Back2Work: Accepting Feedback

You're not perfect.
You don't know everything.
You're not nearly as smart as you think.
Your idea is not good and off mark.

Now we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about another valuable skill every creative needs to have: flexibility.

Last week I talked about Presentation 101, and here comes the follow up to that - you've presented your work and now people are giving you feedback. What now?

Flexibility includes being open to changing your idea, being willing to do things you may not necessarily understand or agree with, being unemotional when someone tears your work apart and bouncing back to edit and create something new.

It's not easy.

You put so much time and thought into your work, when people don't like it or don't get it, it's hard not to take it personally.

Here's the thing though, you're at work and - wait for it - your feelings don't matter. You have a professional responsibility to do the work asked of you and to serve the client. So suck it up Buster.

Sometimes the feedback will make sense and totally add to your idea and make it exponentially better. Sometimes the feedback is about something small and unrelated to the overall idea, which is great, but no one can seem to see it because they're so stuck on this one little thing. Sometimes the feedback sucks the charm out of your idea and turns it into something lifeless and boring.

Tough tits.

Everybody's a critic. So expect to get feedback (which is Latin for "dream crushing") from every direction and at even step in the process. Your partner, your planner, your CD, his CD, the account team, the client, the janitor...

And you've got to figure out how to suck it up, take it in and shake it off, go back and start over. 

I'm still learning. It's definitely a process. I smile on the outside while inside I'm throwing a Minnesota-sized tantrum or crying like you ate my last Kit Kat.

In the meantime, here are a few things I've learned to do when receiving feedback:

* Nod.

* Respond with affirmatives to show you're listening. Ok. Hmm. Interesting thought.

* Ask questions.
What do you think we could do to fix that? Is the idea wrong or the execution?

* Present any immediate thoughts you have to fix the situation.
What if we changed the blue parts to green? Do you think it needs more cowbell?

* Take notes. It'll help you remember later on when you go reconcept and it also makes you look interested and engaged.

* Promise to take  it all into consideration for the next round. Now that you know what not to do, it's easier to get on the right path

* Thank them. They could've easily smiled in your face and let you go on working on your foolish idea, meanwhile talking about you behind your back and swearing to never work with you again. (I've seen it happen.)

* Suck it up. I've said it a lot because I want you to remember it. No one has a vendetta against you. No one cares how hard you worked on it. No one gives a fried twinkie that your feelings are hurt. This isn't personal. This is work. The Nasdaq doesn't shut down because you had a bad day. So go take a walk and come back and start from square one. Or square two. Or maybe triangle B. Just get back in there and get back to work.

Every bit of feedback, welcomed or off mark, can help you grow. I'm not saying that every bit of criticism is helpful or will make your idea better. But you just have to learn to accept feedback and deal with hearing that you're not perfect, you don't know everything and your idea is not good. 

Do what you need to do to make yourself feel like the best there ever was before or after work, but when you step into that office, turn off your ego, put your feelings in your back pocket and be ready deal with people putting in their two cents on everything from the way you say rinse to the typeface you used in that layout to everything about all seven campaigns you spend four sleepless nights coming up with.