Feedback is a Gift

Sept. 30, 2020
Fair critiques lead to future improvements.

I love our editorial advisory board. One of my favorite parts of every month is our conference call talking about the highs and lows of the issue, industry trends, what they’d like to see in the magazine, etc. They’re our eyes and ears in the industry, the people in the trenches every day who make sure the magazine reflects what the industry wants to see. Every single one of the shop owners who have served as editorial advisory board members over the years have become trusted resources, mentors, and—dare I say it—friends.

So I say this with the utmost love and respect: A couple months ago, they ripped us. In the nicest way possible, of course, but in that very specific way that lets me know they didn’t love that month’s issue: “It was… good. [Pause]”


What happened next, of course, is that everyone else chimed in: “I’m glad you said that because I was thinking the same thing!”

It was difficult sitting through that hour-long conference call and I left it licking my wounds. I’m not too proud to admit that I even felt defensive.

I had to remind myself of something I tell all of my team members: Any feedback, regardless of whether you agree or not, is a gift.

Giving feedback is difficult, which is why it often goes unsaid. If a person is willing to take the time and offer you honest feedback, there’s clearly a level of appreciation and thoughtfulness that exists. Plus, let’s face it, even though I like to think of myself as a cool, hip leader, not everyone feels comfortable sharing their honest thoughts with me. As Warren Buffet said: "Honesty is a very expensive gift; just don't expect it from cheap people."

It’s easy to discount that feedback can also serve as motivation. The latter is exactly what that call did for me. We happened to be knee deep in editorial planning for 2021 at the time and it motivated me to get out there and have more conversations with people in the industry, to make sure that our content hit the mark. I talked to shop owners, consultants, vendors, paint companies, association heads—the list goes on. And, at the end of those few weeks, I ended up rewriting our editorial calendar for next year because I had gained so much new insight and so many new ideas. I have to say, I haven’t felt this confident about our story lineup in a while. I finished it and thought, “This is killer.”

I have to give the board credit: I don’t think that I would’ve had all of those conversations and rewritten the content lineup if they hadn’t pushed me on that call.

One of the worst things we can do as leaders is shut down feedback so regularly that we stop getting it altogether. Surrounded by nothing but “yes” people? No, thanks. None of us are above feedback and, if we’re able to put aside our egos and allow ourselves to take in that feedback, it’s always of benefit.

Got any other feedback for me? Trust me, I can take it.

Anna Zeck
Editorial Director