Stronger Signals - Feedback and Connectivity at rp
Spend any time perusing this blog or the company website and it quickly becomes apparent that redpepper is not like other creative agencies. Clients are enthralled by our work and our innovative ideas have made waves throughout the internet. The quality of the people working here, both personally and professionally, is frightening. Companies would kill for a sliver of the creativity that oozes out of Wonderland. This is a special agency, as rare as lightning striking twice.
That’s why I struggled to enjoy my first few weeks here; I didn’t know if I could live up to the standards. redpepper has blended together such a high grade of output with a very particular crop of people, and it can be intimidating trying to find your place as a new intern.
I wasn’t happy with the quality of work I was producing for my team and I doubted almost every approach I made to helping out. I was stuck in my shell and I wasn’t open to meeting more of the agency then who was immediately around me. This was the darkest timeline.
I finally stepped up and did something about it. This is my advice on how I turned my experience around through honest feedback and communication.
The first step was evaluating my own attitude towards improving myself. I wanted everything to be easy, but this was unrealistic and is not conducive towards active growth. No pain, no gain, right? From there I needed to get critique on the projects I was working on and see where I was excelling, where I was lagging, and what next steps I needed to take. While your mentors and other peppers will approach you with helpful feedback, the most complete refinement comes from taking the initiative and seeking out that advice for yourself. You’ve gotta want it! You own your own growth; nobody else will do it for you.
In addition, the mindset you have while receiving critique will completely alter your interpretation of it. There’s a huge difference between criticism and feedback, and the distinction comes through at redpepper every day. Criticism attacks the personal character of the individual and will only mention faults in the work:
“You never prepare the rooms right,” or “your report wasn’t very detailed, you aren’t putting enough time into this.”
While feedback evaluates the work with the intention of cultivating growth. Feedback is almost always accompanied by remedies for correcting a deficiency or tips to sharpening a skill.
“Here’s what I like about this setup, and next time you could try X to take it to the next level,” or “I was looking for information on X: if you could dig up more in that category, we would really be onto something.”
These are two examples that better communicate the same messages as before, but the intentions behind the techniques are distinct; redpepper is solely concerned with the latter.
Knowing your resources
Once I retuned my antenna on how I could improve, I went to those in the company I knew were a resource in helping to better understand expectations. I sat down with Tim, our CEO and fearless leader, to get his take on giving and receiving feedback.
“Feedback drives performance,” he opened with, eyes to the ground so as to craft his response. “It’s all about changing viewpoints, about perspective,” commenting on how outside eyes can elevate our output from good to great.
Become familiar with the people in the agency whose work you want to learn from. Read their articles, watch their videos, go to their meetings: spend every second you can familiarizing yourself with different people and their strengths and weaknesses. Develop that list and cultivate the relationships: when the time comes that you do need someone’s help, it’s easier to ask a friend than a stranger.
It’s only funny in retrospect that I approached Tim by asking if we “could chat for two minutes,” and our conversation ended up running upwards of fifteen. Toward the end, he actually gave me feedback on how I could have better framed my “ask” to be more realistic in terms of time, which got me thinking more about how to maximize the inputs we receive from others.
To get the most out of a coworker or mentor, you have to ask for the right kind of feedback. General inquiries such as “Read my report and tell me what you think” are open to all kinds of interpretation; you don’t want this, as it isn’t conducive to really improving you or the work. Instead, ask specific, targeted questions that dial into the weakest parts of your performance and own the responses. Approach different departments for those shifting perspectives and watch multiple interpretations work into one cohesive revision.
Onward and upward
After I realigned my head and received honest, tangible feedback from my resources, I spent time every day planning out what I wanted to get done and I didn’t let myself walk out the door until my list was checked off.
Since those first few weeks, my outlook on redpepper has changed completely. Once you take initiative to own your own growth, constantly seeking feedback and craving to be better everyday, the benefits will be overflowing. The agency will thank you for your commitment, your fellow interns will notice your hustle, and you will have invested into further growing.
Tim summed up our chat by reminding me that being mindful about the process helps every step: your attitude will shape what kind of feedback you want, your resources determine what you receive, and your framing influences how you act on all of it. When you put all three together, it’s as if lightning strikes twice.
Gabe Gonzales, rpMarketing Intern, Lubbock, TX