Provide a vision for the future. No one likes going to the dentist, but we sit in that chair because we know it’s for our own good. Similarly, honest feedback can hurt but if you can show the employee that improving on those areas can help their career, they’ll be more likely to take the feedback as an opportunity.
As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shemifhar Freytes, Head of Healthcare Engagement at Enlivity
Shemi is a well-rounded business professional with a strong background in life sciences and tech. She is passionate about developing products that help make a difference in patients’ lives. Over the last 10 years she has worked for large and small companies in laboratory and business projects, helping to bridge the gap between science and business.
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?
I’ve always been very passionate about science. My biological dad died from cancer when I was really young, and that inspired to help people through scientific research. I thought I’d develop my career in the lab and eventually become a professor. I always struggled deciding between industry and academia and I got the opportunity to explore both options. I worked on some really great and exciting projects that incorporated new technologies, but I quickly realized that bench work was not for me. I wanted to be closer to the patients who would benefit from these products, so I went back to school and got a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship degree at the University of Florida (Go gators!), which was a really fantastic experience that helped me transition into business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Enlivity stands out for its dedication to addressing the human side of cancer treatment. When it comes to cancer, doctors and families are often focused on the treatment itself, doses, scheduling, etc. The side effects aren’t always prioritized, and they can cause complications and really take a toll on the patient.
I recall a meeting a few years ago in Miami. I was presenting our first product, Healios, to a group of nurses. Healios addresses the problem of oral mucositis (cancer mouth sores). Many people don’t talk about it, but mucositis is one of the most debilitating side effects of cancer treatment and can cause major complications. One of the nurses told me that she wasn’t really interested. She said mucositis wasn’t the worst thing these patients would face in their lives, so why spend time and money on something like Healios.
Sadly, that was not the only time I heard something like that. So, our focus on supporting quality of life really stands out.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I think my most interesting story to date is how I ended up joining Enlivity. I randomly attended a conference, which I was not even supposed to attend. My last company had sponsored part of it, and no one wanted to go, so I ended up attending said conference. One of the speakers was Pravin Charturvedi and his opening lines was “I am professionally unemployed” and naturally, I had to know more about how one goes about becoming professionally unemployed.
We ended up having lunch and he encouraged me to take a break, figure out what I wanted to do next, and then give him a call. So, I did, and he ended up connecting me with Enlivity.
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 was pushing to finish a really intense and long project. I had been working on it 24/7 for days. I looked over it, checked it, submitted the final file. To my dismay, I get an email saying, “Excellent job, but you might want to assess your asses”.
Right there at the top of the page was my typo, it read asses instead of assess. I will never make that mistake again and I always assess my asses. But the true lesson behind this faux pas is that breaks are an essential part of work. Breaks actually help you perform better and more efficiently.
What advice would you give to other CEOs and business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?
Funny that this question is right after my story above. My number one advice would be: Strive to be an output-based company instead of an optics company. People make the mistake of believing that being in an office 9am to 5pm, 8hrs a day means employees are being productive. However, this is rarely the case. If you can afford for your employees to have flexible schedules, then forget about when the work gets done. Focus on what gets done and the quality of the work.
Flexible schedules allow employees to perform their best and avoid burn out.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
One of my mentors once told me that leadership was about getting people to do what you wanted them to do and like it. That’s the definition I’ve used for several years now. This definition is also a similar to RBG’s take on changing the world, “fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”.
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?
If possible, I try to go for a quick run. I also have a playlist that helps me relax. I’m a big fan of EDM/electronic music, so it’s not exactly a relaxation playlist, but it helps me get into a fun and relaxed mood.
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 started managing my first team at 19, so I have experience working with culturally diverse teams but also across different age groups. I have managed people significantly older than myself, so I’ve had to get really good at giving feedback and tailoring it in a way that’s clear but also appropriate to the individual.
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?
Being a good leader is providing a compelling vision for the future but also helping build that future. Part of that process is allowing and helping your employees grow in a way that they can fit within that vision. When you give honest, constructive, and direct feedback, you are providing a clear vision for what’s needed and how they can fit into that future.
You are not helping your employees grow if you don’t provide them with feedback that pushes them to be 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.
- Don’t over explain or try to hide the real point of the conversation. I find this creates confusion and makes many employees feel uneasy. Be direct but casual about the feedback you are providing.
- Highlight the good. Start with something your employee did well or generally does well. Use that as a starting point to deliver feedback.
- Provide a vision for the future. No one likes going to the dentist, but we sit in that chair because we know it’s for our own good. Similarly, honest feedback can hurt but if you can show the employee that improving on those areas can help their career, they’ll be more likely to take the feedback as an opportunity.
- Provide resources. Offer resources to help employees improve and overcome challenges.
- Share the failure. Highlight areas in which you could’ve provided more support and ask what you can do to help them improve.
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?
I’d say a phone call, or a video chat would be best if you are concerned about sounding too harsh. If that’s not possible I would start by highlighting all the things the employee did well. Then move on to the things that need improvement, but don’t make it a laundry list or nitpick every mistake. Just focus on the top 3 areas that need improvement.
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?
Employees assume they are doing a good job unless told otherwise, so the sooner the better. That way the employee has the ability to improve quickly. As an employee, you don’t want to wait three months to find out you were passed for a promotion because you did something wrong that no one told you about.
How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?
I think a great boss is someone who inspires you but also gives you the resources and the trust to grow. I have a lot of personal stories, but I was just reading an article about Cardi B and the making of WAP. I thought her approach to management was so fantastic. She’s known for taking a chance on members of her team who prove capable. Cardi B allowed her publicist, Patientce Foster, to work on the WAP video as creative director even though she had no experience in that particular area.
I think that’s what being a great boss or manager is all about. It’s about giving people a fair chance and providing them with the tools to succeed.
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. 🙂
Even with insurance, healthcare can be extremely inaccessible for many people in the U.S. and around the world. I would love to inspire a movement where you could directly sponsor someone’s healthcare. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe you pay for someone’s copay, prescription, doctor visit etc. Something as simple as covering 50 dollars worth of prescription copayments can really make a difference in the health and wellbeing of many people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You have to give up control to gain control”. For me this particular quote/lesson has been extremely valuable as I’ve developed my career in management and in the startup world. You can’t do everything yourself or be everywhere at the same time, so giving up control and trusting others is how you grow and get results.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.