Friday, February 3, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

My professional job is in helping to develop and grow strong leaders/managers, so most of what I hear every day is about how to help make people better with their interpersonal skills (because the higher you go in a company, the less you use your technical skills and the more you rely on interpersonal abilities). We use a lot of personality assessments in helping us when coaching executives and the whole point is to provide as much feedback as possible. Without feedback, nobody can truly get better.

Time and time again, I’ve found that the most successful managers and leaders are the ones that take feedback openly and objectively. Granted, there is an art to giving and receiving feedback, and not everybody has the knack for it, but it’s my job to give feedback in a constructive way, and it’s the receivers’ job to use it for growth. A good leader can take feedback and use it as a tool for becoming even better. They make goals for themselves based on that feedback and they develop from it.

There’s a phrase a bunch of the executives and I joke about, which we picked up from one of my coworkers – “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.

Think about it.

Go ahead, think some more.

It’s true, isn’t it?

Sometimes in the morning if I’m riding the elevator with somebody I’ve coached, they’ll look at me and joke, “Hey Jackie, guess what I had for breakfast!”

So why did I give you that glimpse into my other career? Because I think it directly applies to designers as well. A lot of us designers don’t think we have a whole ton in common with big corporations, when really; we have a lot in common because at the end of the day, we are all people. Leaders and managers want to be successful, as do designers. Heck, who doesn't want to be successful! We all grow through constant feedback, and so one of the most valuable skills a person can have is being able to give and receive constructive feedback.

I don’t know about any of you, but 90% of my growth has been a direct result of the feedback I’ve gotten from others that were willing to give it to me.

And when it comes to giving feedback in the design world, Minted nailed it. They may not have done it intentionally, but man oh man, they nailed it. Before, I said that the most successful executives are the ones that are able to take feedback and grow from it, well the same is true of designers. Some of my most admired designers are the ones that maybe didn't start off super successful, but with enough effort they were able to turn the feedback into real opportunity for growth.

I'd also like to say that, as a professional in the world of business & Talent Development, some of the most well-said feedback I’ve ever seen has come from the Minted community. I teach classes on how to give feedback, I coach leaders and I study it on my spare time – so for me, it was amazing when I entered the Minted community and the designers were doing it so naturally and so well.

So, for those of us that still have growing to do, and for those of us that want to help grow other people, here are a few rules of thumb for giving feedback, many of which are demonstrated daily during Minted design challenges:
  1. Start by focusing on something positive. “I like the feel of this!” 
  2. Be specific – don’t generalize. Instead of saying “this design is bad” say “the type is a little big”. Generalizations are bad because they don’t offer any substance. For somebody to actually improve, they need to know specifically what isn’t right. Even if it means listing several things, it’s better than generalizing and saying “everything”.
  3. Point out the effect of the “bad” thing, “I find the type is a little big, which can be distracting”
  4. Offer a suggestion, not a direct order “Have you thought about making the type smaller?”
  5. Use "I" statements. They take the sting out of suggestions. “I think it might look nicer if…” “I might try this instead” or “I find the type a little on the large side”. Don't use "you" statments, and never say something like “you need to change this” or “you need remove that”
  6. Be confident that the person will be successful. “This is going to turn out great! I can’t wait to see it”
  7. Follow up and offer additional feedback. “Wow, the changes you made look really nice!” or “I see you made the type smaller, and it’s looking much better, but I still might try to make it even smaller.  
Avoid putting the other person down, being mean, calling them names, or calling their entire product awful. Feedback needs to be done in a positive constructive way so that the other person doesn’t become defensive. And if you give feedback properly (which the Minted community does) it’ll actually foster an environment where people actively SEEK OUT the feedback. Amazing, right?!

Can I also add that it’s really important to give feedback when somebody is doing something really well? Use all the tips I mentioned above, maybe say something like “Wow, this design is really great! I love the pop of color and the type layout, I wouldn’t change a thing! Hope this one wins!” I know that seems like a long way of saying you like something, but why not take the extra time to put a smile on somebody else’s face?!

So, speaking of all that, head on over to Minted and vote for the It’s Party Time: Children’s Birthday Party Invitation Challenge. I got to submit one design, and would love to hear some feedback!

 "Ice Cream Social"
Disclaimer: all professional advice I have given today, or may give in the future, is not guaranteed to work on husbands, wives, or children. 


  1. Great post! I wish I was as eloquent as you. Nicely stated...and feel free to give me a critique any time!

  2. Jackie, I'm reading this post late, but wanted to tell you how great it is! So true of Minted!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...