Serving up the shit sandwich “The give and take of feedback”

Giving feedback is a delicate skill which, if you get it right, can make good things awesome and bad things better. 

Get it wrong and everyone ends up with a bad taste in their mouth.

Here’s some simple things I’ve picked up along the way which are worth sharing and might open a positive conversation about how to get the best output from your input.

By the way, this journal entry is meant as a discussion, if you think it’s shit, say so.

Positivity is infectious

Negativity gets you nowhere. Whether you loved someone’s work or hated it, always start your creative feedback by commenting on what’s working. This puts them in a receptive frame of mind. Make sure everyone involved knows the boundaries. Use phrases like ‘do you mind if I say something?’. Always try to use the poo sandwich approach - lead and end with the positives.

Honesty is everything

If you’re serious about giving high-quality feedback, it has to be the truth. There’s little point taking the time to invite or submit comment unless you’re prepared to go the whole way and sometimes you need to show a little vulnerability. Be honest with yourself as well as the recipient; Was the brief clear? Have the goalposts moved? Is the timeframe realistic? Whichever end of the process you’re on, feedback is a cornerstone of nearly every job and it’s built on trust. 

Keep it in focus

Be specific - push the ideas, protect what’s good and discuss what isn’t. Start by asking each other questions - remember what you’re trying to achieve.Then it’s all about respect; respect the work, respect each other, respect the process and LISTEN.

…and never forget; “The Brief is the Boss”.

It’s not personal

Discussing ideas, creativity, productivity, brainstorming etc is “The Work”, if the feedback is positive, own it, if it’s negative, own that too and seek out a positive way to progress.

Always look for ways to build creative trust and encourage each other to find a way forward which improves the outcome. If you’re the recipient, make sure you’re clear about what has been discussed, take notes if needed.

Discuss the problem (not the solution)

If you’re giving feedback, respect the creative ownership of the project and provide rationale for your suggestions.

Talk things through and ask questions - remember, it’s a conversation. If time is tight discuss that too and agree on priorities or re-schedule.

Feed forward (‘what would we do differently next time?’) but don’t overwhelm the process with ideas or complexity.

Which way is the goal?

Remember that brief...

The client owns the outcome but the audience is the ultimate judge and jury. Remind yourself and all participants about the ‘why?’. Don’t take your eye on the ball, keep up the communications and celebrate the wins when they come.

It’s not all about you

Remember; “commenting is easier than creating”, don’t suggest changes just because you feel compelled to and if the work is good, say so.

Feedback is a two-way street: “If you’re gonna give it, you gotta take it...”

If you don’t like what you see, ask yourself if you’re the audience...

Timing matters

Don’t give surprise critique ‘out of nowhere’ - where possible schedule it and don’t leave it too late (or jump in too early).

Consolidate your feedback to reduce iterations; if you can give it all at once you’ll often save time and smooth out the process.

Encourage all participants to respect each others’ time and once again, if things feel like they’re being rushed discuss re-scheduling to allow for a more considered session.

Try some different shoes 

Find out what’s going on within the work by imagining yourself on all sides of the feedback process.

Don’t dismiss seemingly irrelevant comments (they may hold “the answer”) and never, ever be defensive. Everyone involved in the process of feedback needs to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.

Invest in each other, be brave, open and inquisitive.

You’re the solution

It’s likely the reason you’re involved in this whole feedback thing is because people value your opinion. Remember the tips above and you’ll find that your opinion gets heard more and more often.

Feedback should be a fun, rewarding process which allows everyone to move forward together.

A poo sandwich might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a great starter.

Bon appetit.

Fluid Tim journal
Tim Buckley
Creative Director
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