Especially when you’re working with young or less-experienced creative teams, how you respond to the work they produce for you can be the difference between a great and mediocre result. Remember that creative people are different from the sales or accounting team. They often feel like they’re putting their heart and soul into that new design, video production, script, or other project, so how you respond to the various versions and stages of the project can inspire or deflate.
Here are some things to remember next time a creative vendor, freelancer, or team member shows you what they’ve produced:
1) Don’t leap to conclusions. Even if it’s missed the mark, don’t lash out, be snarky, or confrontational. If it’s not what you expected, take a deep breath and ask questions like, “Tell me your thinking process and how you got to this point.” Or “What are YOUR thoughts on this?” You may find out they are actually thinking ahead of you, which could result in something you never even considered.
2) If it misses the mark, it could be you. Perhaps you weren’t clear in the creative brief or the explanation of what you needed. Before you assume they screwed it up, step back to ensure your instructions weren’t the problem.
3) Don’t let your criticism of their work blur into criticism of them. In your response, make sure you focus on the design, video, script – whatever, and not sound like you’re upset with them personally.
4) If you love it, give them the credit. I’ve often said that if you regularly give your creative team credit for great work, they’ll walk through a fire for you. Believe me, even though it can be tempting, never take credit for other people’s work.
5) Be specific. Saying “I don’t like it” doesn’t help. Tell them what you like, what you don’t, and why. Give them specific suggestions. The more detailed you can be, the more insight they’ll have for making the right changes. And if you don’t know what you don’t like, tell them that. Admit it, and they’ll help you figure it out and solve the problem.
6) This isn’t about coddling sissies; this is about helping them get better and better. Harsh, thoughtless responses about creative work will always come back to haunt you because no matter how experienced we are, getting yelled at or humiliated makes us pull back. So when you’re viewing the products of your creative team’s imagination, take some time, engage with them, and discuss it. Talk about what they did right, what you think may be missing, or how it may have gone wrong. Be frank and honest, but don’t be a jerk.
Never forget that when you give them a great response, the next round is going to be inspired.
Have you ever produced creative work for a boss or client who had no clue about how to respond or was an outright jerk? I’d love to hear your story in the comment section…..