As an Account Manager, we are often the ones providing the most feedback to our teams since we are the gatekeepers for everything that comes out of the agency, into our clients’ hands, and out into the world. Navigating feedback is not always easy, it takes practice and patience.

It’s important to know that the way you communicate is everything when it comes to feedback. Even though something may sound understandable and reasonable in your head, it may not always come across that way to the other party.

Here at Zion & Zion, we are a flat organization which empowers us all to take ownership of our tasks and our work. This allows us to move swiftly and work directly with each other, versus having to go through a chain of command. With that, we are all responsible for making sure our feedback is productive so we can keep moving and creating great work.

Here are a few ways to ensure the feedback you provide is properly received.

Take a step back

Sometimes, work can come through that you might consider to be incomplete. At that moment, you are likely a little heated or anxious, especially if you are up against a tight deadline or tight budget. You need to consider your own emotional state before providing feedback. If you don’t, it could come across as attacking or that you are not on the same team.

One of the best tricks I have learned so far is to get all your thoughts out the way you initially want to say it, take a step away, then go back and edit. In our Account Team department, we often proof each other’s emails or ask each other’s opinions to make sure we get outside of ourselves if we feel the response needs it.

Start with a positive

When providing feedback, make sure you first start by thanking them for their hard work. Talk about what is working. Then, talk about not what’s wrong, but what could be better. In many cases, feedback can be subjective. One way to frame it would be to ask them if there’s an opportunity to revisit something and give them an example of what you consider a possibility. Another great option is to ask how they arrived at their decision. You’ll get more insight and a better understanding of what you’re seeing, and potentially even change your mind. This makes it more of a collaborative effort versus dictation.

Don’t make it personal

Feedback should be framed in a way that focuses on the change that needs to occur. Remove the word “you” from anything you write that involves someone’s work. By taking out personal references, this makes the feedback feel more about work and not the person.

Take ownership of your own misdirection

I can’t tell you how often I think I am giving clear direction on an assignment, or all the information someone might need, to then realize I didn’t once I get the deliverable back. First, apologize for the oversight, take ownership of that, then give them the corrected information. Sometimes changes must occur because of the person who gave the direction, not the person who created it. Everyone appreciates someone who is humble and acknowledges their missteps.

Turn a recurring issue into an opportunity

If you notice that something continually doesn’t go smoothly between you and your team, set aside time to have an open conversation about what they are struggling with, and what you are struggling with. There are always two sides to every experience. Often a great solution can come out of this, like a standardized template or process that helps make sure everyone is providing and receiving exactly they need.

Ask if they are open to feedback

Sometimes, what you have to say isn’t about the work, it could be about the person. We all have different levels of experience and expertise here at Zion & Zion. We notice things each other do that could be better all the time. When you feel someone’s actions constitute feedback for improvement, make sure to first ask if they are open to receiving feedback. When people are ready to receive criticism, they are less likely to turn defensive and more likely to have an open mind. This also gives that person a chance to possibly defend their actions and let you know where they were coming from, yet still have a conversation about improving for next time. On the other hand, asking first gives them a chance to let you know they are not ready to hear criticism. You never know what someone may be dealing with that day, either personally or with their workload. If they are in an undesirable headspace, providing constructive criticism will not work no matter how it’s directed.

Make it solution oriented on your end

When you provide feedback on a personal level, it’s best to have your ducks in a row. Make sure you are talking about a specific behavior, how it impacted something, and what can be done next time. That way, the person understands how or why it’s important to you that it be changed for next time. This ensures there is light on both sides of the story, so all parties get back on the same page.

Feedback is nothing to fear

When you take a step back and really see what feedback is from a high level, it’s just information. If you take that feedback and let it get to you, it becomes destructive to you when it doesn’t need to be. If you take feedback objectively, you can discover what’s useful to you, and shake off the rest. Afterall, we are all just trying to make sure our deliverables are done well so the agency produces great work for our clients, while maintaining a positive and progressive work environment.