In the sometimes subjective world of creative, guaranteeing quality usually depends on some system of creative oversight.
That means that I've given lots and lots of feedback to people -- and inevitably, I am passing judgment on something they've put their souls into.
I don't want to crush anyone's dreams.
On the other hand, I can't afford to let work out of the agency if it doesn't meet the brief.
Therefore I've had to develop supportive ways to bring up the quality of a piece of work, while helping its creator improve professionally... without sending them home in tears.
Enter what one creative director I worked with called, the 'sh*t sandwich'.
1. Tell them something that's good about the work they're doing.
2. Tell them what needs to improve.
3. Encourage them about their capability to make the required improvements.
Whether working with pragmatists or primadonnas, this basic formula has rarely failed me.
Still, I was interested to read this article by Jennifer Porter about providing useful feedback. Rather than talking about how to feed back on a distinct piece of work, it explores ways of feeding back on general behaviours.
It details a few elements that can help you structure feedback that is honest and actionable. The idea is that your feedback needs to be:
- Big-picture focused
- Organisationally aligned
- Behavioural and specific
- Factual, not interpretive
- Both positive and negative (the sh*t sandwich lives!)
- Focused on patterns
- Linked to impact
A very practical piece for anyone who wants to manage supportively and transparently, turning difficult conversations into action.
It even includes a sample script.
“Juan’s top two strengths, in terms of their impact on the business, are his strategic thinking and his ability to build strong relationships. More on that shortly. The most important gap for Juan to address to get to the next level is how he navigates conflict. Our organization is very direct and values leaders who confront issues head on, without inauthentic positivity. The pattern for Juan is that when he does not agree with a colleague’s position, he remains silent about his opposition. I’m not sure why he does this, but the impact is that I think he is in agreement when he is not. And later, when he shares his opposition with me, it is frustrating to me because we have already put a plan in place based on the belief that he was in agreement. It causes rework and it lowers my trust in him. Let me give you a few examples of when this has happened…”