I provide feedback on challenges and opportunities every day with new and current founders, current startup company executives, and community builders. Every day. Every day for like 10 years. In Malcolm Gladwell parlance, I have my 10,000 hours in and some. My challenge when I am in my open office hours is to deliver quality effective feedback.
Though I have the requisite amount of experience, I don’t feel like a Malcom Gladwell expert. I don’t think I ever will feel like I got this nailed. And I think that is a good thing.
You see there is never perfect feedback every-time. Feedback comes in many sizes, tones, and delivery. Getting all of those in alignment on my end is as difficult a task as anything but then to see if it lands with my feedback partner in a way that resonates is very difficult. It feels like I need ChatGPT and a Quantum computer to get it right.
So without a live AI/LLM model in my head and my brain which is clearly not a futuristic computer, I try to start every session with this simple three rule framework:
- Listen first. I am trying to see where their head is at. Are they frustrated, manic, depressed, excited? Are they searching for specific advice or do they just need someone to listen to them? I get the conversation started with informal questions like, “where are you calling from today”? Or, “got any big plans for the weekend”? “How did we first get connected”? “It was good to see you a few months ago – what is new with you (not the business’? All of these set a tone for hopefully an authentic conversation. And then listen carefully for where their head is at.
- Ask what they want. You can’t really ask this question until you hear what they are looking for. Many times they dont know what they are looking for but by simply asking them this question – “how can I help you today?” – you give your feedback partner the ability or the task of figuring out how best you can be of help. If they answer, you are now able to hone in on exactly what they want instead of talking about solutions/advice that is secondary.
- Share the times when you have been in that situation. I am a storyteller. It is who I am. Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. Either way, I think the best advice/feedback lands better when you can share what you thought, what you went through, how you gathered information, and finally arrived at a decision, and what the outcome was. Remember, your advice is situational at best. You don’t have THE right answer. They are on an information-gathering mission – so give them your experiences in a way that they can then effectively process and make their decision.
Start with these foundational pillars when you are in feedback mode. Remind yourself that this is for them and not for you.
Lastly, thanks for being available – it is meaningful, I promise.