YOU Have Much Room For Improvement

I recently accepted an invitation to meet with the CMO of an Internet analytics firm for a demo of her company's flagship dashboard product. It was interesting, but the demo and presentation flow had flaws that overshadowed promising aspects of the product. I started providing feedback one minute into the presentation, including some unexpected and blunt criticism. I could tell it was perceived harshly.

I emailed her back later that day and thanked her for sharing her product and company story, and underscored that my feedback was offered with only the best intentions (to help). She quickly replied that my comments were valuable and to the point, and they surfaced shortcomings that were preventing her team from realizing their vision. And then she asked if she could follow up with me during her next New York trip to provide an update and collect more feedback. I enthusiastically replied "Of course!"

I can be a tough critic, so I admire this CMO for her thick skin and receptivity to my unvarnished response. It opened the door for improvement and ongoing collaboration. Which brings me to the point of this story: Too often, people don't provide honest feedback because they're worried the person receiving it will react defensively. Worse, they don't provide any feedback because they're afraid the person receiving it will be offended. Those are bad outcomes.



The best outcome is provision of feedback, followed by embracement and improvement. That's why it's important to remember that constructive feedback is a gift, even if sometimes harsh. And exchanging it takes courage from both the giver and the receiver. Any hesitation on one side can ruin it for both.

8 comments about "YOU Have Much Room For Improvement".
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  1. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, July 31, 2009 at 10:44 a.m.

    Hey Max,

    I thought this was a great post and a terrific reminder. We ALL have room for improvement - no matter what we do. And not occasionally reminding ourselves of that is a huge failing. I think that the people who are thoughtful enough to provide honest feedback are the real relationships to treasure - because it is those people who will ultimately help you (or your business) do whatever it is you're trying to do - only better!

    Thanks for inspiring thought and starting a great conversation this morning!

  2. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., July 31, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    Great stuff to remember, I shiver a bit to hear it as I'm about to hit the pavement with a newly revised business plan and product but I will keep this in mind along the journey. Thanks for the reminder and the words of wisdom.

  3. Richard Monihan, July 31, 2009 at 10:55 a.m.

    Harsh criticism, if provided alongside a solution, is never a problem, and should be encouraged. Simply pointing out flaws for the sake of pointing them out isn't unwelcome, but needs to be diplomatically managed. It's more common for people to criticize without providing an alternative, simply because we are by nature critical animals. The vast majority of humans are not problem solvers. But we are all capable of seeing a problem and vocalizing how we feel about it.

    I frequently have discussions about this with my wife when discussing our children's coaches. Some coaches simply yell at players for the sake of yelling, without providing guidance. This is not useful for anyone. But sometimes players ONLY hear the yelling, and don't pay attention to the guidance, and blame the coach for not being good. As a player who always responded individually to being driven, I like the loud coach - he is trying to get you to improve yourself in areas he cannot help, primarily by making you mentally tough.

    I don't advocate yelling in business presentations, of course - but it is important to be mentally tough and prepared to offer a response or recognize good, solid criticism for what it is - designed to make us better prepared. Too often, we may be inclined to take a criticism personally when it is simply good guidance.

  4. Michael Newhouse from WCN Group, July 31, 2009 at 11:23 a.m.

    Good Post Max,

    I believe Jack Welch coined the term "False Kindness" which is non-productive for progession in a business environment. If you did not povide the honest critic they may have taken months longer to uncover these issues.

    The key is the deliver. I too am learning this in a tactful and beneficial way so that my comments/suggestions do not produce conflict or resentment.

  5. Tom O'brien from MotiveQuest LLC, July 31, 2009 at 11:44 a.m.


    I want to come present to you next time I am in New York!

    A couple of Companies ago I did a lot of presentations with our CTO and Founder - Mike Phillips - now with Vlingo.

    He was great at always doing a critical debrief after each and every meeting.

    We got better.


  6. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, July 31, 2009 at 11:50 a.m.

    I'm at the stage where I'm bringing a new mobile e-coupon site to the market.

    Its sites: and

    I'm very interested in feedback on my project and am taking the opportunity here because we're talking about the importance of feedback.

    Here's a summary of what the patent pending site represents:

    It is an instant interactive dynamic software system comprised of a computer site and a mobile site serving as a central platform where businesses can upload full color advertisements complete with descriptions of any offers, click-to-call, web-links, or videos and commercials, featuring bar coded e-coupons.

    Consumers (all of us) can access the mobile site on their internet enabled mobile devices and redeem the mobile e-coupons at the point of purchase at the businesses for instant savings while earning loyalty points for use.

    Advertisers see real-time results and can edit offers instantly.

    The system is designed for local advertising to complete global campaigns.

    While other mobile advertising sites are available, none offer a complete system of third party instant posting of ads, offers, and e-coupons with all of the features of links, click-call, videos, and with barcodes at one site, making real-time changes anytime, instantly, being able to be seen and redeemed by anyone with an internet enabled mobile device, locally to globally, while having instant analytics available to the advertiser.

    So, Max, I think your post was great. I'm ready. What's your (or others') feedback?

    With 70% of search touted as 'retail' and we're all about retail and search (I'd rather search for all of the restaurants offering deals on GripOffs then searching on google for the restaurants and just finding out where they are - no deals involved, just basic info), offering valuable deals such as two for one dinners at a local upscale restaurant, its intent is to have all of the local deals available at one site on your mobile (without downloading or waiting for something to be sent or having to go to each restaurant site in the area to see if they're offering deals on their site - probably have to print them out if they do) for use while you're on the go.

    If you can literally double, or at the least save your money on most purchases, would there be any reason you wouldn't use a site like this (it's free to the users as it's completely advertiser supported)?

    I can be reached at

    I know that this can come across as a way to promote my site, but since we're talking about the significance of listening to feedback, I decided to see if I can get any significant feedback and the volume.

    Will one person offer feedback on the site? Will 100?

    One last point: Max, in this article you've used 'feedback' as people use 'criitique' nowadays and it seems that they only have negative implications.

    Let's keep in mind that there is positive feedback and negative feedback as there is 'constructive criticism'.

    We all benefit from feedback if we see it for what it is:

    Somebody is interested enough to offer the feedback, which is basically their interest in offering their ideas to make something better. That's a good thing.

    No matter what the feedback, I think Max hit it on the head - 'the best outcome is provision of feedback . ." and we all need to realize it for the importance it plays in our businesses.

    Once again, Max, great article!

  7. Bill Chambers from Bright Chapel Financial Services, July 31, 2009 at 7:03 p.m.

    Funnily enough, I just finished a meeting two days ago with a guy named Edd Kalehoff in which we went over an interesting new project he is pitching to the cruise lines. I had given his partner, Tug at Powderhouse Productions, some honest feedback which I am pretty sure he took as being too negative. Edd took the same feedback and ran with it, met with one of the cruise line execs and appears to have made some substantial progress. Sometimes honest appraisal can, in the right hands, create more substantive action than all the positivism in the world.

  8. Max Kalehoff from MAK, August 1, 2009 at 7:19 a.m.

    @Bill Chambers: It's a small world!

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