In episode two of our three-part special, we focus in on the area of giving and receiving effective feedback and why being open to this as a business owner is essential for the growth of your people and your business, as well as your own personal growth.
Giving feedback can be quite a challenging experience, especially when the feedback may be somewhat negative and so a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with this, or may shy away from it completely.
To help solve this, in this episode we share:
- Real-life case studies on the dos and don’ts of giving effective feedback.
- Why giving feedback doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible conversation.
- When done correctly, the feedback process can be collaborative and rewarding.
- How important it is to give feedback to your VA in order to refine systems and processes going forward.
- How the feedback process extends beyond that initial conversation.
- Why seeing you and your VA as a team is paramount to a successful working relationship.
Let us know in the comments below what your key take out has been from this episode or why not join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
In this episode:
03:18 – It’s a two-way street
04:17 – Resistance as a result of fear
06:01 – Client case study – “Please don’t tell my VA, but…”
06:46 – Lose-lose strategy
08:04 – Be clear with your feedback communication
09:48 – It’s not a blame game
11:56 – Be mindful of cultural differences
13:13 – The use of video communication
14:00 – Feedback is more than one conversation
15:55 – Be willing to invest the time up front
17:43 – Some practical steps to put in place
20:03 – See yourselves as a team
21:14 – The mindset for success
22:36 – Being mindful of how you communicate your feedback
23:50 – Make your intentions clear
25:25 – Wrapping things up
Barbara: Hi everyone, and welcome back to another episode of virtual success, where I’m joined by my fantastically insightful co-host, Matt. How are you, Matt?
Matt: I’m well, Barb, how are you?
Barbara: I say that because every week I just get so many insights from you that I’ve implemented into my business, so I’m stealing tips along the way, as we do these podcasts together.
Matt: I’m writing, “Note to self, think of opening for Barb.”
Barbara: Did I catch you off guard, there?
Matt: My magnificent co-host.
Barbara: Yes, you can use that for the next show.
This is episode two, everyone, in our communication series. So if you haven’t listened to the last episode, where we discussed that we were going to talk about this topic of communication – such a huge topic – that we’ve decided to split it into three shows. This is episode two, where we’re going to deal with how to give effective feedback, with emphasis on the word effective, because giving feedback can be quite a challenging experience, especially when the feedback has negatives in it.
To set this up, really, with communication, it’s a three part show that we’re doing. In episode one, we discussed how to set up a task for success in the first place, and your communication from day one. It’s really worth listening to that episode, if you haven’t been there yet. Today, obviously, we’re going to be talking about giving effective feedback, and then in episode three, coming up soon, we’re going to talk about how to have the tough conversations which everybody shies away from, naturally but it’s really important to know how to do that effectively.
So Matt, I’m excited about today’s one, yet again.
Matt: Me too. I guess, just to set up today’s show on providing effective feedback, I think, as a business owner, you need to be open to giving effective and constructive feedback, and receiving constructive feedback, as well. As you’re learning the skill of this, it’s really, really important that you understand that it’s vital to business success. I see so many business owners that struggle, and it’s because they have a very closed mindset, and they’re either not open to giving feedback, which is vital for the growth of their people, or receiving feedback, which is vital for the business and their own growth.
This area of communication and feedback is one that I don’t think is spoken enough about in the business community. It would really be one of the rocks of business success.
It’s a two-way street
Barbara: You know, Matt, I think as well … Let’s be honest. I don’t think it’s something that us human beings were naturally drawn to. I think we naturally struggle, and I know I definitely did, anyway. Giving feedback, and even receiving feedback, is something, as an entrepreneur, that I’ve personally struggled with in the past, and I’ve had to learn through multiple experiences of being forced to do it, how to do it in a more effective way, and to see it in a more positive light, that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a horrible conversation, it could actually be a really nurturing, collaborative, and such a great experience, when you learn how to communicate properly in the giving feedback thing. It’s a two-way thing. Obviously, you’re giving feedback to your staff member, but part of giving effective feedback, you have to be able to get feedback from them about their experience of the whole thing, too. That’s what makes it a two-way street, really, which can be hard.
Resistance as a result of fear
Matt: Correct, and in my experience, the resistance to give or receive feedback is often a result of an underlying fear. Actually, an underlying result of two fears. One is, a fear of rejection. People don’t want to feel rejected, and so giving or receiving feedback brings up that fear of rejection. The second one is a fear of not being liked.
Matt: And so, if I give the feedback, my team member won’t like me, or you know, what will they say about me?
Barbara: Yes, from personal experience, I know that’s my one. The fear of rejection is not one that I have personally felt in the past, but I would definitely have that feeling of … I don’t know if this is a women thing? I know some of the women on the call listening to this will resonate here, but the fear of not being liked. So thinking, I don’t want my VA to go off and tell her friends that her boss is a total bitch. You know that kind of feeling?
You think, I just don’t want her saying that about me, because I don’t want to feel like a bitch. But when you’re irritated with a task not being done, there is a bit of…there is that irritation that comes up, and it’s how you handle the feedback that’s really important, to get right.
I thought, to kick off, as always, I think it’s always really good to have an actual live case study, and the beauty of having this podcast is, I get a lot of actual live case studies that happen for our clients. It happens across the board, we get feedback and we see issues coming up, and we see in the … what’s fascinating is that we see in our feedback forms, or when clients put in support tickets, in the language that they use, we can actually see the fears.
Client case study – “Please don’t tell my VA, but…”
For example, a big thing that we would get would be clients putting in support tickets with a sort of a complaint, but more of a feedback thing on my VA’s doing this, this, and this wrong. I’ve tried to explain … At the end, it’ll say, “Please don’t tell my VA, I really don’t want them to know that I came to you, or complained.”
Our response to that is, “Then what is the use of the …” I’m not sure where they want us to go with that, because really, if we don’t communicate effectively, or help them to mediate that discussion together, then they’re not going to get a resolution at all, and it has just turned into a whinge-fest. That’s honestly what it turns into. That’s really a big problem for us.
Matt: It’s actually, if you go deeper on this, it’s a lose-lose strategy. The VA loses, because they’re not understanding how they can improve, or how to actually be the valued team member that you’re asking them to be. You lose, because you’re sitting there in a state of frustration and dissatisfaction, and you’re probably having to do the work yourself, where if you had the constructive conversation and gave the feedback, not always, but in most cases, you’ll see improvement.
Barbara: Yes, and you know what’s interesting, I was thinking as you were talking there … I think what happens when they put feedback like that in for our clients, anyway, or support tickets, the bit that comes at the end … it’ll sometimes say, “Oh, and please don’t tell my VA,” and you can see the desperation in the comment. I think what happens is the very act of writing down their frustration, and feeling like they have voiced it, gives them momentary relief from it, so they feel like they don’t need to have that conversation with the VA. But it’s going to keep coming up again and again, because they haven’t … The discussion hasn’t happened. The frustration’s going to come back, if we don’t deal with it in a direct and collaborative way. And yes, the VA has to be involved, because otherwise, we’re not going to get any results.
Be clear with your feedback communication
The other thing, I want to tack on this particular episode, is the situation where sometimes people feel like they’re having the feedback conversation, but it goes something like this. This is an actual live case study, of where I actually spoke, myself, to a client of ours. The client said, “Well, I did give feedback.” I said, “What exactly did you say?” It was to do with a landing page that came back that wasn’t right. She said, “Well, I just told him that it wasn’t right. It’s just not right.”
I said, “Well, what about it was not right?” We unearthed the problem there and then. She couldn’t actually even articulate to me what was not right about it, it just wasn’t right. She said to him look … I just told him, look, let’s forget that one and let’s just move on to another task. Now, there are a whole pile of implications of attacking a conversation in that way, from an emotional standpoint of the person receiving the feedback about their ability, about their worth, about what you think of them. It’s kind of dismissive, and it’s just totally ineffective communication. We’ve got to try and give steps and strategies here for how to communicate, literally almost a script of how to deal with that conversation in a better way.
Matt: I think, back to episode one of these three, that we’re doing here, Barb. In that situation, my recommendation would always be, let’s go back and see how the task was setup, originally.
Barbara: Yes. Most clients don’t want to hear that.
Matt: Part of the coaching that I do, I always say, when you’re pointing the finger at someone else, there’s three fingers often pointing back at the person that you really should be looking at. Which is yourself.
It’s not a blame game
Matt: You know, it’s not a blame game. At the end of the day, we’re all working together to achieve the same goal. It’s just, we’re going to sit there and go, “Okay, where did this break down? Was the task handed over in an effective manner? Did we follow the system that we know works to set our VA’s up to win?” If you said yes to that, then the next question is, “Okay, where is this breaking down?”
In the landing page example that you’re giving, there Barb, like you said, what specifically wrong with it? If the VA’s not made aware of what specifically is not right, how can they ever improve? How can they get it right?
Barbara: Absolutely. They won’t be able to, because it’s mind-reading.
Barbara: The feeling with that particular situation was, the feeling of our particular client was, “I just don’t have time for this. I don’t have the time to sit down and give this person feedback.”
I actually said to her, “If you keep with that belief, then you will still be doing it yourself in a years’ time. If that’s the route you want to take, then that’s fine. The investment you make here and now, in getting success here, can pay dividends massively down the track, but it takes you doing this feedback thing.”
Feedback is … the initial stages of giving feedback, anyway, not when something has escalated, are non-blaming, non-accusing, collaborative, but you have to be quite direct. You have to say, in my view, anyway, you have to say, “The results are not really working for me, it’s not quite what I’m needing or wanting, so I want to talk to you about how do we work together to see where the holes are, and what’s happening that we’re not, either we didn’t set the task up correctly, or maybe we haven’t communicated back and forth enough on this, to help make you understand where things are going wrong. Now from my perspective, this little area here, here’s what I would have done, here’s what I was thinking.” That sort of language is very collaborative, it’s not accusing in any way.
Be mindful of cultural differences
Matt: I think, too, particularly if you’ve got virtual systems in the Philippines, they have a high desire to please. So bosses can be very direct with them. Using those few softeners in there, in your language, enhances the feedback, and they actually step up, real quick.
Barbara: They open up more, as well. Let’s talk for a second about the Philippines in particular. Shame is a major, heavy emotion. The Filipino’s feel that quite a lot, and if you … they don’t take criticism so well. They find it difficult, but if it’s done in this way, in my experience, anyway, they light up, because they feel like we’re working together, and that you’re sort of taking your part, and they can take their part openly, rather than getting defensive. If it’s accusing or blaming, they’ll go defensive and shut down. You won’t get out of them what you really need, in my experience, anyway.
Matt: Mine, too.
Barbara: This approach really works really well, and I would encourage the listeners to just think about being direct in this softening language, but without being a wallflower. You can’t blame yourself, because we see clients doing this, too, they blame it all on themselves. It has to be a two-way thing, when you’re in this feedback stage.
The use of video communication
Matt: I’m also going to recommend, here, this is where I think, turning the video camera on. Being able to see someone face to face can be vitally important. I think that, if you can’t … there’s something to be said about being able to read someone’s body language, or response to something. Often, over time, you’ll become more receptive to hearing it in their voices, and the like, but I think, just switch the video on and allow them to see you, because they’re going to see … they might think they hear frustration or anger, or whatever it might be, but in actual fact, when they see your facial expressions, and you see theirs, it’s a totally different meaning you put to the conversation.
So, I think that I would highly recommend using the video when you’re doing this with your virtual team, and you’re giving feedback.
Feedback is more than one conversation
Barbara: Yes, absolutely. Well, that’s definitely how I approach things, also. That would be how I see the initial feedback conversation. After that, you can’t just have that one conversation and then think to yourself after the call, “Okay, well that’s dealt with.” What’s going to happen is, you need to have that feedback conversation, and then over the following couple of weeks, you need to make it very clear to your virtual assistant, say, “Okay, look, over the next couple of weeks, I’d like us to really stay close on this one. I want to get feedback from you along the way. Again, it’s going back to how you should report back to me on how it’s going so that we can get to a point where you feel empowered to do the job, a fantastic job, and I feel relaxed enough to let it go. I want to work with you to get to that point.” That’s really collaborative.
Matt: As you’re saying that, Barbara, if I rewind a little bit to what we were saying before about the landing page incident, where, “I just don’t have the time to do this.”
I’m almost having this premonition of the next conversation client’s having with you is, “I don’t think a VA can work for me”.
Barbara: I’m so glad you said that, because that’s exactly what she said to me. I did have this conversation with a client, and she said, “I just don’t think a VA’s going to work for me.” She mentioned a friend of hers. “Such-and-such told me that Filipino VA’s never work out for her, either.” There was a very strong belief there that she was right. She did use the term there, “I feel like I’m wasting my money.”
You know, very challenging for me to deal with someone who is in this business and sees how the slip between success and failure is so little. It’s like a tweak in the mindset, and the right direction can get you explosive success.
Be willing to invest the time up front
Matt: I think if you hear what Barbara and I are saying, today, and in these episodes, is that whilst a team of VA’s or a VA can speed your success up in your business to new heights, it takes time. You have to invest the time up front to build the relationship, and to enable yourself to delegate and let go. If you’re not willing to invest the time, it won’t matter if it’s the VA, if it’s someone that you employ sitting next to you in the office, if you don’t invest that time, they will fail. They will never be able to do it as well as you will, there will always be a reason, and you’ll end up just keeping on keeping on, and you’ll actually become the bottleneck in your business.
Barbara: Yes, because you’ll go through the hiring and firing cycle, and eventually you’ll end up going back to doing it all yourself, or paying a lot of money to an agency and not even getting any better results, sometimes, because you still haven’t learned how to communicate effectively. The interesting thing about this feedback situation, is this can spiral out of control. Let’s say you’ve tried to give feedback, and it’s been in that useless communication way, because saying something’s not right, or forget it, let’s move on is a very, very negative form of feedback.
Let’s say you do that, and in the next task, you have the same experience, and it fails, and you do that again, what starts to happen is that you get a vicious downward cycle. The person that is working with you, the virtual assistant, starts to feel low about themselves, you start to resent each other, and they can lose respect for you, and you lose respect for them. The relationship is almost … it’s just on a hiding to nothing, at that stage, when you allow that to escalate. I feel, anyway, it’s hard to reign it back in.
Some practical steps to put in place
Matt: I one hundred percent agree. Let’s put some practical steps in place here, that can help everyone in the feedback process.
Step number one, is you need to get clarity on where the process has broken down. What specifically are you unhappy with?
Number two is then … The quote from Steven Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” you need to seek to understand before seeking to be understood”. You need to get clarity on what they did to get to their outcome, because if you don’t understand what your VA did to get to their outcome, you don’t know how to actually refine or tweak it. You’re only actually just looking at the end product, you’re not going back through and going, “This went off the rails, here, and if I help them with this little piece, it will put them on track to where we want to go.”
Third is to understand that you need to slow down in order to speed up. What I mean by that is through the feedback process, you need to go back step-by-step. There may be a retraining phase. There may be something that you actually need to refine in your system, through this process. There may be something that you both need to change in your communication. It could be like we talked about in the first episode, it could be instigating reporting mechanisms, so that you actually pick this up sooner, and can put things on track.
Those are the three steps that I would be recommending. The last one is just, as Barbara was saying before; it’s in the style of communication. You’ve got to sit down, and you’ve got to really be mindful of your language. Take the time to go through this with them, communicate effectively and as I suggested, I’d have the video on for this, because that could be even more effective, and want them to become better. Your mindset has got to be that if I invest a little bit of my time here, with the right person, that will enhance them and help them become better, which, in turn, means the task doesn’t come back to me and it gets done the right way, each time.
See yourselves as a team
Barbara: You know, I’m thinking, to add on to that. Seeing yourselves, even if it’s just you and one VA, see yourselves as a team. The two of you are a team, it’s not them and me. The them and me conversation is very different from a team conversation. Even when you’re having a meeting, it’s, “How are we going to work together to get success so that we can go far together,” rather than, “I’m not happy with what you’re doing, and here’s what you’re doing wrong. You go fix that.” That’s a different mindset to be in, and to see yourselves as a team, even if it’s just you and one VA, is very powerful. It will change the energy of the entire relationship, and your VA will feel that, even if you don’t actually communicate that. They’ll feel that sense of being a part of your team, together.
Matt: I just want to add one last thing to this, and it’s in light of that comment we were just talking about, which is, “A VA won’t work for me.” And I see this, and I’m sure Barb, you see this all the time, that …
Barbara: It doesn’t work for me, it won’t work for my business, it doesn’t won’t work for me.
The mindset for success
Matt: Just to put this into context, I have literally now coached in excess of 1,000 businesses worldwide, I see what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve see VA’s work in every industry that I’ve coached. I’ve coached from building companies to services to manufacturing to … such a broad spectrum of industries, and I’ve seen VA’s work in all of them. The common denominator between success and failure is the owner, manager, or leader’s ability and mindset coming in to making it work. If your mindset is that, this is going to work and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it work, which means, “You know what, we’re going to make some mistakes along the way, there may be some challenging conversations, and I’ve got to slow down and become better,” it works every time.
But if your expectation is that I’m going to get this person and I’m just going to dump a whole heap of stuff onto them, and they’re just going to know how to do it, and if they don’t, my conclusion is, “It doesn’t work for me”; it won’t work for you.
I just really wanted to emphasize that because it’s so important, this feedback part is really what differentiates, in a lot of ways, success or failure with your VA.
Being mindful of how you communicate your feedback
Barbara: I one hundred percent agree. The mindset is number one, and your ability to communicate effectively is number two. All the other stuff, you can both learn. Tasks, skills, processes, all that sort of thing, you can work on together. The two big things that are hardest to change in yourself are mindset and communication. Those are the things that are really worth working on.
I’ll just finish on this. Like I said before, at the beginning of this episode, it’s not something I feel that I was naturally good at, either. I really had to push outside of my comfort zone, when I started doing this for us to have effective feedback conversations. To be honest, I still don’t really like it. I have to kind of work myself up to it, but it’s about centering myself, feeling like it’s a team conversation, collaboration, and just being open. Trying not to be too business-like. In this conversation, I think you almost need to drop a notch below business-like. Yes, you’ve got to be business-like, but you’ve got to see the nuances of what might be going on in the background.
The video on, watching the body language, is the person overwhelmed? Is there something else going on? All that sort of thing, great cues for you to figure out what’s really going on there.
Make your intentions clear
Matt: To add to that, Barb, what I do with all of our new VA’s in their induction, I actually let them know that through this entire process of the time that we work together, I will be providing feedback, and this is the way that I will do it. At times, whilst I’m moving really, really fast, because we are a fast growing company, that if my communication is fast or a bit direct, and you think it’s rude, please tell me. It’s certainly not my intention. My intention is to be able to provide feedback so that we can both grow. That’s actually part of the opening induction I have with every single person that joins our organization, so that when those conversations happen, they’re not a surprise to them.
Barbara: That’s a great tip. That’s a great idea. That’s a fabulous idea. Set them up for success, and they know what’s coming.
Matt: That’s right. If they don’t like that, then they should actually, probably, leave now.
Barbara: It keeps them on their toes, in a good way. They know what’s coming. As you say, if they don’t like that, they’re going to end up leaving. We’ve had that situation happen in our training program. We’ve had people walk on the second day of training, because of the orientation I do on the first day. I’m like, “Here’s what we expect, and here’s what our clients expect, and if this resonates with you, you’re going to love this company.” Some of them, it doesn’t resonate, and they walk. That’s fine with us, because we say; we’d rather lose them now than lose them … than have problems with clients down the track. Yes, in the induction, definitely a fantastic tip.
Wrapping things up
It really leads us in … Episode three, I think, is going to be a fantastic one, because we’re going to deal with the tough conversation, when something is just spiralling out of control. You’ve tried everything. You’re sort of staring down the barrel of maybe, potentially removing the person, or having, I call it, the “Come to Jesus talk,” which is like, “We’ve talked about this already, we’ve … you know?”
That can be an extremely challenging communication style to get right, and most people will shy away from it and just fire someone, without actually even having a conversation.
Matt: Yes. It’s going to be a great show.
Barbara: We will see you guys on the next show, for that. Be sure as well, make sure you follow us on iTunes, subscribe to the show, and if you find it useful, be sure to share it, because lots of people are struggling with this area of out-sourcing and virtual teams, and even staff delegating in general. We’re giving some great strategies here, to help everyone get success in this area.
Matt: We’d love to hear your stories about feedback that may have gone well, and maybe feedback that didn’t go so well, so that everyone can learn in the community, as well.
Barbara: Yes, that would be fantastic. I would love to hear some of those stories.
Okay, until the show, guys, have a great week, and we’ll see you for Tough Conversations, next episode!
Matt: Thanks, Barb. Talk soon.
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