Mastering Feedback: A Strategic Framework for Entrepreneurs and Mentors

Framework curated by Nicolle Jaramillo, Research Analyst at MindFrame Connect

In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, feedback is crucial for growth and success. Feedback refers to the constructive criticism and advice that entrepreneurs receive from mentors, funders, and other stakeholders. Studies show that the context and nature of feedback conversations significantly influence how feedback is received and acted upon [1]. Long-term relationships between feedback providers and entrepreneurs are more beneficial than one-offfeed back sessions, fostering an environment of trust and mutual understanding [1]. These relationships allow for more constructive feedback that is positively received, which is crucial for refining ideas, highlighting potential pitfalls, and driving strategic decisions.

Entrepreneurs often face uncertainty and stress, which can hinder their progress. Feedback helps them confirm decisions, explore new alternatives, and reduce these negative experiences [2]. They view feedback-seeking as a low-cost experiment to validate and test their ideas before making significant commitments [2]. Existing literature primarily focuses on the immediate impact of feedback on entrepreneurs, often overlooking the interactive dynamics and long-term relationship development between feedback providers and entrepreneurs [1]. This framework aims to explore the critical elements of effective feedback, including how to look for feedback, early feedback, characteristics of high-value feedback, assessing to whom to receive feedback and feedback sensemaking.

Looking for Feedback

Finding suitable feedback sources is crucial for entrepreneurs. Effective feedback improves projects and builds a supportive network. Here are some strategies when looking for feedback [1]:

1.     Leverage your network: Start by asking for feedback from your existing network. Established relationships often yield candid and constructive feedback due to pre-existing trust.

2.     Expand your search: If your network does not provide suitable feedback, broaden your search through events, conferences, membership organizations, and social media.

3.     Visit similar organizations: Gain practical insights by visiting and learning from organizations similar to yours.

4.     Cultivate relationships: Consistently engage with feedback providers to build trust. Over time, they will become more invested in your success and offer deeper insights and support.

Choosing the Right Feedback Sources

When seeking feedback,entrepreneurs should carefully select individuals who can offer valuable insights while minimizing risks. According to research [2], this selection process revolves around three key considerations:

·     Access is about ease of approach. Entrepreneurs prefer sources they can reach easily, whether through proximity or shared networks.

·     Engagement matters greatly. Some sources show interest and availability, while others are deeply involved, offering ongoing support and introductions to key contacts.

·     Trust is foundational. It allows entrepreneurs to share vulnerabilities without fear of exploitation. Trustworthy sources have proven reliability and ethical behaviour, creating a safe space for honest feedback.

By prioritizing relationships based on access, engagement, and trust, entrepreneurs ensure they receive valuable feedback from trusted allies.



Early Feedback in Entrepreneurial Settings

Early feedback interactions are pivotal in the mentor-mentee relationship, setting the stage for collaboration. However, these initial interactions can be tricky when mentors and mentees are still getting to know each other. Research highlights two types of feedback: solicited, where entrepreneurs ask for specific input, and unsolicited, where feedback is given without a direct request. Solicited feedback fosters better alignment and understanding, which is crucial for building trust and mutual respect [1].

Finding the right conversational balance is critical. Mentees value mentors who demonstrate expertise while treating them as equals in the discussion. Successful early feedback sessions are characterized by comprehensive exchanges that respect time constraints yet provide valuable insights. These interactions mirror long-term mentoring dynamics, where even minor disagreements can introduce fresh perspectives without undermining the entrepreneur's confidence. Effective mentors navigate this balance by offering guidance while acknowledging and respecting the mentee’s expertise [1].

Characteristics of High-Value Feedback

Effective feedback for entrepreneurs shares several key characteristics that enhance its impact [2]:

·      Experience: Feedback from those directly involved in entrepreneurship offers practical insights and empathy, making it highly valuable for addressing real-world challenges.

·      Expertise: Formal knowledge in specialized areas like finance or marketing enriches feedback with informed insights and innovative solutions, which are crucial for strategic decision-making.

·      Encouragement: Supportive feedback that energizes and motivates entrepreneurs fosters resilience and commitment to their goals.

·      Challenge: Objective and critical feedback stimulates new perspectives, challenges assumptions, and prompts necessary adjustments, which is vital for continuous improvement.

·      Power: Feedback from individuals with resources or authority can influence enterprise outcomes, shaping strategic decisions and sustainability efforts.

High-value feedback combines practical experience, specialized knowledge, supportive encouragement, critical analysis, and strategic influence. Leveraging these characteristics empowers mentors andfunders to effectively support entrepreneurs in achieving sustainable social impact.

Feedback Sensemaking in Entrepreneurship

Feedback in entrepreneurship triggers three key sensemaking processes: redirecting, reframing, and questioning [3].

·      Redirecting involves nudging entrepreneurs towards incremental adjustments rather than radical changes. It encourages stakeholders to suggest enhancements or explore adjacent opportunities while staying aligned with the core business vision.

·      Reframing prompts entrepreneurs to reconsider fundamental aspects of their venture, such as business models or value propositions. This feedback sparks significant perspective and strategic thinking shifts, fostering new insights and strategic adaptations.

·      Questioning challenges entrepreneurs with critical feedback, such as skepticism or rejection. Such feedback can lead to temporary cognitive re-evaluation, either prompting a strategic pivot or a reassessment of the venture's direction.

In entrepreneurship, feedback is not just about critique—it is a catalyst for growth, innovation, and resilience. By nurturing relationships built on trust and respect, entrepreneurs gain invaluable insights that refine strategies and foster adaptive learning. High-value feedback, characterized by experience, expertise, encouragement, challenge, and influence, drives strategic decisions and sustainable impact. Through sensemaking processes like redirecting, reframing, and questioning,entrepreneurs adapt and innovate in response to stakeholder input. Mastering the art of feedback empowers mentors and funders to support entrepreneurs effectively, helping them navigate challenges and seize opportunities to thrive in dynamic markets.

Do you want to explore more?

·      Take a look at MindFrame Connect's Framework

·      Watch one (or more) of these TedTalks:

- The secret to giving great feedback

- The Joy of Getting Feedback

- Run, hide, or say thank you: when faced with feedback, what do you do?

·      Listen to the How to Give Constructive Feedback podcast episode.


References

[1] van Werven, R.,Cornelissen, J., & Bouwmeester, O. (2023). The relational dimension of feedback interactions: A study of early feedback meetings between entrepreneurs and potential mentors. British Journal of Management34(2), 873-897.

[2] Drencheva, A.,Stephan, U., & Patterson, M. G. (2022). Whom to ask for feedback: Insights for resource mobilization from social entrepreneurship. Business & Society61(7), 1725-1772.

[3] Kaffka, G. A.,Singaram, R., Kraaijenbrink, J., & Groen, A. J. (2021). “Yes and..., but wait..., heck no!”: A socially situated cognitive approach towards understanding how startup entrepreneurs process critical feedback. Journal of Small Business Management59(5), 1050-1080.

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Share this Resource

Want incredible results from your mentorship program?
Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.