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Here’s how to deal with ‘brutal’ feedback from employees

In his weekly advice column, Maynard Webb counsels a struggling founder to solicit advice on how to learn and grow.

Here’s how to deal with ‘brutal’ feedback from employees
[Photo: Thitiphan Thumrongchot/iStock]
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Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. I just received some brutal feedback. People who work for me think that I’m not capable of doing things right. Others say my heart is in the right place, but my execution is off.  What am I supposed to do?

—Founder who is struggling

Dear Founder,

 I am sorry you are going through this. It’s very hard to take in this kind of feedback.

 At the same time, it’s also important to remember that this is someone’s opinion. That doesn’t make it real. Everyone has perceptions. You have to figure out what is legit and what is not.

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Soliciting feedback is a great way for a top exec to learn and grow. I admire that you took this step. Start with an open mind. Try to understand where their advice is coming from. Even if you disagree, sharing feedback is hard and you should view their consideration as a gift.

It may be challenging for you to do this on your own but the good news is there are people who do this for a living who can be of tremendous help. You can bring in a professional coach to help acknowledge what happened, find a way to let it out, and get on a path of healing.

At some point, that’s what becomes most important. When I was at Bay Networks, a new CEO came in and everyone was upset with some of the changes, viewing the situation through a lens of win/lose. The CEO quickly found a way to put a stop to it. He addressed the team with a strong message along the lines of: “This is where we are going, it might not be for you, that’s okay.  But if that’s the case, then please leave, and go quickly, because you are holding us back.”

 That’s leadership.

Moving forward, you should not be worried about receiving negative feedback and you should never be afraid of the truth. Commit to creating a learning environment and enlisting your team’s support to help you grow—because every day you can be getting better. I promise that understanding that you’re never done improving will help your career in spectacular ways. That something that’s true for all of us.

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