By Ginger Shimp, Published October 14, 2014
My son is an only child and when he was five or six years old, we would arrange playdates with other kids so that he wouldn’t be lonely. These playdates were so important to him that he would studiously prepare. Not only would he line up the toys in the order in which they would be played, but in his head he would compose dialogue, deciding exactly what he and each of his friends would say.
Okay, so he inherited my controlling nature but the salient point here is what happened when the playdate did not go according to plan. There was some pleasure that the event took place but it was trumped by the fact that his friends wouldn’t stick to the script. And it was such a good script! Why wouldn’t they?
So it goes with marketing plans, projects, and events. Control freaks like yours truly work very hard to have our business fantasies fulfilled, but rarely does everything run as planned. Typically they come up short in one way or another and over time, reality can dampen our enthusiasm for the next project. This is why constructive criticism is vital.
I used to live in Chicago, but I now live in a small town with a very active art scene. I’m no artist, but I am an art lover. I love the volume of art that is produced in this town: I love the spirit, the daring, the willingness to take risks. I love that so many people turn out for each other. BUT! But the quality is … not the best it could be. The art scene in Chicago is brutal. You had to have “big shoulders” to take the criticism there, but in this town everyone is extremely supportive. This is the “Fantasy Island” of the art world because no matter how banal — or downright bad — your art is, a small but enthusiastic community will vault to their feet, applauding madly while lifting their voices to pour forth accolades. It must be very soothing to be an artist here. Of course there’s an unwritten understanding that you will heap equal praise on them and their sub-par art next week. In fact, it’s ironic that such a nurturing art scene produces ever declining output.
I have a dear friend at a company where I once worked. He works harder than just about anyone else and does so with a smile on his face. He’s not the best marketer at the company but I admire his earnestness. And honestly, he’s extremely smart. As a consequence of his passion and intelligence, he’s been promoted right along. Several years ago he was in charge of a major campaign that was a major disaster. No one wanted to see this affable man hurt and so we found ways to spin the ROI and make it look far better than it was. Further, either out of kindness or cowardice, no one told him how bad the campaign really was, and thus he believed the spin. Unfortunately, about every six months he suggests that the campaign be resurrected because it was so successful. I’m told they’ve actually had brainstorming meetings to come up with excuses to put this guy off … not an easy thing as he’s a VP now.
The sad thing about this is that had we been honest from the start, I’ve zero doubt that this person would have taken it with grace, documented lessons learned and turned all that amazing brain power to designing an improved strategy.
The lesson here is that we can’t really grow without honest constructive criticism (a concept my mom used to call being “brutally honest”); it’s a necessary ingredient for success. Fortunately for me, I’m able to plan my projects in excruciating detail and no one would dare deviate from one of my scripts as the project moves forward. Indeed, I’ve been told that I run the most successful campaigns at our company. My business fantasy scripts always end that way.
Now please don’t spam my inbox or voicemail about this blog; I’m expecting several major publishers to offer me a three-book contract with a huge advance and movie rights, and I don’t want their messages to get lost in the clutter. 😉