Feedback (positive + negative!) from your Team is vital to your success – and you know this! You rely on your team to serve your clients, to reach your goals, to grow your company.

But, if you want QUALITY feedback from the people you’re paying…

You have to ask for it, over and over again – in an environment that’s safe, supportive, and receptive.

You have to genuinely represent a culture of open, direct communication (not just talk about it), because…

“If you can’t give and receive feedback yourself, how can you expect your team to do it?”

This is something I’m constantly working to improve.

My latest epiphany is around HOW to best ask for feedback in a way that invites real, honest answers.

So in this episode my #1 takeaway from Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, PLUS…

  • Why the way you ask for feedback really matters
  • How I’m training my team to constantly consider, “How can we do this better?”
  • What this means for your personal relationships, too…

Listen in to this 15-minute episode, check out Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and share your own takeaways over on Instagram (tag @emilyhirsh so I can follow along!)

And while you’re at it – grab a copy of my new book, Ignite Your Impact! You’ll learn how to radically connect with your audience, focus your marketing spend, and generate amazing leads… all for $8.99!

Listen to episode 157, “Why being more specific in your communication matters,” for more about how to be specific in your communication with your team (and everyone else).

Key Points:
[2:55] You have to REPRESENT a culture of open, direct communication (not just talk about it)
[5:17] “How can you expect your team to give and receive feedback… if you can’t?”
[7:00] But, here’s the important part… there’s a SPECIFIC way to ask questions!
[9:30] I never would have gotten this feedback without asking this question
[11:34] I’m training my team to constantly think, “How can we do this better?”
[13:29] So, HOW do you receive feedback better?
[16:31] Improving your leadership skills improves ALL of your relationships!

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Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I am excited for today. I hope you are all doing well.

Today is going to be a leadership-focused podcast about receiving feedback as a leader and how important it is. I want to share some takeaways with you, from a book I recently read, Radical Candor [by Kim Scott]. It was a very good book. I did another podcast just about being specific with the way you communicate, and that was also inspired from that book. You can listen to that episode. I think it’s 157, so that was a really good episode. But this episode is also inspired from that book, but it’s about receiving feedback as a leader. After reading the book, there were a couple of things that we changed in our company, because I implement super-fast, so literally right after I read it, we implemented these things.

Receiving feedback as a leader is extremely important. But even more than that, creating a culture where everybody gives each other feedback, direct feedback, is crucial. I’ve worked at this since I started growing my team, since I started reading leadership books in various, different ways. You don’t create that culture just by saying like, “Oh, we give each other feedback.” It has to come from the leader owning that and representing that in themselves. Not just from me, but then that trickles down to my direct reports who manage people. So, it’s really important that my entire leadership level on my org chart, all the people who manage other people, are able to receive feedback and give feedback, it’s so crucial… in a very open, direct way.

What I mean by that is, our culture at Hirsh Marketing is, we’re going to give feedback, positive and negative, all the time. Negative feedback is not really seen as like, “Oh my gosh, I’m in trouble.” That’s never the case. It’s like, “This is how you can do your job better, and this is like how you can improve.” On the flipside, as a leader, I want that feedback constantly from my direct reports. I love the feedback. I love it in all areas of my life. I want people to tell me what I can do better, because I always want to be better, but that’s my personality, and not everybody’s built that way. You have to create that culture, so I’ve always worked at creating that culture. But there’s a few things that we implemented after reading this book.

I want you to take away, one, that you need to make sure you are creating space to receive feedback. As a leader, it’s so important, because how can you expect your team to take feedback if you can’t take feedback? That means like, knowing when to say, “I was wrong there,” or, “Tell me why I was wrong,” and then you have to respond to it well. People can’t get in trouble for voicing frustration or voicing concern or voicing that something doesn’t work well, because if you show up and represent that, “If you give feedback in this company, you’re going to be reprimanded for it,” nobody’s going to give feedback. Nobody’s going to share with you. That’s like super-dangerous, because if you don’t have that collaboration, especially from the people in your company who are implementing it day-to-day and doing the actual work, it’s a really big gap.

For me, I, not require, I rely on that feedback from my team, because my ads managers, they have the best intel out of anyone in the company, because they’re in the day-to-day delivering for our clients. They know what’s working and not working. I’m not just talking about marketing strategies, I’m talking about our processes and delivery as a company. They know when something’s not working with a client or when something felt a little bit rocky or when something wasn’t smooth or we have a process that’s not efficient. They know that better than me. I don’t know that, so I rely on them to give me that feedback and never reprimand them for telling me, “Oh, this is not a good idea,” or, “This doesn’t work.” I want that, but you have to create a culture that’s willing to do that and willing to give that feedback and feel safe and comfortable doing that.

That’s the first takeaway, which has been something in our culture forever. I love the feedback, but a couple of things we changed was how I was getting that feedback. There’s a specific way that you can ask questions, and this was kind of the takeaway for me, because a lot of times… if you just go and say like, “Do you have any feedback for me?” The person’s going to say, “No.” They’re not really going to have something on the top of their head necessarily that they have, unless something’s going on and they’re like, they’re having a hard time and they’re mad or whatever, then they might have the feedback, but how do you consistently ask for it and get it?

What we shifted is, one, we do monthly self-assessments, and that is credit to Alex Charfen, that’s part of his system. We do monthly self-assessments in our company, where the team member comes to us and gives a self-assessment. We have various questions in there that we ask them like, “What were your wins from the last month? What were your struggles? Which Hirsh Marketing value did you carry out? What are you going to work on over the next 30 days? What did you learn about yourself?” We ask them various questions, but I added in the first two questions, “What can your manager do to be easier to work with?” Or, “What could your manager have done over the last 30 days to be easier to work with?” And, “What can your manager do to help you do your job more efficiently and productively, or better?” I think we say more efficiently. We added two questions that specifically say it.

Here’s the catch. Here’s what I learned. I could have easily added a question for, “What feedback do you have for your manager?” A lot of people would put, “None,” or they’d barely put anything, or they’d put a vague, surface answer. But by being specific, go listen to episode 157, in asking, “What can your manager do to help you accomplish this?” Or, “What could your manager do to be easier to work with?” [This] will make them think specifically an answer to, “Oh, what could they have done to be easier to work with?” Or, “What could they do to help me do my job better or more efficiently?”

We also put on there, “You have to put something.” You can’t put like, “Nothing. You’re great.” My managers are encouraged, I had a meeting with our whole management team, and I said, “If someone does put nothing,” because that’s kind of the gut response, sometimes you don’t want to necessarily give that feedback. And maybe it is hard to think about! I have awesome managers. Maybe they’re doing their job, and they can’t think of anything. But, “Out of 30 days there has to be one thing that you could come up with that would have been awesome if you did this. Or, would have been awesome if you did this differently or better or changed the way you communicated this.”

What was interesting in mine is, I got the same feedback from two out of four of my direct reports, which was that they wanted more due dates and clarification around priorities. They would have never told me that. It wasn’t a big enough problem that they were struggling, it was because they had to sit there and think, “What’s one thing that Emily could do better to support me?”

Now that I know that, I can implement that across all my direct reports. The feedback is so great. Yes. Thank you. Making them think specifically about that has been so helpful. Then we also have it so that the managers below me are getting feedback from their direct reports. I also can go review that feedback if I want to, to look for themes. Are there themes where my leadership team is not getting the right amount of training in how to support their team? It’s so valuable to have that feedback, but you have to ask for it, not just, “Do you have feedback for me, yes or no?” [but] “What can I do better? What is one thing I could do better here? What is one thing I could have done better here?” That’s what I learned from the book is how to position that question.

We added that into our self-assessments, and then I added it in when I have a weekly check-in call. All of my direct reports, for the most part, we check in twice a week for 30 minutes, so a total of one hour a week. We do a one-on-one check-in, and we have various things. My direct reports run all their check-ins, they just come to me with updates. I maybe have a few things for them, but at the end of one a week at least I ask, “What can I do better to help you do your job?” “What can I do better?” is what I asked them, and I’m pretty consistent with that question now. It’s just, “What can I do to help you do your job better? What’s one thing I can do?”

What that’s doing is, it’s training my team throughout the week, when they’re not checking in with me, to be thinking about, “What could Emily do better? Because I know she’s going to ask me that question.” It’s training my team to think, “How can we do things better? How can we improve,” and that constant questioning, which is really important.

The summary here is that, one, if you are managing a team… and I’m actually going to talk about how I implemented this in my personal life, too… but if you are managing a team of people, you have to create a culture where you receive feedback. If you don’t, it will really damage your business. If you’re not good at receiving feedback or you’re not open to feedback or you’re not able to receive feedback or you get angry when you receive feedback, really check yourself, because it will create a culture where nobody will say anything.

A lot of corporations struggle with this, and that’s why I love … My company is so not corporate. We have this freedom to speak, and I have a lot of millennials who, they care so much about their happiness and their job satisfaction and I love that, so you have to create a culture that supports that. But if you’re not receiving that feedback from the people who are in the trenches doing the work every day, then it is very damaging. If you’re not giving that feedback to your team and what happens in corporate companies that this book talked about is, they do it once a year in performance reviews. That’s not going to do anything. The powerful feedback comes in the micro times that you say it that take two minutes, where it’s like you can just be direct with, “Hey, I would’ve done this differently.”

You never should feel like you’re holding something back from sharing it with your team member. Now, you share it nicely. You’re not like, “You suck. Do this differently.” You’re just explaining like, “Hey, this didn’t work out for this and this reason. I would have done it this way. What do you think?” You’re having a conversation around it, and that way your team is always okay with receiving feedback, is expecting feedback, and is okay with giving it to you. Then the other key piece here is how to receive it as a leader. It’s not a yes or no question. It’s not, “Do you have feedback for me?” It’s specifically, “What could I do better to help you do your job better?”

Or, let’s say you go through a launch, “What could we have done better in this launch? What could I have done better to support this team in this launch?” You have everybody write down everything they can think of. Or, you go into a client meeting, you come out of the client meeting with your team, “What could I have done better to support you in that meeting?” Do see how then… and if they don’t think of something you’re like, “Come on. You could think of one thing. Let’s just think through this, and give me one thing I could have done better,” and then make them think of one thing. There is always one thing.

Being a leader is also, it’s relevant in all your relationships. I started thinking about this, and I’m like, “I’m going to start asking my husband this. I’m going to start asking him this every week.” Like, “What’s one thing I could’ve done differently to better support you this week?” Or, “What’s one thing I could’ve done differently to make you feel like I care about you this week?” It’s actually started some really good conversation, because I’m asking him specifically… In the past I might ask like, “Are you good?” Or, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” He’s just like, “No.” But if I’m asking, “What is one thing I can do better in this area,” then he can give me an answer. And my kids are too young. But if they were older, if they were, probably like 10 and they could have that level of a conversation of what could I … Actually, I might be able to ask them now that I think about it. Well, I’d be curious what they’d say, but it’s relevant for them, too.

It’s relevant for any of my relationships, because I can ask that direct feedback, and it opens up conversations that are so much more powerful than the surface conversations that we usually hide under. I mean, as humans for the most part, at least for me, I just generally tend to avoid conflict. I would rather not get into like, a deep conversation with someone and be like, “Well, you should do this, and I’m so angry about this.” I just don’t say anything. How often does someone say like, “How are you doing?” And you’re like, “Oh, good.” Or like, “Are you good with this?” Like, “Yeah,” and just doesn’t speak their mind. You can lead and pull it out of people and light those deeper conversations by asking someone a deeper level question and asking for that feedback.

This was really eye-opening for me, and I usually, when it’s eye-opening for me I share it with my leadership team, we implement, we change a few things. Then also, I share it with you guys, so I wanted to share this with you guys today. Let me know if you had any epiphanies on it. Highly recommend the book I read, Radical Candor was great. I actually did it on audio, because it was a little bit dense of a book. I listened to it on audio and I re-listened to a couple of big chapters, because I listened to my audio on one and a half speed, which maybe you’re listening to this podcast on that fast, but I really love the book. I’m always looking to improve my leadership. As you can see, improving your leadership will improve all your relationships in your life, because really I don’t have a business and a personal life persona. I’m just me. If I can improve how I communicate in my business to my team, it will improve how I communicate to my kids, to my husband, to my friends, to my family.

Giving and receiving direct feedback is a massive… it just really opens up a lot in your life for deeper connection, for improving yourself, for understanding people. There’ll be a lot of things that you’ll be surprised, if you start asking people these questions, you would never have known their answers. You would never have known their answers, unless you ask these questions. We’re leaders. It has to come from us.

In my relationship with my husband, he’s not going to initiate that question. He’s not going to come up to me and be like, “Emily, this is what you could have done better.” I have to ask for it, and that’s fine. That’s the way it is, and that opens up for him to ask me that, and for me to give him that feedback. It opens up that conversation. Same with my team. Same with friends and family and my mom, like conversations that we wouldn’t be having. If you can create a way to have those deeper conversations and receive and give feedback around your feelings, around your expectations, around whatever it is, you will improve all those relationships, but especially the ones with your team.

Thanks so much for tuning in today, guys. I’ll see you on the next episode.