Dealing with Feedback
Dealing with Feedback
Next week, I'm going to be giving a talk at Infusionsoft's Partner Conference. The title of that talk is "Never Let a Good Plan Get in the Way of Success." I think this is a particularly interesting topic, not just for Infusionsoft Partners, but for any business owner.
There is a tendency for us to create a cage when we create a plan, and that cage is too rigid for real life.
I was talking with my daughter, and I think I mentioned this before in another episode, about the evolution of animals and creatures and how if an animal or an organism is not able to adapt to its environment, it will end up dying and then it becomes extinct. Your ability to adapt to your environment is really important, but at the same time, you have an outcome that you're going after.
I think one of the secrets, right off the bat to never letting a good plan get in the way of success is, separate plans [00:01:00] from outcomes.
Outcomes is what you really want, plan is your best guess at how to get there before you start acting.
As you act, a good plan is going to become a bad plan pretty quickly because you're going to learn that a lot of your assumptions were off, things that you thought would work out a certain way will not, and the problem becomes if you get too rigid on the plan, you start going where the plan will take you instead of the outcome that you said you wanted to achieve.
The real secret for most businesses in order to determine if a plan is working or not is feedback.
And you can get feedback from a lot of different places, but I'm going to focus in on customer feedback in this discussion. Customer feedback is super critical, but the only feedback that really is useful is negative feedback.
We get reviews and we'll post them on our Facebook page and they say nice things about us because, most of the time, when people are giving us reviews, [00:02:00] it's because something good has happened.
And yeah, that's nice, but it's not very useful.
I mean, it does give you some confirmation that what you're attempting to do is working and of course, you want to know what you're doing is working.
But, the feedback that actually will help your business to grow is negative feedback.
Sometimes, and you don't want it to get to this point, but the more bitter the feedback, the more useful it actually can be.
When someone gets that point where they're giving you bitter feedback, it means they let all the niceties, the politeness of society drop away and they're just going to give you the cold hard facts as they see them.
One of the big things about, especially bitter, negative feedback, is it can be destructive for people if you don't know the secret, so I'm going to share two secrets with you.
The first one is never take negative feedback personally.
It's not about you.
It may be about something you created or something you did, but it's not about you as far as who you [00:03:00] actually are. So don't take it personally.
Be curious about the cause of feedback.
That's the next secret. Be curious. What is the cause of the feedback?Now, notice I didn't say be curious ABOUT the feedback, because feedback is always tainted by our own perspective.
The person who's upset may be upset because they accidentally kicked their dog and hurt it and they're upset about that, and then somebody said something unkind to them, and then they have some interaction with your business, and all of it is colored by those other bad experiences.
Now they're really upset and they just let you have it. Instead of holding back anything, they tell you everything.
Okay, fair enough. You want to hear them, and you want to hear them fully. You really want to understand what they're trying to communicate. As people feel heard, they tend to communicate more clearly and they can get out things that they need to get out.
Once they do that, now you want to be curious about the cause of the feedback and you want to dig in. You want to really get deep into what's causing this feedback to come out.
Now, we're not just going to analyze the person and that kind of [00:04:00] thing, but we want to see, what chain of events led to this feedback coming to us? Because that chain of events probably has within it a secret that will help us to be able to really grow our business better.
I use an analogy in my presentation about a tree.
The question old Jim Rohn used to ask is, "How tall will a tree grow?" And he would say in his crackly old voice, "As tall as it can!"
The question is, how big will your business grow? And the answer is, as big as it can.
Your business tries to communicate with you, and if you don't listen, you get really bitter negative feedback. There is a feedback loop that is before the customer complains, but the customer complaining, again, is not a terrible thing, IF you deal with it properly and you get curious about it and don't take it personally.
I looked up online about trees because this analogy hit [00:05:00] me of trees and how a tree will grow. I remembered from a biology class I took that depending on how you prune a tree, it will actually grow taller or wider.
So, if you cut all the branches at the top, actually a tree will grow wider. If you cut some of the branches on the bottom and the sides, it will actually grow taller. It's very curious how this organism of, and this is most trees, not all trees, but most trees are this way.
How you prune them actually impacts how they grow.
When you get a branch on a tree that's growing the wrong direction so that it won't be healthy and strong and not fall apart at some point and that branch doesn't get pruned off, it can eventually lead to the death of the tree.
If we get a real long big branch shooting off to the side, and then it causes an imbalance in the tree, and then a big storm comes, and boom, that whole branch falls off and it's because it wasn't properly pruned in the first place.
You kind of want to all your branches in a tree going [00:06:00] upwards and outwards. So if one is coming out straight to the side or down, you actually would want to prune that.
If you don't prune the offshoots that come out from the roots and everything, that will cause the tree not to be as strong and as sturdy and as good as it could be.
Well, this negative feedback is a signal that there's a branch in your business that is growing in the wrong direction, that's incongruent with the rest of your business and the mission that you probably have stated in your mind, or verbally, or written, of what you want your business to be.
As you get negative feedback, some people's tendency is to get defensive, they get upset at the person that gave it to them, and start blaming them for being an idiot and all that kind of stuff.
That just totally prevents that business owner from enjoying the opportunity of being able to prune their business properly so that it can grow bigger and more profitable and better.
So if you have negative feedback on a regular basis, you can just imagine how draining that is in your [00:07:00] life.
I mean, I bring this up fairly frequently, but I do because it's important. And that is that, you don't know how many days you have on Earth. You just don't know.
I remember a kid- when I was 20, I was serving a mission for my church in Brazil. I'd been talking to him and teaching him some things, trying to help him to fix some things that were not good in his life that were preventing him from being happy.
And so we were talking about that, and then that next weekend, he was at a barbecue and went swimming in a lake and got tied up in some weeds and drowned. He was 16.
I just realized, there's no guarantee of how many days you get on Earth.
Meanwhile, I have a grandmother who's turning 90 this year. I have my grandparents who lived to late 80s, mid 90s. You could grow really old.
But you don't know how many days you have, and then there's the whole thing with work!
Most of us spend most of our time during our day, [00:08:00] that have jobs or businesses, working. Most of your day is spent in that.
Do you want it to be an unpleasant experience with people constantly harassing you, complaining, tell you how terrible things are?
Or would you like to have something where you're actually delivering on what you hope to deliver and people are excited about it and they're happy with you and they're grateful for the work that you're doing?
I think most people want the latter! And to get that, though, you have to be willing to prune the business.
The way you know how to prune the business is you got to listen to the feedback. Negative feedback is the only useful feedback because it shows you, it gives you some hint, as to, where is something that's going incongruently in your business with where you want it to actually go?
Listening into that feedback allows you to do that.
But the problem is, with feedback, is that most people avoid it. They don't want it. They don't seek it out. One of the things that we do at FixYourFunnel is, we think about the customer [00:09:00] journey.
If somebody's decided they want to use FixYourFunnel and they start going through that process, we think about, where are some points at which somebody might need help or feel frustrated or have questions? We try to design ways to make sure that they don't have any of those scenarios but what are some places where that could happen?
And we reach out. So we'll send the text message asking, "How's your experience?" We'll do a website chat that asks, "How are things going?"
And we do that at key moments that we think could be times at which maybe somebody is ready to receive help if they weren't ready to receive help initially when they got started with us, or where we could get feedback from them that would help us to do a better job.
By doing that, by making ourselves available to hear negative feedback, one of our questions is, "What can we be doing better?" That's a great question because it doesn't necessarily mean that there is something wrong, but if they felt like something was wrong, they could communicate that with us.
And then that gives [00:10:00] us a chance to not take it personal, look at it, understand the true cause, and then start deciding if there's something that we need to prune in the business. If there's something we need to improve, take out, do differently.
The interesting part about feedback is if you ask for it, then you receive it. And when you receive it, then it doesn't go other places.
We're not perfect. We make mistakes, and we make mistakes all the time. Sometimes our software isn't perfect and it makes mistakes. When that happens, instead of deflecting, we like to take ownership of it.
Then we like to communicate clearly what's happened and what we're doing to try and address it, then we seek to fix it, and then we make sure it's fully resolved in the mind of the customer.
That doesn't mean we do everything that everybody wants, but that's generally the flow. What's fascinating is when you do that, even somebody that was really upset and maybe complaining or even bad-mouthing you in public can become an [00:11:00] ally when you listen to them, hear them, and respond to the core of what really was bothering them.
And, at the same time, your business improves and that means your reputation in the marketplace gets better and then your ability to receive referrals, your ability to keep people that start doing business with you goes up as well.
It's just a great cycle upward as you start to listen to that feedback. That's how you get external feedback.
Now, when I alluded to the fact that external feedback is not, it's good and it's important that you hear it and you receive it and that you're seeking it, but it's actually kind of a later feedback. That's not the signal that you want from the business to know how to grow it, but it is something that's built in that will help you no matter what.
But my first choice is not to have to get there at all.
When you're creating software, there's a couple different approaches to it. One is just build as quick as you can, throw it out there, and then see what happens. [00:12:00] Let people tell you about bugs and then you go fix them.
Another one is you think about the problem, you try and address the core problem, you build the thing, then you test it, then you think about everything you can possibly do to break it, and then you solve for those, and then you put it out.
And you probably won't catch everything. You'll still get some feedback, but you've done most of the work yourself instead of leaving it to the customer to go work through it.
The latter is a better approach because you're going to have a better experience overall and as you go through the testing and the trying, then you figure out what works, and that will inform future decisions.
When you create a plan and you're not happy with something that's happening in the business, then your first thing to do is find out what's the root cause.
This is where a lot of people get thrown off at the very beginning, because when there's something they don't like going on in their business, and human nature is to blame. [00:13:00] Find somebody that we can assign the responsibility to.
Maybe that's why there was even the concept of scapegoat, is because we want somebody else to be responsible for our lapses in judgment, our poor choices, things that we don't like. That's the first place where people get off track.
So, the first key is when you discover that something is not going right, there's some negative impact in your business, and it can just be something that you don't like, it doesn't have to necessarily be something everybody doesn't like. But you as the owner, this just really bothers you about the business.
Now that is your gut trying to give you an initial feedback and critical feedback. Frequently people will do one of two things with that.
They'll either bury it or they'll deny it. I guess those are the same things, but they just don't want to face it, ultimately.
The best thing to do when there's something that bothers you about the business is dig in. Go try and figure out what the root cause is without placing any blame on anybody or anything.
[00:14:00] That may sound difficult to do, but what we're trying to do is not give ourselves some out. We want to actually understand, what is causing the problem?
Now, some people will say, if you figure out what's causing the problem, aren't you associating blame with it?
And what I'm saying is, you're just trying to find out what's causing it, not make a judgment a call about that person, thing, process, or whatever. Those are kind of different.
We want to make sure that we can actually validate that that's the core cause. And the way that we do that is we identify a potential solution that we think would address the root cause of the problem.
The place where people go wrong in this is they start thinking about how they're going to implement the solution when they're creating the solution. And the problem with that is, you start neutering and cutting short this solution because you're thinking about it in the confines of how you know to implement it.
But when you're coming up with a solution to this core problem, the key is, don't think about how you're going to implement it. Just think about, what an ideal situation would we need to do to fully resolve this root cause?
The [00:15:00] good thing about that is allows your mind to explore areas that you might not explore if you're thinking about implementation at that point.
Before you start implementing the solution, you want to take your solution that you've come up with and you want to start exploring and seeing, does the does this create any negative side effects that I wouldn't like?
You start thinking about, okay, if we had a similar situation that we had to the one that give us the problem in the first place that I didn't like, what would happen with this solution?
You start imagining things that could go wrong. If you have a team, if you're fortunate enough to have a team and you bring up your proposed solution to the team and the team says, "yeah, but..." that's good.
You want to hear that because if they say, "yeah, but..." what they're actually doing is they're exploring the potential negative impacts of your solution.
What you do is you don't shoot down the, "yeah, but..." but you actually listen to it and then take it into consideration, see if you can improve your solution to eliminate the "yeah, but..."
And if you can do that, now you're getting closer to this solution will actually produce the results you're looking for.
[00:16:00] Once we've done that, we've eliminated all the, "yeah but's..." by actually addressing the core concern that creates the, "yeah, but..." about your solution- and you can come up with these on your own, but if you have a team, sometimes they'll see things you won't, so you want to include them in that process.
Now, you actually start working on implementing. What happens during the implementation phase is sometimes executing on the strategy that you want doesn't include the tools that you have.
You may have to go shopping for new tools that will help you to achieve that outcome. Sometimes it's useful to talk to other people that have achieved outcomes that may be similar and you can ask them, "How are do you doing this? Here's what I want to accomplish."
You'll find if you talk to the FixYourFunnel team, we do have different solutions that we'll talk about, it's mostly to give you ideas. But frequently, we will start the conversation with the question of, "What are you trying to accomplish?"
Because, in knowing what you're trying to accomplish, that gives us a better chance of helping you get there then if someone gets fixated [00:17:00] on how they're going to execute that.
That's the useful when trying to get help from other people like FixYourFunnel.
Well, that's a pretty important topic. I'm sure it will come out differently when I presented at PartnerCon, but I wanted you to have that because I think it's useful to think about feedback and think about, how can I accept it? How can I face it without it being a personal attack on me or taking it personal and start blaming people, getting upset?
When you really, really understand what feedback is, it's really a cry for help. It's that person saying, "I want to do business with you. Help me to figure out how to do business."
Now, that being said, there's two types of people out in the world.
There are destructive complainers, and they may not be destructive complainers their whole life, but some people are in different phases and that's that.
And then there's frustrated doers.
Now if you get a destructive complainer, you should be able to know pretty quick because when you go to accept their [00:18:00] feedback and hear them out, they don't stop. They keep going, they keep going, and nothing will satisfy them.
In that case, you just have a destructive complainer. And a destructive complainer still may have something to offer you with their feedback, but they're not somebody you're ever going to satisfy.
You just have to accept that and not take it personal when they can't be satisfied. And, in my personal opinion, I would want eject them from my business
A frustrated doer is somebody who wants to spend more money with your company in some way. You just have to adjust your plan and let them.
Part of that starts by hearing them out, finding out what they're, again, pointing to, "What are you trying to accomplish? What were you hoping to get as an outcome?"
And then evaluating and saying, okay, is our business set up to actually deliver that and is this something that we would want to deliver?
Because if somebody's complaining, they're a frustrated doer, the chances are what they're really saying is, "I want your business to adjust so that I can give you more money, because I see that you can help me, but the help you're currently offering doesn't get me [00:19:00] to the destination I'm trying to go."
And then that's a decision you have to make. But knowing and recognizing that that's a decision that you can make gives you a lot more liberty in deciding, how do we want to grow the company?
You may discover that you were offering Service A, but some of the people that have Service A really want Service B that you don't offer.
You could probably organize some way to get them Service B that could end up producing way more profit than Service A ever would and really grow your company in a way that you haven't expected.
That's why you don't want to get built into a cage with your business, but you want to give yourself that opportunity to be able to grow and to develop as you move through this process of growing a business.
I hope this helps you as you are exploring how to deal with feedback, how to deal with those people that are very vocal, as well as how to listen to your own gut and instincts as you try to grow your business before someone complains.
This is Ryan Chapman with FixYourFunnel.
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