You say you want feedback?

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” -Elon Musk

By: Mandy Mitchell

One of the most important things you can do in this business, in life really, is to learn how to take feedback from management. This can be a simple comment from your boss via e-mail or a long sit-down about your performance.

How you handle this makes a big difference.

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Yeah I know…you say you “love” feedback. You say you want to “get better” and the only way to do that is through feedback. You say it, but do you mean it? I think, what you really mean, is you love hearing great things about your work.

Feedback isn’t always going to be great and most of the time it’s going to stink, so here’s a few ways to deal with it.

1- Listen and think

When your boss comes to you with a criticism…say she didn’t like your lead story at 11, accept her criticism. Truly listen to what she is saying and resist the strong and nagging urge to be defensive.

Think about what she is telling you. What can you learn from it? Is there a way you can apply this to future newscasts? Do you completely disagree and want to fight with her about it until midnight?

You have to listen and think before you react so that you react in the best way possible. Getting defensive is not the best way to deal with a superior.

2- React

A lot of how you react depends on your boss.

Look…we all know there are some jerks in news management. There are people who don’t belong in the positions. There are hotheads who love to argue to argue and criticize to criticize. There is probably no need to argue with this person. You are better off, for your own sanity, thanking him for the feedback and moving on.

If you work for a reasonable person you may choose to defend your choice, or whatever he is being critical about.

Note: There is a difference between being defensive and defending your actions.

While doing this, be brief. He’s busy. You need to make your point like you would an elevator pitch. If it’s an e-mail exchange, treat it like a tweet with maximum characters. You simply don’t need to write a novel here. Try to back your defense with facts and confidence. It also doesn’t hurt to start with “I totally see your point, and this is why I made this choice.”

Only do this if you think it’s truly worth fighting for. Choose your battles, so to speak.

If you think your boss actually **gasp**  has a point, continue to resist the urge to defend your move. Just admit you were wrong. Say you will remember this when it comes up again.

This can be painful, but you should probably get used to doing it. We all learn on a daily basis and constructive criticism, while hard to hear sometimes, is good for every single one of us. Consider yourself lucky your boss cares enough to come to you with thoughts on your performance.

3- Put it into practice

I can say one thing with completely certainty: You will be a more valued employee if you are coachable.

Feedback only makes you better if you learn from it. If you have that conversation with your boss, you have to put that feedback in to practice.

A boss of mine once told me to stop using the word “but” in my copy. He said there is usually no reason for “but” and too many anchors (particularly sports anchors) use it too often.

I thought about it. I admitted I probably used it too much and I really made an effort to change the habit. Was this a MAJOR issue? No. Of course not. But I think it made me better.

4- It’s not personal. Remember that.

Your boss isn’t coming to you to criticize you as a person. She is coming to you with, let’s be honest, an opinion.

Don’t let a little feedback ruin your confidence. Understand your boss has a job of being a boss and sometimes that means providing feedback. It can be something little like “but” or something major like you completely missed a major fact in a story. Either way, it’s not personal.

 This post is originally from August 2016

Complaining: a newsroom’s favorite pastime

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By: Mandy Mitchell

I have been working in a newsroom on a consistent basis since 1997 when I was an intern at WPEC in West Palm Beach, Florida. I’ve learned two facts about working in newsrooms over the last two decades:

1- they are basically all the same.

2- They are filled with people who LOVE to complain.

I’m not saying every newsroom is equally toxic. I have worked in newsrooms that are better than others. But tv people, if given the chance to complain about something, will complain and will complain often.

I remember the first complaint I heard in a TV newsroom. It was from the sports anchor I was working with and he was explaining how terrible it was that the weekend sports anchor no longer had a producer because of budget cuts. He was distraught. “This business,” he said “is going down.”

If someone said that these days you would get a puzzled look. “What’s a sports producer?”

My how times have changed!

Now the complaints are about social media obligations. There are complaints about stations hiring “young and cheap.” There are too many newscasts now. Too many people being asked to MMJ. Too few media companies owning the stations.

Then there are the personal complaints about schedules, not making any money, not having a social life, not getting any respect, getting taken advantage of. On and on and on…

 

The young eager people will eventually become the bitter veterans. It is a pattern that I have watched personally for 20 years.

My challenge to you is to stop the pattern. We don’t gain anything in a day from complaining. It may be fun and it may be therapeutic at times but it isn’t helping us be better journalists and create better content. It is taking what little energy we have and flushing it.

It is SO easy to be negative about every single thing that comes with the business. If you start to think about holidays missed and your paycheck and how much you are being asked to do, you can find yourself in the gutter quickly.

The next time you start doing that try to think about why you started. There have to be good days where you produce a great newscast and get that high. There have to be moments when you land the exclusive interview and feel the pride.

Focus on that.

If you don’t get any joy from this business and you feel put upon, there are other careers. Go ahead and start looking around and get out because no one benefits from your complaining. You aren’t helping the product. You aren’t helping your coworkers, and you certainly aren’t helping yourself.

I know the enthusiasm still exists.

I’ve been to workshops filled with positive people who love the business and want to make it better. I see Facebook groups where people gather to get better and share ideas. It’s motivating and uplifting to be around people who can see the good.

Let’s bring that kind of energy to the newsroom. It’s just more productive than complaining.