside and point out what you appreciate about the action they took with a (sometimes very unstable or irrational) customer, and point out your thoughts on another viable option of handling it.


It now becomes a learning experience instead of a bash fest.


#2 – Blame Passer


Often because we’re the name behind the company, when others make real mistakes and cause our company to look bad, we are the ones who get blamed.  I may want to immediately pass the blame to somebody else: A co-owner, a team member, the government, etc. Here’s the thing. You have to take responsibility for error or perceived error in your business. Value others and realize that being a leader means owning responsibility and allowing room for human error. Swallow your pride and move on, striving to be better.


#3- The Prima Donna 


Don’t become too fancy for menial tasks. If you’ve come to a point that you’ve hired help to take on jobs that have given you freedom to focus in other areas, great. But don’t be too high and mighty to do the Yeoman’s work. Be willing to dive in now and then with the others and show that you are not above their work. You appreciate what they do. Sometimes there may be a temporary need to answer phones, run a service call, etc. Fill the need.


It’s amazing how much more respect I’ll get when I get back out into the field and work alongside a tech. I also like seeing that I can still relate to the tasks that really are what make up much of the business.


#4 – The “Back in My Day” Reminiscer 


If I am in a meeting with the team on Fridays and they start to throw in a complaint or hardship, I immediately want to bring up the past and all the sacrifices I made, and how if they think it’s hard now, they should’ve been around in the day when I was in their shoes.

Here’s the thing. They don’t really care about what you went through. You don’t need to compare. You can listen if you want, but again, if it’s just an emotional response to something not ideal, it’s really not an issue and you can let it go. Eventually they, too, will have to let it go. Don’t always be on the defense.


remember how powerful an encouraging word is. When you get a positive review, share the report with your team! I remember how great it was when a boss gave me genuine praise for a job well done. It inspired me to strive even more to be that guy. By valuing others, you will naturally gain respect and will be less likely to be “That Boss.”


As should be our goal in leadership: “Create other leaders by having a heart for others”

— Bryan

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