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September 26, 2018

Over the last few months, I have become a huge fan of Brene Brown and her research. I’ve read half of her books now and am waiting for the rest to be available through my local library. I love to listen to the audiobooks because you get a better sense of the passion she brings to her work. Her books have not only helped me as a person become more confident, but I’ve found ways to apply these principles to our Digital Marketing agency. If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown, I highly recommend starting with the following Ted talk that made her famous:

Shame and vulnerability are important things to consider in the workplace. When we shame others, we remove the trust needed for a team to grow and reach its full potential. By not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable at work, we stagnate innovation and limit the possibilities available to us.

The first book of Brene’s that I read was Daring Greatly, and one of the chapters focused on Engaged Feedback. Feedback is so important to what we do in our everyday lives, but it’s even more important in the world of Marketing. Without engaged feedback, we can’t learn and grow and reach new audiences. We rely on the same old ideas that get us nowhere. If we don’t cultivate a culture of trust in our workplace, then there is no room for the vulnerability necessary to come up with great, new ideas.  In her book, she shared an Engaged Feedback Checklist. I’ve printed this out, and plan to distribute it to our team. It’s a great reminder every day on how to keep conversations open and allow trust to blossom. Here are a few points on that list that I feel are relevant to our culture as well as what we do for our clients:

“I know I’m ready to give feedback when:

I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.”

For me, this is a reminder that if my client is not local to get on the phone or video conference instead of sending an email.

“I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).”

Here we are working together to solve a problem, rather than trying to pass it between us as someone else’s problem. It’s more important to come up with a solution, than worry about why an issue happened in the first place. Or, perhaps we are working on a new marketing plan and ran into a roadblock. Working together gives us a better chance at pushing past that roadblock than if one of us tried to solve it on our own.

“I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.”

I’m not going to stop myself from asking a question in order to “save face”. I’ve been asked to do this in the past by others, and it always made me uncomfortable. If I missed a detail, I own up to it and then make sure that I have that detail 100% correct. I would rather ask twice than be wrong and make a mistake that costs us time or money. Alternatively, if I’m unsure of how to move forward with a feature on a website, I am going to put it out there, ask questions, and try to fully understand the need so that I can bring together a team that will provide the answers we need.

“I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.”

In the creative world, it’s important to understand the difference between being constructive and petty. Mistakes happen, and sometimes people don’t like your work. These things do not define a person. Instead, it’s how that person chooses to learn from them and move forward. Acknowledging what someone does well, mixed with constructive feedback, can help them move on and become better at what they do.

“I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.”

For me, this is more about matching each job with the right person. I love this part of my job because it requires me to know each of my team members strengths and how to apply them to our services. Just like within a team where everyone has their part, each individual has strengths they can call upon to come up with new solutions, or troubleshoot issues as they arise. It is my job to recognize those and cultivate them in our team.

“I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.”

Shaming and blaming do not belong in the workplace. Period. Employees who love their job are going to do better work than those who don’t.

“I’m willing to own my part.”

We all hold ourselves accountable for what we say we are going to do, and we own our mistakes when they happen.

“I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticize you for your failings.”

Positive feedback feeds growth. Criticism shuts down a person’s ability to operate in what Christine Comaford describes in her book Smart Tribes as a “Smart State”. Focusing on failings will only succeed in removing trust, increasing shame, and widening the communication gap.

“I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.”

On the surface, this one speaks more to how our team grows. However, you can also look at it from the perspective of a project. If I see a risk that could pose a problem, or a process that could be changed to be more efficient, I speak up. Hiding behind them to save scope, budget, or even quality does not serve our clients or our business.

“I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.”

If I can do it, you can too. By allowing myself to ask questions, be vulnerable, treat my teammates with respect, I model the behavior I expect from my team and hope to gain from my clients.

You can download this checklist on Brene Brown’s website as well as a host of other great printables and study guides.

This can also be applied to the communication process when working on a marketing campaign. Listening to, and being engaged in the feedback from those you are targeting is going to help you create better results.  It can also help shut out the noise as you choose how to code your message.

Whether you are applying Engaged Feedback as a Leader, a Manager, or with your Projects, you’ll find your team delivering their best work, and open the door to great ideas both big and small. If you want to work with a company that engages in these principles, then get started with a complimentary competitive analysis. We’d love to put our heads together and start making innovative campaigns!