On Feedback

6881178_f260 Getting and receiving feedback is part of the professional lifecycle. At some companies, it’s a bi-annual (or even annual) meeting with a superior that entails some kind of compensation or promotion discussion. At others, it happens on a weekly or monthly cadence.

But in all jobs, we receive some sort of feedback on an almost daily basis in some form or another. Formal feedback ordinarily entails what is known at most companies as “360 feedback”: comments from peers, superiors and direct reports to encapsulate a full picture of your work. It is parts positive, parts constructive and sometimes parts confusing.

For people who are new to the process, positive reinforcement can seem like the most powerful thing. Getting a pat on the back for great work done is what everyone wants to hear – it’s like earning an A on a paper. We often cringe at the constructive stuff: the idea of people publishing negative things about us and focusing on weaknesses is nerve-racking at best. It’s taken me a long time to understand the value of the “negative” but in reality, the feedback simply serves as constructive criticism to make ourselves perfect.

As a result, I can’t stress enough the importance of receiving constructive feedback. Nobody is perfect, and the only way we’ll become better professionals and individuals is to hear other people’s commentary on our work. The criticism can range from individual skill development to professional demeanor to public presence. Almost everything (professional, within reason) is fair game, and trust me it’s worth hearing. Ordinarily once you hear it, you’ll begin to notice it and course correct rather quickly. And the advice goes both ways: don’t be afraid to provide with critical feedback on a regular cadence. It’s nothing personal, and the other party will likely be grateful for your opinion.

Taking constructive criticism can mean thickening up your skin. It’s hard, and so I try to solicit feedback as often as possible. By receiving it constantly, you become better at digesting the hard stuff. It also makes it less alarming than receiving an onslaught of things to improve. Another way to soften the blow of receiving constructive feedback is to have the person delivering it write it out for you and give it to you to read (either before or during the meeting) so that it’s easier to divorce the subject saying the words from the words themselves.

No matter what, treat the subject with dignity. Thank the person for taking the time to improve you, and generally speaking, write it down! You’ll be more inclined to go back to it without the rest of the emotions later on.

Anyone else have good methods for coping with receiving feedback? Feel free to Tweet me @ellenjdasilva.

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On Feedback

Back It Up With Data

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The analyst in me knows that not everyone enjoys quantitative reasoning or analysis. In fact, it’s something many of us graduate from (in school, profession, etc) and hope to leave behind forever. But I can’t stress the importance of keeping everything data-driven, even potentially to a fault, to ensure credibility and substantiate a claim.

When you are working on a project, trying to negotiate a partnership, or even forming an interest group, taking a data-driven approach is a sure way to success. When I think about my work re-starting the Super Women at Twitter org from the ground up, I attribute the success to identifying valuable metrics and putting hard numbers behind the claims.

Data doesn’t have to be scary or even large, but it should be accurate and well-thought out. The most successful companies that learn how to scale and grow a business also know how to identify metrics early, measure them consistently and accurately, and use those data points to their advantages. The difference between a small, fledgling company that doesn’t understand how to pitch or scale itself and one that does is simply a metric.

Start small: identify one thing that values the business, org or project. Is it number of users? Time spent doing something? Added value to a business? Identifying, tracking and using this data effectively lends credibility and sets you up for success.

 

Back It Up With Data

We Wrote A Book! Pitching & Closing Comes Out July 25

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I’m excited to announce that my good friend, Alex Taub of SocialRank, and I have written a book. The book is called Pitching & Closing: Everything You Need to Know About Business Development, Partnerships, and Making Deals that Matter. The book is being published by McGraw Hill and you can pre-order your copy starting today.

I often get asked about the process of moving into tech and especially, business development: what kinds of skills are required, what jobs are available, and how to be successful in doing deals. Indeed, I met Alex asking exactly the same kinds of questions. Over the years, we have discovered that there is limited material on the topic, and so we sought to create our own playbook.

For those who don’t know Alex, he is the most well-connected business person in the New York tech community, and has been writing a very popular personal blog and a bi-weekly column for Forbes for the past few years. Sometimes, he asks me to help him formulate ideas and edit the posts. So I was deeply honored and truly floored last spring when Alex approached me with a game-changing opportunity: to be his co-author on a book on business development.

What can you read about in Pitching & Closing? The book spans 5 major topics and dives in-depth about each. Part 1 is about the business development basics. What is it? How is it structured and organized at companies? What does it entail? Part 2 is an introduction to partnerships. Part 3 takes an extensive look at the process of pitching and closing, the namesake of the book. Part 4 is an overview of industry best-practices. And Part 5 features war stories from some of the best names in the business, including Charlie O’Donnell (Brooklyn Bridge Ventures), Gary Vaynerchuck (VaynerMedia), Jesse Itzler (Marquis Jet) and many more.

The purpose of the book is twofold: first, it is meant to serve as a guidebook to the art of business development and closing deals for people already in the industry. Second, it is meant to used as a training manual for new graduates or graduate school students who want to learn more about the industry and how non-technical roles work at tech companies.

Let’s be actionable: how can you help?

1. Buy the book! It’s available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo and other major booksellers. The book will be available for shipment on July 25, 2014 and is also available on audiobook.

2. Spread the word to college and graduate school students and professors. Alex and I are hoping that this book will be used for educational purposes in addition to just for industry professionals. If you are a professor or know of anyone who runs a program that might be interested in using the book as part of their curriculum, we’ll be happy to talk. Email us at ellenjdasilva@gmail.com or ataub24@gmail.com.

It would be out of character if Alex and I didn’t use this as an educational opportunity for others interested in learning about the book writing process. Over the next 2 months leading up to the book launch, we’ll be sharing insights about the process, real-time tips, and additional snippets of content that you might find valuable. Stay tuned for updates on our website pitchingandclosing.com and of course, on Twitter @pandc.

We Wrote A Book! Pitching & Closing Comes Out July 25