Receiving Tough Feedback | John Miller’s Advice to Mark Sieverkropp

So what would you do if someone you looked up to told you everything you did wrong when you reached out to him? Maybe you’ve thought about emailing or calling this person for months or years. And you finally do. And then…

Getting Tough Feedback - Mark Sieverkropp

How do you handle tough feedback? @Skropp2 and @QBQGuy show you the right way. (Tweet That)


That’s what happened to Mark Sieverkropp recently when he reached out to someone he looked up to. But I don’t want to ruin the story, because it’s really good and there is a lot to learn from it.

So without further ado or explanation, take it away Mark.

I have been waiting several months to share this story.  And I don’t believe there is any better place to share it than on Matt’s blog!

This past summer I was working on a project, Happen To Your Career, with Scott Barlow.  (You may recognize that name from the fact that our very own Matt McWilliams was featured on our podcast).  In the process of this, we were doing some marketing and contacting folks to ask for their help.

Rookie mistakes

I made some rookie mistakes when emailing people.  One of those I emailed was a man I look up to and you’ve probably heard of, John G. Miller, of QBQ fame (Matt’s interviewed him and reviewed his book).

Here’s what he recommended in response to my rookie mistakes that you should remember, too.

John Miller’s tips for better marketing emails

  • Keep emails private. When emailing several people, use the “BCC” address field, this way everyone’s emails remain private from the others addressed in the email. Or better yet, use an email service such as MailChimp to manage the emails.
  • Make it readable. Use bigger font so it’s easier to read.
  • Less is more. Make it shorter, no one wants to read a super long, boring email.

guest-postJohn’s response to my email appeared in my inbox shortly after I sent it and, though I was alone, I was embarrassed at my idiot-ness (is that a word?).  I cried some real man tears.

A reprimand or free coaching?

John is a man I respect greatly, and he had reprim–scratch that, John offered unsolicited input and coaching which helped me a lot!

After I finished looking around to see if anyone else in the coffee shop was looking over my shoulder and witnessed my faux pas and got over being embarrassed, I realized how fortunate I was.  John is a very busy man and he took the time to figurative put his arm around me and provide some great counsel.

What I learned

Here are 3 reasons why you should surround yourself with people like John who will give you hard advice.

1.  “Feedback is the breakfast of Champions”. I heard Ken Blanchard say that during an interview.  And it’s true.  Receiving feedback that you can implement into your life will make you a champion.  You need folks that will provide that feedback. Matt has a whole series of posts on the importance and effectiveness of receiving feedback.

2.  Advice tastes better than experience.  It’s easier to learn through the experience and advice of others than it is to fall flat on your face yourself.  Surrounding yourself with others who have “been there” and are willing to help you avoid the pitfalls and traps ahead of you will greatly increase your chances of success.

3.  “If you build it, they will come.”  It was true of the Field of Dreams, it’s true of receiving great advice as well.  If you build and maintain a character that is open and receptive to advice that might not be easy to hear, you will attract more of it.  You will find, if you’re teachable, great teachers will appear and will be willing to help you grow faster and higher than you could on your own.

If you want to be successful, find someone like John Miller to be around.  Heck, find a dozen people who are willing to give you hard advice.  And when they give it to you, swallow your pride, and take their advice.  Because, it’s the hard advice that will turn you into a champion.

Share a time when you received some tough feedback. How did you respond?

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  • Let’s Grow Leaders

    It will sting worse if you ignore it.

    • Absolutely true! Or if you respond the second you receive the feedback. It took me a few minutes to get my composure and respond appropriately :)

    • Hmmmm good point.

      If you get composure and do what @marksieverkropp:disqus did, then reply, and then learn…it at worst is over. Even if you do nothing with it, it’s over.

      But ignoring it will fester. And fester. And fester.

  • I would have replied back and called him a jerk. Okay no I wouldn’t have but initially I would have wanted to. But then like an adult I would have arrived somewhere close to where you did. Much better place! Okay so what did he say dang it?????!!!!!!

    • qbqjohn

      Joel, my wife has called me a “jerk” a time or two ….. so you wouldn’t have been the first. Ha!

    • Haha. I didn’t ever think of calling John a jerk…though I was quite embarassed to begin with! I started trying to think of how to respond appropriately to #1 repair the damage I was afraid I’d done to our (limited) relationship and #2 let him know I had taken his suggestions to heart! The rest of the story will be forthcoming :)

  • This right here is a whole bunch of awesomeness. When I get tough feedback, I like to sweep it under the rug, not write a blog post and record a podcast, so hats off to Mark!

    Some of you may remember how much I whined after my performance review at work a few months ago. My supervisor told me that I “tend to avoid conflict and talk over people”. Ouch. What did I do? I went to my friends for affirmation, so I could feel better.

    After the sting got less painful, I took small steps to work on this issue.

    Thanks, Mark for sharing this great story, thanks @qbqjohn:disqus John for your continued awesomeness that inspires all of us and thanks Matt for not making Skropp jokes on this post.

    • Haha. Thanks Lil. I’m not that super though…just make a lot of mistakes–which leads to a lot of practice taking criticism :)

      And I wouldn’t congratulate Matt yet…there’s a lot of day left! I wholly expect an Skropp joke sooner or later!

    • Lily, that is awesome!

      As for the Skropp jokes, he and I talk a lot now so I save them for our conversations.

      • Haha. Yes. WE HAd a pretty good verbal (well, email…) spar yesterday 😉

        • And now you do it privately, so we all miss out on the fun.

          • Haha. No, we still do it all the time. Just part of that time is phone calls and emails. And Matt’s getting worn down by my awesomeness so he’s all but given up and just become my friend.

          • Steve Pate

            ohh my..that’s just funny!

  • Great post Mark! Way to turn the situation into a teachable moment.

    • At least some good comes from my idiot-ness (still not sure if that’s a word…) haha

  • Thanks for sharing this, Mark. The word you were seeking is idiocy, but it really doesn’t apply. You asked, you received, you implemented, and then you shared what you learned.

    Sometimes we ask because we are seeking affirmation and confirmation, not because we are seeking advice.

    Back when you all were in preschool, I did a drawing using a photo from a magazine. I altered it a bit so it wasn’t blatant copying, and then I asked an established artist what she thought. She said two things I’ll never forget: 1. “You have your own photos – why aren’t you using them?” 2. “You are better than that.”

    It stung, but both were true and I’ve never forgotten her words. She was right, and I will always appreciate her honesty. My own motives were wrong – I wanted her approval but concealed that by asking for advice.

    I tore up the drawing and have never since used other people’s photos unless they handed them to me for the purpose.

    • And you became super awesome as a result of that!

      • Ummm, no, more like it filed off a couple of rough edges or took a little slack out of my line. But thanks, Lily, you are so sweet and encouraging!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your example Jana!!! I’ve never forgotten what John said in his email either. And I’m sure decades from now I’ll still think of it.

      I think you’ve defined a principle of improvement in your comment too!

      Ask, receive, implement, share/teach.

  • Great advice. I have not handled tough feedback properly a time or two and missed the opportunity to build a relationship. Since discovering QBQ several years ago I have been much better. Now I seek out feedback and opportunities for improvement when I may have avoided it in the past.

  • Steve Pate

    Man where to start…! Thanks Mark for sharing, before I share my story, first thanks for being real and vulnerable! Second, about a month ago I had a moment to talk to the “man” on the phone and he is a solid and gentle rock star! (please don’t read this as a brag alert!).

    2012 is labeled for me as the year of AWAKENING! I was kicked in the B#lls and when i was bent over to get air and huge boot kicked my in the tail! Because i surrounded my self with great people, bloggers like your self and Matt, and others,I was able to get up re-a-line my direction, and start walking forward.

    In hine site, God used those days to make me grow and to be more aware of my actions and how I was impacting those who I love around me.

    Listening to your voice and reading your post, this picture came to my mine, Imagine your a stone and a sculpture has chosen you to make a masterpiece. You already are functional, tough and have shape, But He see’s something different. He takes the chisel and hammer and starts chipping away, and you can feel it. Then there are moments when he steps back and takes a look. Spins the the stone, flips it around, and starts again.

    This is an every day activity, and you as the stone will start seeing the your shape and start understanding that those swings of the hammer is the love of the crafter’s heart and you start understanding the why. Before you know it, your being polished and buffed off!

    for what ever its worth that’s what i got for you Mark. Thanks for a great post!

    • Awesome insights Steve. I love the analogy! Thanks so much for reading and I’m humbled by your kind words

  • Tough feedback…this is definitely something I’ve dealt with along my career path. But honestly, I thrive on feedback. It has become the lifeblood of my career growth. I try to have an attitude of “What can I do better.” Having this attitude helps others to know that I can handle the feedback, and it leaves me always open to improvement – even when it’s tough to hear.

    • “I thrive on feedback” what an awesome perspective. I’m not sure I’m there yet…that does remind me of the ken Blanchard quote I shared in the post…feedback is the breakfast of champions. So true!!