Now is the time to get creative as a manager on how you handle one-on-one’s and gauge success. The world is different than it was this time last year, and your expectations and conversations with employees should shift accordingly.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jake Moffett.
Jake Moffett is the Growth Manager at RevenueZen. He works with a number of entrepreneurial clients to help them tell their personal stories as it relates to their professional brands and often writes about how to track remote teams without being creepy. He also manages a number of the internal RevenueZen marketing initiatives. He has three cats, loves bread, and is a pop singer under the name Jame Doe.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After college, I started working at an accounting software company. I’d blindly moved across the country from NYC to Portland, OR, to see what the pacific northwest was like. I had a degree in Biotechnology from Brown, and like many pseudo-lost college grads, found myself working in sales development. I moved up to lead the team, which I enjoyed far more. After a rather toxic work environment, I left that job to work at a flower shop for the next two years, which I absolutely fell in love with. I left the floral world behind, and now, am the growth manager for a holistic marketing agency called RevenueZen. I’m also a singer under the moniker jame doe.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company takes a holistic approach to marketing. We’re powered by a group of empowered individuals who are constantly trying out new techniques and measuring their success. We encourage our employees to take it upon themselves to learn the skills that are most in-demand and that they’re most drawn to. This is how you create a work environment that clients and quality employees gravitate towards.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
As a company, we’re not afraid to pivot based on the needs of our clients and the atmosphere of the industry. When we started RevenueZen in 2017, we were exclusively an outbound sales agency, providing SDRs to growing SaaS companies. Over time, the ethos of outbound work totally changed, and instead of dissipating into the dust, we changed what we offer. We were already slowly taking on more and inbound marketing projects and found that’s what our clients were asking for. For me, this personally meant I needed to revamp my skillset and ask myself what I wanted to do next. Luckily, RevenueZen was shifting gears to be a marketing-driven organization, and that’s what I believe in.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve been doing a lot of work on our website to ensure it really captures what we do, what sets us apart, and how we operate. I’m no coder, let me tell you that, BUT, I have a lot of wild ideas that sometimes can break a website. I’ve definitely had to let our CMO know that we might need to get some coders in to fix my errors, but luckily she’s understanding and has the foresight to back up our sites!
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Be empathetic. Understand that we’re in the midst of unpredictable and unprecedented times. Some of your team might be feeling just in general low energy, and that does not make them any less valuable a teammate. Encourage them to be open with their frustrations, in a structured setting, and if you ask them to be open with you you’ll have a better gauge of what they need to avoid burnout.
I definitely recommend using tools such as RallyBright to get a pulse on employee happiness and to develop a plan of action based on the results.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is encouraging your team and motivating them to be empowered. It’s giving them the reins to be creative, iterative, and organized. It’s being a resource for them, and not a dictator.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Personally, I have to let my mind completely float away after a meeting. I never schedule conversations back to back, and I’m adamant about having at least one meeting free day each week. No matter how good we are at talking, having constant meetings definitely takes the energy out of us, which can then prevent us from doing the job at hand. After a high stakes meeting, I like to take an aimless walk around my Portland neighborhood.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?
I was the manager of an SDR team at a very fast paced startup. On a team like that, it’s really important to have steady, ongoing conversations where the team has a chance to voice their concerns and you can help them understand their own performance. For me, it was always about having clear and apparent metrics that the team was well aware of, and doing whatever was possible to ensure they were around those numbers. It wasn’t so important that they hit the exact number each month, but that they were always trending upward and doing better than previous versions of themselves.
I always told my team that I would be honest with them and that they could be honest with me, even if it was tough in either direction. Just giving them that avenue to be able to talk let them feel more comfortable, and that was always appreciated by both parties.
This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?
Giving honest feedback is essential to being an effective human being, that’s why it’s important for being an effective leader. If we can’t iterate on what we’re doing in any capacity, we cannot grow. The best laid out plans can always be better, and that is crucial. It’s important to remind people that feedback isn’t personal, and it is essential.
By being honest with your team, you show that you’re listening and observing them because you care about their success. That inspires people to do better!
One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.
1- Have weekly zoom meetings with the sole purpose of providing feedback, in both directions.
2- Use “I” statements. For example, instead of “please respond over slack faster,” say “I need you to get to your messages a bit quicker so I can address your needs faster.”
3- Don’t dump a bunch of feedback on someone all at once. If there are a few things they need to improve upon, lay it out one by one.
Can you address how to give constructive feedback over email? If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.
How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
In general, I’m a fan of blunt, nonfluffy language. If something feels like it would be cruel to say in real life, however, writing over email is ten times worse! As a manager, you should use the information gathered during a one-on-one as one of the ways to know if remote employees are working and how they like getting feedback. If they’re meeting a quota or are on track to, and they seem to be taking on new initiatives and projects, then you can rest assured that they’re working. Encourage this behavior and amp them up!
If they’re falling behind, check in with your employee. Is there a part of a process that’s moving much slower since they began working from home? Is there a better way that you, as a manager, can support and get them on track? What if you implement some type of peer-support program?
Now is the time to get creative as a manager on how you handle one-on-one and gauge success. The world is different than it was this time last year, and your expectations and conversations with employees should shift accordingly.
In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?
If it’s too close after an incident, likely the employee is still emotionally reeling from the event. After the incident, let the employee know, “hey, let’s sync about this in a day or two after more information comes out. No need to fret right now, and we’ll have a good productive conversation around it! Thanks for being you always.”
Let the know it’s ok, it will be discussed, and that it doesn’t need to happen right away.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m a huge believer in a 4-day workweek, with one of those 4 days being totally meeting free. You won’t believe what gets done when people aren’t constantly in meetings. I also think that 2 days is not enough time to completely detach from work, which means people never get out of the work mindset. That’s no way to live, and I believe it’s hindering our performance as employees across the board.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My mom always says “don’t be a sheep.” She’s right! I’ve never desired to subscribe to a predetermined, neatly laid out life. I relish in mild discomfort, and that’s because I like creatively finding my way out of it. Make the strange choices, choose the odd path, and the world will reward you for your bravery.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m also a pop star under the name Jame Doe. Maybe listen to my music? If you like Rhye, London Grammar, or the Weeknd, you’ll like me (I think.) I encourage people to follow the RevenueZen LinkedIn page, where we constantly provide actionable, ungated insight.
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.
I appreciate having this talk! There’s a lot people can do to be better leaders. Hope some of these tips help people out.