We used to applaud people for their candid commentary. However, in the business world, harsh words alienate your colleagues and risk damaging your reputation. When it comes to giving feedback, there’s a right way and a wrong way to offer critique. The wrong way is to be direct, to have a “sharp tongue,” and to lay your thoughts out there unfiltered. While this is often seen as “telling it like it is,” it also reflects an alarmingly high level of obtuse disregard for your colleagues. The correct way is to start with identifying what has been done correctly. Starting with recognition primes the recipient and shows that you recognize their value. Then you can move on to your carefully worded criticism or “feedback.” After the critique is delivered, go back and offer another kind word or too. This is called the sandwiching method, where you ‘sandwich’ feedback with words of affirmation. The Sandwich Method of Giving Professional Feedback For example, a sandwich method of critique could look like: Hi John, I really appreciate the amount effort you put into the report for today’s meeting. Next time, could you offer Google analytics annotations in your presentation next time? This will allow us to see exactly why we’ve had peaks in traffic. I also wanted to thank you for all your hard work. I know these reports are really data driven and there’s a lot of information to juggle. Thanks! Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to have a chat about it too. Here, you’ve coated John’s ego by prefacing a criticism with a compliment (the effort) and ending it with sympathetic understanding (we know there’s a lot to do). The criticism itself is that John lacks attention to detail in his reports. Perhaps you’ve had the same conversation with him before. Perhaps this is your third time asking for the same thing, which brings us to another point: getting it said in writing. Written Feedback Gets Looked At Twice Verbal feedback gets heard once, while a written feedback gets looked at twice. Getting something said in writing offers the opportunity to really craft our message, but it also has a higher impact on the recipient. Being offered verbal feedback versus being offered feedback in an email are two different things entirely. The former has to rely on one’s attention at the moment and their memory in order for it to be fully grasped, while the latter is documented and retrievable. The recipient is also more likely to focus on words in an email than what can be otherwise perceived as a request or passing comment with little weight. Feedback Through Example In other cases, it doesn’t really matter what you say or how you say it. What could matter more – or at least be more effective – is offering feedback through example. This is particularly helpful with people who don’t take kindly to being told what to do, even with the thickest of sandwiches. It also works remarkably well for people who are visual communicators. Showing someone how you might prefer something to be done also gives you the advantage of communicating in pictures without really having to consider message delivery.
Perhaps the most defining barrier in the modern workplace is the ability to seamlessly integrate creative and productive processes. The challenge is faced by both leaders and employees. Though they welcome constructive creativity, the former find it difficult to integrate workflow beyond simple productivity. Creative solutions are often seen as an experimental indulgence, though no less desired from team members. Employees on the other hand find the productivity warp-drive seems to rule their every move, particularly in environments where managers are less project-focused and more task-focused. In fact, an Adobe study called “State of Create” showed that an estimated 75% of participating employees felt like ‘their employers put more pressure on them to be productive than to be creative. Simply put, this group finds little time for (or reward in) creative pursuits. An organization’s survival is based not only on its productivity, but also on quality and ability to innovate – two traits that are pivotally dependent on creativity. An organization’s ability to integrate productivity with creativity is entirely dependent on taking an “outside” point of view, a broad scope of the entire structure from top to bottom. Here is where you’ll find a golden ratio of creativity-based productivity measures that will help you finally fill this elusive gap. Hard-wired to be Creative: How Creativity Precede Productivity It all begins with reimagining creativity as a concept. Some would protest they’re not gifted with creativity. However, while some people have more raw talent than others, creativity is a tool of the mind that (like any other mind-based approach) can be sharpened though disciplined practice. Jonah Lehrer, the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works, comments that while “Creativity shouldn\'t be seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn\'t be thought of as a process reserved for artists and inventors and other \'creative types.\' The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code.\" Creativity, as Lehrer discusses in an article with Mashable writer, Josh Catone, can be taught. Lehrer adds definition to the kindled realization that imagination can be cultivated and improved upon. Programmed to be creative, we’re doing ourselves a disservice by eliminating it from our corporate culture – and moreover, from the fundamental way in which we do business. If we’re hard-wired to be creative, then aren’t we performing at diminished levels if we proceed without this deeply incubated and inherent capacity to create and perform? On the Shoulders of Giants: How Leaders Are Responsible for Fueling Creative Productivity As leaders, we set the benchmarks. Our role in spearheading creative productivity is by recognizing that “true leadership requires original thought and imagination that can motivate others, solve problems, and cultivate innovation and initiative along the way.” Pulled from a Forbes article entitled “The Content You Read Shapes How You Lead”, by Glenn Llopis, succinctly highlights why it’s critical for leaders to place the first proverbial stepping stone laying the foundation for a creatively productive corporate culture. Leaders are encouraged to treat creativity as a tool necessary for innovation. For those with an aversion to a word that has been associated with crafting and a flood of Pinterest-inspired ideas, know that a creative mind is a strategic mind. As I mentioned in an earlier post entitled, “The Creativity-Productivity Paradox: Play and Time”, creativity is the ability to connect the dots. To add weight to the argument, I quote Liane Davey’s Harvard Business Review post entitled “Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles”, in which she writes, “Strategic people see the world as a web of interconnected ideas and people and they find opportunities to advance their interests at those connection points.” The individual (and the organization) that is able to flex this type of creative thought has a higher chance on coursing through a path that is more result-driven rather than task-driven. In a nutshell, the creative mind has produced the productive mind.