Humans of OnLoop: Mike Stricoff on How 5 Minutes of Quality Feedback Can Change a Career Trajectory

Meet Mike Stricoff, Head of Sports Content at Snap, and member of OnLoop’s Product Advisory Board.

The crazy thing about career-altering moments is that you just never know when one will happen. You’ll be going about your typical work day and then, seemingly out of nowhere, somebody will give you a piece of advice that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Nobody wakes up and says “I’m going to go have a career-changing moment today.” They happen organically over time.

Mike finds that most of these moments in his life have come when someone has been brutally—but constructively—honest. Constructive feedback can spur both personal and professional growth, and the idea that regular feedback and reflection lead to faster, smarter learning is a proven concept. Receivers of this feedback need to be open to new ideas and the art of delivering this feedback is critical for people managers. If you do it right, you just might over-index on these career-altering moments for your direct reports, leading to exceptional growth and productivity on your team.

One moment for Mike was when his boss’s boss’s boss at his first job asked him to come to his office.

As a young producer, my job was to edit and produce pieces and B-roll for the company’s studio shows. I was doing pretty well, getting a lot of opportunities to step up. The very first thing you see at the start of a sports event is called an open. It’s a 1–2 minute piece of video that sets the stage for all of the coverage. I got to do that for a high-profile event in the first few years of my career. After the piece aired, people were telling me how good it was and I agreed! So, I emailed the VP of content — my boss’ boss’ boss — who, to his credit, was a great people manager. I knew him well enough, and trusted him enough, to feel like I could email him in the first place. I wrote, ‘Hey, I’d love for you to look at this,’ that sort of thing. I was looking for more praise. A few minutes later he actually replied, ‘You have time right now?’

So, what did you do?

I went up to the executive office, sat down across from him, and said eagerly, ‘So, what do you think?’ ‘You know,’ he said very calmly and carefully, ‘I didn’t really care for it.’ It was a bit shocking at first. As a fast riser, I wasn’t getting a lot of constructive feedback. He told me precisely why it wasn’t right. The theme didn’t match the vibe of what I was covering.

The things I learned in that five minute conversation were as valuable to me as all the things I learned there up to that point, combined.

“As a fast riser, I wasn’t getting a lot of constructive feedback. He told me precisely why it wasn’t right.”

What stayed with you after that?

It was a masterclass in content and storytelling. I later also realized how much impact a great leader can have. I think I’m wired to care about leadership, but this 5 minute conversation showed me how being a great leader has real benefits for the people on their team. If a great manager had this impact on me, I realized that I could have that same impact on people who worked for me someday. Then you start to think about how often a great leader is doing this and how people in their orbit are growing and learning so much all the time. You just can’t calculate the impact of having this leader around, day to day.

What made you open to his feedback?

Trust, definitely. if people trust you and feel like you’re looking out for their best interests, they’re more likely to take your feedback to heart because it’s coming from a place of positivity. Making yourself vulnerable is a really helpful way to gain that trust. So is asking people questions about themselves, when you’re genuinely curious about their answers. It can go a long way.

How do you model this with your team?

I want people on my team to know that I have their best interest in mind so that when I go to deliver constructive feedback, they know that I’m trying to help them grow rather than trying to tear them down. This helps people hear and absorb feedback without getting defensive.

A great way I try to build some of that trust is to ask my direct reports about ‘three energizers’ in their day-to-day — things they get to do through their jobs that they love doing — and talking through the reasons behind them. Of course, it’s helpful to know what excites people on your team. But showing genuine curiosity in their future and in their growth as people and employees helps frame any constructive feedback that could come down the road.

“I want people on my team to know that I have their best interest in mind so that when I go to deliver constructive feedback, they know that I’m trying to help them grow rather than trying to tear them down.”

How do you make time?

It’s a prioritization issue, not an issue of having enough time. I think people need to understand that strong performance on deliverables comes from high-performing teams. So the better question is, what is the best way to get my team performing at a high level? If you ask that question, you quickly realize that development and growth of your people are essential to achieving deliverables.

“Development and growth of your people are essential to achieving deliverables.”

That’s manager goals right there! What advice would you give to other managers to cultivate this kind of feedback and growth mindset?

Sometimes managers think it takes a ton of work to deliver proper feedback and help their people grow. My experience is that actually, a small amount of dedicated time is incredibly effective. Even 15 minutes per week with each direct report focusing on development and feedback can have a huge impact on the people that work for you. If you accept that premise, then is it really possible we can’t find 15 minutes a week for this?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thank you for sharing these insights with us, Mike!

In our many conversations with great managers, it’s become clear that the best managers don’t have to be the most brilliant or the hardest workers. What goes furthest with their direct reports, more often than not, is a combination of compassion and conversation. The best managers are the best listeners, question askers, and allies.

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