Immediate feedback is great when the incident is fresh in everyone’s mind. And the periodic feedback is great when both parties can have time to come up with questions and a game plan for implementing the feedback.
As part of our series about How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful, I had the pleasure to interview Elena Visionary.
Elena is soul entrepreneur, speaker, writer, visionary, and transformation coach, bridging spirituality and personal development.
Through her private coaching, workshops, retreats, and online courses, Elena is helping people tap into their inner power and raise their vibrational frequency, to live a more purposeful, abundant, healthy, and beautiful life.
Prior to her spiritual awakening and dedicating her life to serving, empowering, and coaching women, Elena had a successful finance career on Wall Street.
Her deepest desire is to awaken people to their fullest potential through self-healing and self-mastery. Happily married with two kids, she lives in New York and travels the world.
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?
My backstory is quite interesting. I had a pretty tough childhood growing up in the Soviet Union, where words such as spirituality, entrepreneurship, creativity, and freedom of speech did not exist. My parents lived in huge scarcity and constant fear. When Soviet Union collapsed, my parents lost everything they saved and everything they believed in. That was devastating to see, however it was one of my first lessons of resilience in the time of uncertainty. When I was 17 years old, my father won a green card and we came to New York. It was a tough time in my life, as I was completely broke, had no friends or connections, didn’t speak any English, gained a lot of weight, and was dealing with the emotions of being a teenager. However, I was very hard working and determined to make it and succeed in this country. I went to business school, graduated with honors with a Bachelors in Finance and Masters in Marketing, and in just a few short years I was working in a prestigious investment banking firm on Wall Street.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I ended up climbing the corporate ladder for almost 20 years, before I realized that my ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. What I was missing was the meaning in my life, beyond money and titles. I decided to leave the corporate world to start my own business, to create a personal brand, and to become a spiritual mentor. Of course, having such in-depth experience in a corporate world taught me analytical, problem solving, and interpersonal and leadership skills that I continue to apply in my new business. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and is teaching us something about ourselves and the world. So, I am very grateful for all the experiences I had, and my inner power to overcome the fears of transitioning into a completely different industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’d say the most interesting thing that happened to me was my spiritual awakening right on Wall Street in a big auditorium, sitting shoulder to shoulder with 200 people, and meditating for the first time. It was Deepak Chopra, a renowned spiritual teacher and best-selling author, who came into my corporate job to talk about what it meant to be an enlightened leader. I was so immersed into that presentation and meditation, that day ended up changing the trajectory of my career and my life.
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?
If we go way back to when I first came to the US and went to business school, I had one of my first job interviews on Wall Street. When the interviewer asked me why I wanted the job, I said, “Because I want to make a lot of money.” It sounds funny to me now, but back then I had a scarcity mindset and I just said it how it was. I didn’t get that job, but I learned to be more polished in interviews and really reevaluated what my values are and how I can contribute my skills, my energy, and my knowledge to others.
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Taking care of yourself and taking breaks is very important to avoid burnout and be productive, for both employees and CEOs. It is not always about making more, running faster, or jumping higher. Focusing on employees’ well-being and encouraging them to practice mindfulness will serve any organization well in the long term.
How do you define Leadership? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is an art of inspiring and motivating others. And to be a great leader is to be a visionary with unshakable self-esteem and integrity. I believe in order to become a great leader, one has to practice mindfulness and be very good at managing his/her emotions. Because with that self-awareness and self-regulation, they are able to make tough decisions on the fly, navigate others under pressure and inspire them to be their personal best.
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?
I always start my day with meditation, affirmations, and journaling. I always want to connect to my own authentic truth and inner guidance, and the best time to do it is early in the morning, before I check my emails, listen to the news, or get bombarded with the long to-do list. I believe that doing the inner work and understanding your own energetic is essential to succeed in any business and in any relationship. Also, before a high stakes meeting or presentation, I like to do breathing exercises that instantaneously relieve any stress and anxiety and set me in an emotionally elevated state to deliver the best presentation.
Ok, lets jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?
When I worked on Wall Street, I managed a global team and I enjoyed it a lot. It was general practice to give feedback to your subordinates, peers, and managers. So, I am quite accustomed to give and receive both positive and constructive feedback. Now I have a team of a few people — a virtual assistant, a copywriter, and a video editor — and I always make sure feedback is given in a timely manner.
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?
By giving constructive feedback you allow people to grow and improve. It also helps to avoid unpleasant situations and miscommunication in the future.
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.
All my current employees are remote and we work in different time zones, therefore email is our primary communication tool. However, I prefer to give feedback via Zoom or FaceTime, if possible. I always start with positive observations first. I also try to focus on particular behavior and not on an individual. Because for the most part, the feedback is not personal. I don’t want people to think they are not worthy, because absolutely everything can be taught and improved.
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.
Emails are tricky, because as you said, you can’t see the body language. I would always start the email with appreciation and highlighting what works. Being kind and understanding that everyone is doing their best from their level of expertise, can also set the right tone between the giver and receiver of the feedback. We are all very intuitive and we read each other’s energy. So, if you are kind, people would feel it on the receiving end and will be more receptive to the feedback.
How do you prevent email from sounding too critical or harsh?
I think it’s human nature to downgrade the tone of the message via email. So it’s important to remember to use positive words, don’t use all caps, and start and end the email with a kind greeting. I am also a fan of using a smiling face emoticon and I don’t think they are unprofessional. I always read an email out loud before sending it, to double check if I can soften a tone in any of my words.
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?
I believe in both immediate feedback and periodic feedback, set at the agreed time, for example once a quarter. Immediate feedback is great when the incident is fresh in everyone’s mind. And the periodic feedback is great when both parties can have time to come up with questions and a game plan for implementing the feedback.
How would you define what it is to be a great boss? Can you share a story?
This is such a great question because I’ve had a share of not so great managers in my own career and it always came down to the level of self-awareness that those managers had. I believe what makes a great boss is a high level of emotional intelligence. Our emotions carry the key to the world around us, they “read” the field for us faster and more accurately than the mind. So first of all, emotional intelligence is understanding your own feelings and emotions, having that self-awareness, and knowing how to self-regulate and become a master of your emotions. Secondly, once you are in tune with yourself, as a manager, you can understand your employees better, know what motivates them and what inspires them. Emotionally intelligent managers build relationships based on trust, respect and integrity. They have great communication skills and take personal responsibility for their actions.
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. 🙂
One of the pillars of my brand is women empowerment. What I saw in the corporate world, and see in entrepreneurship, is that there are not enough women in leadership roles and there is not a lot of funding available to women who are starting their own businesses. We need to change that. We need strong male leaders to be on board with helping women grow. As I said before, what makes a great leader is having emotional intelligence. Women are inherently great at that and that is what our world needs right now.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Oh there are so many. I absolutely love poetry and quotes from ancient spiritual traditions. But one quote that I want to share with your readers today is by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” There are so many of us that live our lives based on the borrowed beliefs and limiting thoughts of others. We were conditioned from early childhood to look outside for validation, see what everyone is doing, and seek approval of others. But I want to inspire and remind everyone that within each of us is unlimited potential. We were all born with a gift and have a unique genius waiting to be uncovered. So today I invite you to be unapologetically yourself, be a leader of your own life and never give up on your dreams.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.