One key element of any healthy culture is that people understand how to give effective feedback to one another. Because creative work can feel a bit subjective, feedback can be a difficult thing to navigate, so many people default to being overly prescriptive or controlling. However, while specific, tactical feedback might achieve short-term results, it often creates bigger problems over the long-term. Instead, we need to learn how to offer feedback in a way that helps the team (or our clients) think in new and better ways about the work.
On this episode, we share three core principles for offering better feedback:
Honor the process
The end result of a project is just the final piece of a very long process. When you offer suggestions without first understanding how someone arrived at that result, you are negating their entire process, and the decision-making that went into it. You have to allow them the opportunity to share not only the end result of their thinking, but their thought process itself.
Ask better questions
Instead of being prescriptive, ask questions that help the other person articulate why they made the decisions they did. Also, ask questions that help them think about other pathways they could have taken, and where those pathways may have led. “Why did you choose to…” or “How did you arrive at…” are wonderful conversation starters to get them talking about the why behind what you are seeing or experiencing.
Invite them to re-direct
Once you’ve had a thorough conversation about the process, begin asking them questions that nudge them in what you think might be a more helpful direction. For example, “what if instead of doing X, you chose Y? How might that change your process?” or “Can you think of a way that we could…?” These are open-ended questions that value the other person and also invite them into the process of re-directing the work in a meaningful way.
Yes, we’re all pros and we need to be able to deal with difficult feedback. And, it doesn’t serve anyone when we are overly-prescriptive and lack empathy in how we interact with the work of others. Be a pro, and be intentional about giving feedback that helps them think not only about what to do, but why they should do it that way.