Today's episode is the first one that isn't part of the "Forget Traffic!" series. Instead, we discuss a problem that can undermine a business in subversive ways.
Simply put, that problem is: ego.
We've all got it, but the more you succumb to your ego, the lower your chances of success.
Listen in to discover the 5 ways in which ego will hurt your business and the strategies we've employed to outmaneuver our egos in these situations.
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Shane Melaugh: Welcome to this Active Growth podcast mix up episode. The topic is Why Ego Is Bad For Business. In today's episode we'll look at the many forms that ego can take and interfere with business. If you've worked at a company then you've probably experienced this in various forms. But it's something that doesn't only apply to working in teams. Of course if you have someone who's egomaniacal and selfish and just generally a terrible person and they're a manager of a team, then that's a recipe for disaster. We all know that. It's not just egomania and the extreme forms of this that can be harmful to a business in many ways. They're also much more subtle influences and there is where we can stumble into the trap. As an enterprenuer you might be making some of these mistakes and not notice at all.
Also, while ego of course really negatively affects teamwork, a lot of this is also relevant to solo work, will affect your business negatively even if you are a one man operation. In this episode you'll discover things like the H.I.P.P.O. problem, which can really sneak up on a business and really get in the way of optimizing and improving your business and your website. I will talk about the quadrant feedback method that has been extremely valuable in our own business. Of course, much, much more. We'll talk about the problems, big and subtle that ego can cause in a business and of course, we'll also give you specific strategies. We'll give you solutions and methods you can put in place to avoid having these problems affect your business.
You can go to activegrowth.com/four to get the show notes for this episode. That includes a quick summary of what the episode is about, links to where you can find and subscribe to our podcast and much more. Finally, this is a mix up episode. In fact, it's the first mix up episode on the active growth podcast. What is a mix up episode? One of the things that's different about the active growth podcast is that we do content series. We will do a deep dive into a critical topic for entrepreneurship in a whole series of episodes.
That's not always the case. Sometimes we have something important to talk about that fits the scope of a single episode. Of course, we're not going to artificially stretch something on to multiple episodes, just for the sake of it. Whenever we have a topic to talk about that fits just the single episode, that is a mix up episode. We hope that this will also bring a bit more variety into the podcast. We switch back and forth between really in depth series and then lighter mix up episodes. Here we go, mix up episode number one, why ego is bad for business.
Hello and welcome. I am Shane Melaugh.
Hanne Vervaeck: And I am Hanne Vervaeck and today we're going to talk about ego. Why are we going to talk about ego? Well, the other night I was having dinner with my ex-colleagues from when I was still working in a big company. All of them are now working in different companies. They were telling those crazy stories about everything that went wrong at their job. The more I thought about it, the more I noticed that this was actually caused by the ego of different people in the company. I was wondering, why is this so much of a problem in corporate? Why, as an entrepreneur, this is not something that's actually possible. You cannot have your ego in the way. The reason why we want to record this as an episode is because as an entrepreneur you cannot let your ego get in the way. If you let your ego talk, then it will actually hurt your business. It will hurt the growth of your business and this is one of the worst things that you can do to your company.
Shane Melaugh: Can I quickly interject here? In general, from the people you know, those who are successful entrepreneurs doing their own thing, would you say that they're generally less ego driven, maybe more humble people than someone who, let's say is a middle manager at a huge corporation or something like that.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah. Definitely.
Shane Melaugh: Because that's something I've noticed as well. That's definitely ... If you start paying attention to that, you can see a clear difference there in just the attitudes of these kinds of people basically. Of course, we're generalizing here, but you'll see where this all comes from in a few minutes here.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, because when you work for a company, when you work in corporate, let's say, in the corporate world, the whole system is set up to give rewards to individuals. Just Google how to get a promotion. The very first thing that will come up is you have to make sure that people know that you're doing a good job. The best way to let people know that you are doing a good job is to make sure that you get the credit, right? Even if it was a team effort, you still want to get that credit, because that's how you will get the promotion. If you have to ask for a raise for example, the game is to go to see your manager and to explain why you were better than the rest of your colleagues. Why you are the one who is entitled to get a part of the envelope that they can give as a raise that year.
It's a very individual system and it's very much ego driven, because you have to make sure that when something goes wrong, while it's not your fault, you can blame somebody else for that, because if not, this will hurt your chances for a promotion. This will hurt your chances for a raise. I think this is completely the opposite with when you're working as an enterprenuer, because at that point nobody will give you a raise or will give you a promotion, right? You have to work to grow your company. It's really the opposite. It's one very much against the other.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. In the corporate environment I think the worst version of this is when basically the best thing you can do for your career is spend your time on managing your image and making sure you throw other people under the bus for mistakes and making sure you hort credit for good things happening and you're spending more time doing that than actually working, right? Of course that's an extreme example, but if you look into this and if you read books about company cultural management in larger companies, you can see that this is actually a problem that many large companies have to struggle with. How do we prevent this from happening? How do we prevent this toxic thing to emerge from what's basically something that's a good idea. We want to be a meritocracy. We want to reward people who do the best kind of work. That could be the flip side of it, if you mismanage it, it can be totally toxic. That's where you have this total ego driven culture, where everyone's basically trying to scramble over the bodies of everyone else to get a promotion and a raise and so on.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah. Like I said, the problem is that it is rewarded. I have this very example from when I was working in a company. I was working as a shoes buyer in the buying department. At one point my job wasn't really a full-time job anymore. I went to see my manager and I asked her if I could please work in the e-commerce department. Being part-time in the buying department and part-time in the e-commerce, which was in the marketing department. The problem with this whole story is that this got refused, not because they didn't need help in e-commerce department and not because they didn't think that I could help, but because then my manager would lose half a man in her department and have to give half a man to the marketing department, which was another manager. This would diminish her team, which diminishes her importance in the company, which would then be a problem for her when she needed to ask for a promotional raise.
Shane Melaugh: This is pretty terrible.
Hanne Vervaeck: This is really terrible, because this is against everything, this is against the good functionment of the company, right? At this point you have somebody who tells you like, "Hey, I don't have enough work. Let me please do more work for the company for the same pay." And you say like, "No, I'd rather have you being bored at your desk than having you being half in another department."
Shane Melaugh: A related problem here is also ... Here we have an example where basically a manager has to protect, she has to protect her importance in the company, right? This reminds of the H.I.P.P.O. problem. I think this term started in the conversion rate optimization community, where the question is do you use the H.I.P.P.O. method to make decisions in your company? The H.I.P.P.O. method is the highest paid person's opinion, so H.I.P.P.O. is an acronym for highest paid person's opinion. That's what often happens, right? If you're making a decision about okay, what should we put on our home page or how should we update a sales page, question is how is that decision made? Are you making the best decision, the best decision for the company? Are you testing to see what really works or are you simply going with the highest paid person's opinion?
The H.I.P.P.O. problem arises because the highest paid person in the room or wherever the person with the highest ranked job title in the room will often feel compelled to make a decision. They will feel compelled to dictate what happens in order to validate their existence. Because if you're the manager in the room, and the result is all together we decide to run an AB test, then the AB test, the data determines which version won, then it's like, "What did you have to do with that? You can't really take credit for that." The fear is what if the people in this room figure out that they don't need me.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly.
Shane Melaugh: Then you have to make decisions to validate your existence.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. That whole thing of as a manager, you need to have a big team, because if not, your job isn't very secure anymore. You have to make the decisions, because imagine, that the assistant was giving a good suggestion for an AB test, and then that's the one who's winning.
Shane Melaugh: Oh, no.
Hanne Vervaeck: Big problem. Which is completely against everything that you have to do as an enterprenuer. We have actually five ways in which your ego can get in the way as an enterprenuer. How to work against that and how to have methods in place to make sure that your ego isn't hurting the growth of your business. Very first, it actually starts from the very beginning with your business idea. Because you will maybe wake up one day or maybe it's an idea that you have since a very long time and of course, it's the best idea in the world, right? Because you came up with it.
Very often entrepreneurs will not talk about their idea, because they are afraid that people will steal it. That's one problem. Another problem is also, they are afraid that people might tell them that it's not that good of an idea. That it might not work or that they might have to change something. This is where the very first part of your ego comes into place, right? Where it's like, "Okay, I have this idea" and rather than looking for validation, you will have to look for reasons why it will not work. If you go out and you talk about your business idea, because please, talk about it. Don't make that mistake. Shane, what do you think about the whole idea of they will steal my idea?
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, this is very common entrepreneurial fear, right? Beginner enterprenuer fears like, "Oh, my God. If I tell someone about my idea, they'll recognize the genius of this idea and they'll steal it right away. They'll make millions instead of me." The reality is that first of all, your idea is probably not that brilliant. Secondly, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. Because it's all about execution in the end anyway. Even if your idea is great, assuming your idea is great. If five companies start with the same idea, basically four other people steal your idea, you all start companies at the same time, it doesn't matter, because the company that executes best will win.
Far fewer than one in five companies succeed anyway. Again, it's because of execution in most cases. Really, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if other people hear about your idea. There're very few cases where this is a legitimate concern and it's really only if you have a successful company, then maybe you're in danger of other, much larger players in the same space or something like that. Poaching ideas or people from you or something like that. If you're looking to start a business, no. It's fine. People won't steal your idea and make millions.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. You were talking about execution. I think this is where ... If you can go out with your idea and ask people, "Why do you think this would not work? Where do you think problems will arise?"
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. Basically tell me what's wrong with my idea.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly.
Shane Melaugh: This is extremely rare. Almost nobody does this. It also reminds me of research done by Carol Dweck, which shows that in geneal people who prepare for the worst essentially, are more likely to succeed. If you look at people who are totally optimistic and positive, like yes, this is going to work, this is going to be great and only look at the positive, they're actually significantly less likely to succeed in whatever they do. Whatever the goal is, whether it's starting a company or finishing your studies in something, whatever. Than people who have a clear goal and figure out what's the best possible outcome, but also ask themselves what could go wrong here? If it does, what will I do? This totally applies to your business as well. If you're only looking for validation, if you're only looking for people to stroke your ego and tell you this is a great idea, you'll be so good, right? You're much less likely to succeed than if from the outset you have a clear positive goal, but you also try to find out where might this go wrong?
Hanne Vervaeck: This is where it becomes super interesting, because if you can have ... Imagine you have your business idea, you're like, "Okay, I'm going to start this membership website, whatever." Then people are like, "I would never pay a monthly fee for that." This is something where instead of already having build out your membership, created all the content and have this one option in place. If beforehand you're talking about it, while you might already course correct or you might make sure that you set up your business, so that if that is actually true, if people decide not to pay a monthly fee, but they want to purchase individually, you can make sure that at that point you have your plan B in place. That people will actually have the possibility to pay separate for the different course, for examples.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, that will be step one. This is our intervention number one is look for feedback on your business idea. Don't hold to close to your chest and look for possible negative feedback, because negative feedback can be extremely valuable.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think there's one more thing, one reason why this is difficult. It's because when you have this business idea, it's like your baby. You don't want people to tell your baby is ugly. Don't like that. If you can disconnect yourself and your self-worth from your business idea and this will be a common thread throughout all the ego stuff. Your self-worth is not connected to your business idea, being a good idea or your business succeeding or whatever. I think from the very beginning this is important. If people tell you, "Oh, yeah. This idea, I'm not sure. It will probably not work." That doesn't mean that you are a bad person. Or that doesn't mean that you failed or something.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, that's a very important point.
Hanne Vervaeck: It's just your idea didn't work out.
Shane Melaugh: All right. That's part number one. Part number two is another thing that we've seen a lot with the work at [inaudible 00:17:52] as well, with the way people build their websites and build up their websites is that we see that often you're too proud to do something that it's perfect. That you perceive as not being perfect. A very common thing is that people get lost in details like I want to have the right domain name. I need the perfect dot com domain name. I need the perfect profession looking logo and business cards and my website has to be just so before I even start. Before I'll even publish it. Everything has to be perfect. As we've talked about before, we're all about rapid implementation. This is just not a good strategy at all, because it makes you keep tinkering, it makes you get lost in details, it makes you put off the actual productive work often to never.
Often people just never launch, when they have this mindset. When we make recommendations around the idea of rapid implementation, this is one of the problems. Basically, we're telling you look, just slap together a simple landing page. Put it out there, send some traffic to it, like we talked about in previous episodes. Get on a call with people, see what happens. Offer them some coaching. See what happens. If you're thinking, "That's not good enough. I can't publish my landing page unless it has the perfect design and my logo is on there and my logo isn't finished yet and I have to have a perfect plan before I do one coaching call with someone. I have to have the perfect plan. I have to make sure that this coaching session is the best coaching session this person has ever experienced. Before everything is perfect I am not going to make a move." This is a matter of pride. You're too proud to do a crappy landing page and an okay coaching session.
Hanne Vervaeck: When was the last time that you did a professional photo shoot, Shane?
Shane Melaugh: The last time was never. I had never done a professional photo shoot. In fact, actually, I'm probably going to do one next week with ... Professional, semi-professional at least. Where it's at least someone else holding the camera, taking pictures. Not just me standing there, because I have two pictures of myself that are professional enough that I can use them on the web. Both of them were made just with me and the tripod. They're not very good. Eight years or something into this online business thing and I haven't made a single professional photo of myself, which hopefully will change next week maybe. We'll see.
Hanne Vervaeck: We're looking forward to seeing the result. My point with this question, because I kind of knew the answer. The point with this is don't get stuck on this detail. This, especially I think with pictures is an ego thing. You want to look perfect online and so professional pictures will help with that. It's not what will actually help your business succeed. Then, we're on the third topic of ego. This is I think, this is a pretty hard one, because you have to ask feedback from your customers. It's the only way that you will be able to improve and to make a kick ass product or service. But it is so hard to hear, because you've been working hard. You've been working your ass off for this company. When somebody says, "I was not happy about this or this" or even being aggressive and being like, "This was totally not worth it."
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. This is also part of the problem that if you're selling a product and when people have a problem with your product, especially when they have a problem that's big enough for them to contact you about it, then often emotions are involved. Because many people will not at the slightest problems immediately contact support or immediately send you an email with their opinion or something like that. They will try to fix it themselves, they will try a bunch of stuff, they will get frustrated. Then, when they're emotional charged, then you get an email from them. There might be valuable feedback in there, but it's also wrapped in this emotional bundle of anger and frustration that can be really difficult to deal with those. It can be really difficult to not just get defensive and basically be angry back at them.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly, because the first reaction is what do they know about it? Honestly. This is wrong. This is not true. The problem is that's not really helping.
Shane Melaugh: Even if it something like, "You're an idiot. You just didn't click the right thing to make it work." Still, you have to see the feedback in there is that one of your users used your product and they didn't' see the thing that they were supposed to click. Even though it was right there. Maybe they spent an hour trying to figure this out. They didn't see the thing that you thought was obvious while you click on this. That is valuable feedback. That's something you need to be aware of.
Hanne Vervaeck: Exactly. What are some ways that people can actually get that feedback?
Shane Melaugh: One of the ways if you sell a product and you offer support, then you're already getting a whole bunch of feedback. Because through your support channel, at the very least they will tell you what's wrong. At a ratio of something like 10 to one, you'll get 10 messages saying, "This doesn't work. I'm frustrated. I hate this" and so on, you'll get one message saying, "Hey, I just wanted to contact you to tell you this is awesome." That can be difficult dealing with that negativity. You also have to realize that automatically if you simply give people the option to contact you somehow, you're already getting feedback. Even if it's just ... It's easy to basically look at your support desk or whatever system you use, your support inbox and just be like, "This is just a bunch of problems. This isn't beneficial to my business. This is a necessary evil of my business. There's no benefit here."
You can also look at it and say, "All of this is feedback. All of this is telling me how I can maybe potentially make my business better, make my product better. Make sure that I appeal to the right people, because one of the things that's happening is it's the wrong people are buying your product and they are coming with the wrong expectations." All of this is feedback that you can essentially apply to your business.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think the expectations part is very important, because often when somebody will be like, "This isn't working or this isn't doing what I expected that it was" and you're reading it. You're like, "Yeah, it was never supposed to work that way." Clearly you're talking your messages [inaudible 00:25:01]. That's another very good feedback. It's like, "Apparently, I didn't communicate clearly enough what my product wasn't doing or what my product or service, whom my product or service wasn't good for."
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, to give an example, Thrive Themes every once in a while we will get a message of someone saying something like, "I can't install this on my Shopify website." That's the kind of thing where we're like, "Well, yeah. That's because it's a WordPress plug-in. We never said it worked on Shopify." If we got that kind of message regularly, then we would have to ask ourselves, "Hold on. Why are all these Shopify users thinking they can use this?" We'd have to figure out where the source of the problem is, right? That would be an example where it's easy to just say, "These are all idiots. All of them are idiots. They can't be helped." If you see a pattern here, if it's not just a very rare occurrence, you have to ask yourself there is a reason. There is a reason why these people are coming here and thinking this will work on Shopify and in the end it doesn't.
Hanne Vervaeck: This is not only for products, the feedback loop. If you follow Thrive Themes you know that we talk a lot about testimonials and how important testimonials are for you business. It's also an opportunity at the end of your service to ask what could I improve? What could I have done better? What did you like about the service, but what didn't you like about the service? What was more difficult? Actually, going after that negative feedback will help you also then improve your service afterwards.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. It's one of the ways ... In general, when we talk about a feedback loop, it's something you, even though with support, you basically get it automatically to some degree. We also encourage very much to deliberately set that up. For example, in your follow up marketing to have a stage where it's like okay, these people have ... Maybe they bought your product a few weeks ago, now is a good time to send a message, basically inviting feedback. You can do that by sending them to a survey. You can do that by sending them just to leave a comment or write a reply. Or as we do with Thrive Ovation, we send them to leave a testimonial.
The testimonial, one of the ways you can use Thrive Ovation is actually because you can ask multiple questions, you can ask people okay, what do you like most about our product? You can also ask what do you like the least? Because you don't have to publish the whole thing. What can do with Thrive Ovation is you can actually get feedback on a whole bunch of stuff and then you can take the bit, the one question that's about what you love about it, that's the testimonial. The rest is just the feedback for you. That's one of the ways you can use it. Obviously, you can do the something. You don't need Thrive Ovation for this essentially. You could do the same thing with Google forms or something. It's just that then it's more work to transform the stuff you get into actual testimonials. The basic idea is that you have a deliberate step in your follow up marketing, where you invite people to give you feedback.
Hanne Vervaeck: The fourth way where your ego can get in your way is the moment that you have to recruit people. As you start out as an enterprenuer, you're probably doing a lot or everything yourself. At one point, if you want to grow your business you might have to recruit people. This is also a point where you will have to get your ego in check, because you have to try to get people that are better than you.
Shane Melaugh: This is something that I struggled with quite a bit, actually. It took me quite a while to get out of that solopreneur mindset. I think for me ... I don't know how common this experience is, but I think for me it was like, early on when I started as an enterprenuer, it was very much a question of ... I felt like I had to prove to myself and prove to the world that I can do this against expectations. Because I wasn't the type of person who you would look at and say, "This guy's going to be successful." I was the opposite of that. I felt like I had to prove that I can do this. That was very much a drive of this. That became a part of my identity really, is that I'm the guy who can do this. Look at me, I can fucking do this. You thought I couldn't, but I can.
Then, getting out of that was actually quite difficult. This is one of the reasons why I was such a control freak, because letting go of that almost, like I said, became part of my identity. If I have other people do work for me, then I'm no longer the guy who can do this. No longer the guy who can push the boulder up the hill all by himself. Then, what am I? It's almost like a bit of an identity crisis. It took quite a long time for me to get this out of my system, get this feeling that I have to be the one doing everything. I have to be the one who's the best at everything and so on, to get that out of my system. It wasn't easy for me.
Hanne Vervaeck: I think this is super interesting what you're saying, because I think many people, they can hire a VA or an assistant and it's the tasks that aren't very important or that nobody is seeing or those I can delegate. Then, when it comes to the really important stuff in your business, if you have to delegate that, it becomes much more difficult.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. For me I think an important or the way I've changed my thinking about this is that my business is there to serve people. Whatever I can do to make my business serve more people better is good. With that kind of thinking it is now a positive thing for me. I want people to be better than me at what they do. I don't want to be the person who is best at managing a team or the person who's best at writing a blog post or the person who's best at whatever. Because I would much rather have two people on the team who are both better than me at writing blog posts. They write the blog posts, because that serves more people more effectively, than if it's just me doing it. For me I think this is very much about reframing what the purpose of all this is. Getting my ego out of the way and hiring people who are better than me and being able to freely admit that people are better than me, becomes something that's in line with my goals and my business's goals, rather than something that threatens my identity.
Hanne Vervaeck: That doesn't take anything away of you being the CEO.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, I think that's also something that you can't be the CEO and also try to be the best at every other role at the company. That's just how it works.
Hanne Vervaeck: You can't be CEO and still be designing the interface of the software.
Shane Melaugh: Which unfortunately I was literally doing that, up until not very long ago. Although that was more a human resources problem, than an ego problem.
Hanne Vervaeck: Yeah, I think that's one important thing to keep in mind. It's not because you find somebody who's better at content creation or who's better at answering support tickets or who's better at whatever. Even at developing the software that you started or something. That doesn't take away from you. They are not going to take over your company, once again.
Shane Melaugh: This leads us to the fifth and final point of how your ego can get in the way of your success. That is that just like you need to be open for feedback from your customers, you have to be open for feedback from people you're working with.
Hanne Vervaeck: This is not only if you have a team. Let's make this clear from the very beginning. This is also if you hire a designer or if you have somebody who works a few hours for you. This is everybody that you are in contact with. You need to be open for their feedback on improving not only your company, but also the systems in your company. Because what was working for you when you were working all by yourself, might not work for your assistant. She or he might just have a better and a faster way to do things, for example. There are very some very specific things that you can do to make sure that you actually create an environment that is safe for this feedback. Because the last thing that you want is to create this corporate environment where people have to show how good they are and to get your praise and stuff. From the very beginning, from the very first people that you start working with, you can make sure to have this safe environment and that nobody is punished for giving you feedback. I think that's very important.
Shane Melaugh: One thing I've noticed about this is that it's quite difficult to cultivate this, because most people who have work experience come in from an environment where they're not safe to give feedback. Especially, not upwards. Maybe it's okay to give feedback to your peers and downwards to people you manage. But it is not okay to say anything negative upwards to a manager or the CEO of the company or something like that. I notice this a lot, because for me it's like ... Initially my hope was that I would basically just walk in and tell people, "All right. I'm open to feedback. Tell me what's on your mind. It's all good." Then people would give me feedback.
When you do this as the boss or manager or CEO, you tell this to a room full of people, you see them all squirming in their seats. Because nobody wants to be the first to give feedback and then get shot down and fired or whatever their experienced in their previous jobs. It's really something that you have to carefully cultivate over time. You have to have patience with this as well. People won't just instantly give you good feedback. It's something you really have to work on and cultivate over time.
Hanne Vervaeck: Even I remember, just to go back one second to the customer feedback. Even they don't have their job at stake basically, but still when you were face to face, remember, at the conference, Shane. When you were face to face with customers and you were actually asking them to their face, what don't you like about the software? And people were like, "This is not okay. I can't actually give negative feedback."
Shane Melaugh: Yeah, that's true. That was interesting. I did ask people face to face or customers, I asked them, "What don't you like? What do you think we should improve and stuff like that? What you hate most about our products?" It was very rare that someone gave me a straight answer to that. Most of them were just like, "No, no. It's all good. I love it."
Hanne Vervaeck: Imagine, if even customers who are actually paying are afraid to tell you straight up what the would like to see improved, people who are working for you, and you're actually the one being in charge of their future. If they still have a job tomorrow. It's for sure not something that will happen overnight.
Shane Melaugh: It's a difficult thing, yeah. One of the ways we did is we did an assessment that ... I don't know what the source of this is. Someone told me about this, I thought it was good idea. We tried it out. Where we basically have feedback, so it is between a manager and someone they manage, between an individual they manage. You give feedback on four points. If me and Hanne are doing this feedback session, I would tell Hanne first what I think I did well, what I think I can improve, what I think she did well, and what I think she can improve. Then, she would do the same thing. She would tell me what she thinks she did well, what she can improve, what I did well, what I can improve.
I think this is quite a good way to give feedback, because you make sure you cover all the bases and you make sure that it's not just ass kissing. Oh, everything's great, you're so good and so on. Which feels good, but isn't very constructive. It's also not just negative feedback, it's not just you should do this better and that wasn't good enough. It creates a really good balance between the two. It's a nice structure where if you tell people this is what we're going to do, this is the feedback we're going to give each other. And they have to prepare that. They have to come up with something, a recommendation of what they think you can improve. They also have to think critically about their own performance. Think about they can improve.
Hanne Vervaeck: I really love this assessment method, because I've had corporate assessments, where you first have to fill out the survey of 150 questions about the different things that you did that year, because of course, it's only once a year. They never ask what the manager could do to help you, because again, this is not like, "Oh, you didn't do this well." No, this is what can you improve. If I prefer having the notes written down rather than you telling at me and only in person, because then I forget about it for example. It can be very small things. I can actually then really improve the way you work and the efficiency of your work.
Shane Melaugh: Yeah. Doing this assessment on a regular basis I also one of the ways in which you can cultivate and prove to people that it's okay to give negative feedback or yet to tell you basically what you can do better. Because this is a structured assessment with these four points, they have to come up with something to tell you, then when they do tell you and you don't overreact to it, you react constructively to it, that demonstrates to them this is okay to do. If you do this a few times with someone, then after a while it makes it much more likely that they will also spontaneously give you feedback, even if it's not always positive without being afraid of it.
Hanne Vervaeck: Then there's another way that you can do this. It's something that we put in place, which is a weekly check in. This is very simple. This is a form. People don't even have to tell it face to face, because I think, again, this can sometimes be difficult, where in written it can be easier to give that feedback. It's just a form what went well this week and what can we do to improve. What didn't go well this week. This is something, again, that will really give feedback and help you improve all of the systems that you put in place.
Shane Melaugh: When you did this well, what will happen after a while is that you do get a lot of constructive feedback, you do learn what's going wrong and what people would like you to improve. Then, the next problem you have is actually taking action on that, because you can't improve everything all at once. This is something we might talk about on a separate episode, how to deal with that. Basically, when this happens, that means you're doing it right. You should get to the point where basically you're getting a steam of feedback coming in at such a regular rate that it becomes a problem of what do we do first, because I can't follow all these requests all at the same time. I have to start basically prioritizing, because you also need to prove to people that you do take their feedback seriously and act on it. Ideally, you have such a strong feedback loop and such a strong feedback stream that this becomes something you really have to manage in your company. Like I said, this is a good problem to have. That is basically the goal of what we've been talking about here.
Hanne Vervaeck: Then there is one last principal, which is more a mindset than actually something you can put in place. It's called Extreme Ownership. It's a term that Jocko Willink wrote a book about. He's a navy seal. He talked about extreme ownership, how this works with the navy seals and how it can actually improve your business. The whole idea of the extreme ownership is when something goes wrong, it's always your fault. Instead of trying to blame other people about what went wrong, the first thing you do is saying, "Okay, this is my fault." Imagine, you're working with a designer and you don't get the designs in time or the design you get back, it's not what you were expecting. The first reaction is to be like, "They didn't do their job. They didn't respect the deadline. They didn't ..."
Extreme Ownership is the opposite, is saying, "What did I do wrong that made this happen?" Maybe you didn't communicate clear enough, maybe the deadline wasn't clear, maybe you were the one not giving the content in time. When you switch this over and then also when you communicate about a problem with somebody, saying this is what went wrong. The reason why this went wrong is because I didn't do this, this and this. Or I did do this, this and this and I did this wrong. This will completely switch the conversation, because at that point people don't feel aggressed about the mistake. They will be like, "No, actually, it's because I didn't do this, this or this." Then you can actually get this feedback loop going and you can communicate and you can improve upon what went wrong from both sides. Whereas, if you start blaming somebody, then they just go into defense mode and they will never tell you what went wrong from their side and you're just blocked and it will happen over and over again, the same mistakes.
Shane Melaugh: The principal here is that in the end, as an enterprenuer, you have to reduce stuff to whatever you can control anyway. Because maybe when you start examining, okay why didn't these designs get returned in time and why are they crap? Maybe it comes all the way down to the problem is I hired the wrong designer. There's no point in saying, "It's the designer's fault." Because it's not going to help. You have to keep following the trail back, until it comes to a problem that you can control. Even if it really is a designer's incompetence, your mistake was you hired the wrong designer.
You have to figure out why did this happen, why didn't we have a vetting process that avoided this from happening and how can we make sure that we hire the right designer next time? Because everything else, all the stuff that you cant' control and it's true that sometimes it's not your fault essentially. All the stuff you can't control is essentially not important for your business. What's important for your business is where is the point where I can make a change that makes a difference. All right. That is our discussion about the various ways in which ego is the enemy of the enterprenuer and ego can get in your way.
Hanne Vervaeck: Thank you very much for listening. We appreciate that you took the time out of your schedule to listen to the Active Growth podcast and we hope you tune in for the next one.
If you've listened to our episode introducing the ActiveGrowth Podcast, you already know that we do a few things differently, around here. One of the things that sets our podcast apart is that we do deep dives into specific topics, instead of talking about something different each episode. An example of this is the Forget Traffic! series.
A mixup episode is the exception to this rule: every once in a while, we will cover a topic that has a scope suitable for one single episode, instead of a whole series.
In other words, we sometimes mix things up by publishing an episode that sits outside of the regular content series we produce.
Here are a few resources mentioned in the podcast and stories related to the topic:
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I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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