Last month, the Willow office closed its doors and turned off its computers for 24 hours (give or take a few hours) for our annual agency retreat on Lake Sweetwater near Ninevah, Indiana. These retreats are legendary. It’s a coworker-only event where we get to really know each other better, let loose and have fun. We also cap the retreat off with a round of 360 reviews or one-on-one feedback sessions. Each Willow Shrub meets with a colleague for 10 minutes to provide feedback, both positive and critical. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t the only time we do this. Feedback, when done correctly, happens in the moment (a.k.a. when it needs to). At our retreat, we focus more on general feedback like, “You have great presentation skills,” or, “You’re getting in your own way by not prioritizing projects well.”

 

Ongoing, open feedback is crucial for any growing organization. If someone impresses you, you should tell them. If they let you down, let them know that, too. It’s imperative we support each other, through good and bad, to develop trust between teammates and execute a better final product for our clients (or customers). And while I’d like to think we’re doing a pretty great job at Willow, there’s always room to grow! So, here are a few tips on how to provide (and receive) feedback better:

 

  1. Stay away from the crap sandwich. We’re all guilty of it: Saying something nice, then something critical, quickly followed up with something nice. Crap. Sandwich. This does nothing for the person who actually needs the critical feedback! By the time you’re done, they’re left thinking everything’s roses because they heard two nice things. Don’t sugarcoat but don’t be a jerk either.
  2. Be specific and provide examples. It’s not enough to say, “You need to work on your writing skills.” Show them where they are falling short. Tell them their last blog post didn’t get published because it wasn’t strong enough. Then, teach them how to be better or encourage them to find outside help through webinars, whitepapers, and other types of professional development tools.
  3. Don’t get defensive. Hearing you’re not perfect is tough. But, if we take a moment to really listen to the feedback, there is usually something to it. Falling short in one area doesn’t mean you can’t become better at it or that you’re deficient in everything you do. Try to remain open and calm. Listen and take notes. Then, after the dust has settled, revisit the feedback. What can you reasonably do to make gradual improvements?
  4. Keep it between friends. Feedback should be between two people, the person giving it and the person receiving it. Don’t have a discussion in the middle of cubicles. Don’t bring it up in a car full of coworkers. Find the right moment when the conversation can remain confidential and open between two people.

Remember, feedback should make us better. We tell the people around us when they do good work and where they could improve because we care. And, it’s because we care that our team works hard for each other. We don’t want to let anyone down.

 

A strong company culture is supported by ongoing communication and feedback. If you’d like to talk about internal communication or learn more about feedback methods, give us a shout. We’re happy to connect you to more resources or even provide some ideas of our own. We’d love to hear your tips, too. Just send me an email!

Lauren Littlefield headshot

Written by Lauren Littlefield

“I love the people I work with at Willow, but I come to work to help our clients. I genuinely want to do great work for them.”