Feedback is a crucial part of every job—because everyone has to deal with it. But knowing how to deal with feedback isn’t just about professional development, it’s also a crucial part of the review phase of your creative operations process.
If you’re working on a big project with multiple review phases, feedback rarely means a few slight design or copy changes. Receiving feedback means you’re dealing with people, and you have to be aware of your impulses, ego and emotions while reviewing your own work. The good news is if you become an expert at handling feedback, you can make your review process faster, easier and more productive creatively.
Here are 10 tips that will help you to not only survive, but to succeed during the review stage of your creative operations process:
1. Plan Ahead
Ask questions before you get started. Get as much information up front as you can. You should be aware of the goals and expectations before you dig into a project. Otherwise you spend more time changing things later that should have been addressed before the review stage even started. It’s the responsibility of you and your superior to communicate these expectations.
2. Come Prepared with Alternatives
Once you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece of work, it’s easy to believe that it’s a masterpiece and everyone will love it. But if you think back to when you’re creating something, you often find that you’re at a crossroads over certain small details. Instead of harbouring over those decisions, use them to your advantage. Take notes on some alternative solutions, or even create another version if you have time. Everyone has different aesthetic tastes and it helps to identify what those are by providing alternatives (or having them in your back pocket).
3. Pause and Listen (Repeat this Several Times)
It’s often our first impulse to jump in and defend our work, especially if we feel that we are being unnecessarily criticized. But the person giving you feedback is also working to communicate their point of view. Rather than ignore the information you’re being given, listen to it. What’s actually being said? Take notes during meetings or while reading feedback, and return to points later that you don’t agree with. Taking time to reflect on your work and the feedback you’ve been given can give you better insight into what steps need to be taken. You may even realize what the key issue is by actively listening and being engaged with the feedback given.
4. Ask Clarifying Questions
If you are working in the creative field, you’ve probably come across the classic “gut reaction” feedback (“I love it” or “I hate it” or maybe it's a simple “No”). While those initial reactions can be great (or extremely frustrating), they are a natural part of the process. Ask clarifying questions that get to the root of the reaction. You may find that general, negative feedback is actually quite specific and easy to solve. Maybe it’s as easy as a colour that communicates the wrong message. It’s your job to be alert, and to probe the person to discover where the issues are. This will help you to speed up your review process by ensuring that your next draft is more closely aligned with your reviewer’s expectations.
5. Be Objective about Your Work
It’s easy to become emotionally invested in a project when you’re working on something you’re passionate about. And that’s a good thing. But once you enter the review stage it’s also important to recognize when you need to take a step back and view your work objectively. What’s the goal of your project? Have you achieved it? You’ll often find that the feedback given is fairer than you originally thought.
6. Assert Your Knowledge
You’ve been hired for a defined skillset that you offer. And that can be easy to forget when you get into a room with five executives. However, you’re expected to stand up to your superiors to make your company better. Don’t be afraid to defend your choices based on the knowledge you’ve acquired in your field of expertise. It’s your job to enlighten your reviewers on best practices and learned techniques. Your talent and experience are assets. Use them.
7. Avoid being the “Yes” Person
If you’re always agreeing with a superior’s opinion you start to make your own contributions less relevant. You also run the risk of creating a much more toxic review process, because you become dependent on someone else’s opinion and stop making decisions to better your company and only think of pleasing your boss. You then run of risk of becoming incapable of creating anything final or polished without your boss holding your hand along the way. It’s hugely inefficient and unproductive. Stand up for what you believe in.
8. Forget about Perfection
There’s a big difference between creating excellent, polished work and being a perfectionist. Having perfectionist tendencies can be good when you take care to notice the small details, but if you let it rule your review process you’ll realize how quickly it can become your biggest flaw. As much as we’d like to believe that perfection is objective and we’re the ones with the keen senses to know what’s good and what’s bad, it’s simply just not true. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. It’s relative. No two people will ever be 100% aligned in their views— you have to understand that your work will be different than your original vision, and that’s okay. Feedback will ultimately make your work better than you originally imagined if you ask the right questions.
9. Remember that You’re on the Same Team
It’s natural to take an adversarial position with a reviewer who’s providing negative feedback. It’s okay to disagree and hash things out as long as you keep in mind that you’re working towards a common goal. By staying focused on the project at hand you’ll be contributing to a more positive work environment. Use the fuel of your disagreements to collaborate creatively and drive new ideas forward.
10. Remind Yourself that You’re Part of the Process
Feedback isn’t a single, terrifying event. It’s part of a bigger process that you’ll have to revisit time and time again. If you put in the effort to learn what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be an integral part of improving your process by coming into the review stage better prepared and aligned with the expectations set out for you. Avoiding (and fearing) feedback and criticism only delays and defers projects. Take responsibility and get things done.
What experiences and challenges have you faced during the review stage? Tell us about your tactics for handling feedback by leaving a comment below.