It’s easy to give a compliment. As humans, we love to hear that people appreciate our good qualities and recognize our hard work. There’s actual science to this: believe it or not, receiving a compliment lights up the same reward centers of the brain that are activated during sex. And by giving a compliment, we’re likely to receive one in return — so everyone’s happy! 

That said, it’s not as easy to give constructive criticism. And it can be even harder to receive it. Most people’s knee-jerk reaction is to become defensive, argumentative, and emotional when they’re told they can do something better — and that response shuts down any dialogue about what might be done to improve.

The fact of the matter is, we grow through constructive criticism. That’s why giving and receiving transparent feedback is one of the cornerstones of Willow Marketing’s culture, driven by our core values: Open, Humble, and Helpful. We call it “OHH,” and strive to reinforce those values through every interaction with our colleagues and our clients. 

We put our money where our mouth is when it comes to being “Open” in our annual 360 reviews. A 360 performance review provides a group of coworkers the opportunity to give input about each other’s performance. There are several models for 360 reviews. At Willow, we use a direct employee-to-employee feedback approach that allows each member of the company a chance to sit one-on-one with every other employee and discuss what they’re doing well and what they could do better. This includes team members you may work with every day, as well as colleagues you may only pass in the hall from time to time or see on the company’s weekly staff meeting Zoom calls.

Is it hard? Yes. It is important? Absolutely.

Giving and receiving constructive criticism builds a strong trust climate and close-knit teams. When you are provided a safe space to confront issues and workshop solutions together, you can be “Open” and know that your feedback will be received without retaliation or hard feelings.

In my 20-plus year career, I have never worked at a company who gave employees the space to give each other feedback in a structured way before Willow. Reviews were top-down, and feedback only came from a direct supervisor. Obviously, a manager is an important voice in your professional development — but it shouldn’t be the only voice. By allowing team members to share both positive and constructive input with each other — without the intervention or observation of managers or other leadership — everyone has the chance to be authentic and real with their colleagues. Ideally, this culture of openness extends beyond the 15-minute window of the structured one-on-one review and sets the foundation for a more transparent working relationship throughout the rest of the year.

Constructive feedback provides valuable information about quality of work, how an employee is perceived, and how they affect others’ work. Ideally, we can then put that feedback to work to improve both our hard and soft professional skills.

You can see how this philosophy would be important to internal staff improvement. But Willow doesn’t just limit this philosophy of transparency to our interactions with colleagues. Feedback is key to our client relationship, too. 

As your agency, we don’t want to be “yes women” (and men!) You’ve partnered with us for the value of our expertise, our experience, and our insight. If your agency nods and agrees with everything you say as a client, you’re not being challenged to explore new solutions and drive improvement. Sometimes, this means we ask hard questions and challenge your current point of view. But when we’re “Open” with our clients, everyone benefits. We foster stronger relationships built on trust and transparency and, ultimately, pave the way for more effective collaboration and impactful outcomes.

Could your organization benefit from 360 reviews? Contact us to learn more about how you can put this model to work with your own team, or for a facilitated small group session!

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Written by Erin Witt

"She believed she could, so she did."