Reality Check Part 2: Survey the business landscape

Reality_Check SurveysIn a prior post I highlighted the need for in-house creative team leads to get an accurate picture of their business – both the internal and external environments. I listed 10 tactics to support this strategy. The first 3 are formal survey initiatives. Below are some insights and suggestions on how to best implement them.

External Surveys

A client will almost never tell you to your face what they really think of you, your team or your team’s execution on a particular project. It’s human nature to avoid conflict and uncomfortable conversations, so as much as you hear good feedback don’t assume it’s an accurate gauge of a client’s opinion of your performance.

Better to give your clients an opportunity to anonymously provide feedback with a survey. Biannual online surveys are probably the best route to take. More often than that makes the survey seem like a nuisance, less won’t give you actionable feedback that you can respond to in a timely manner.

Survey Monkey is the best tool I know of to administer the surveys. It’s intuitive, cheap and easy to use, providing all the features you need. An email invite stressing the motive of team development and improved service and quality deliverables is the best means to enroll your clients in the survey.

The questions should elicit responses on the quality of design deliverables as defined by meeting the goals of design projects and good aesthetics both achieved within reasonable timeframes with a minimum of churn. Customer service is another important area to cover. Finally, use the form as a means to determine clients’ opinions of your team’s strategic and collaborative skills.

Surveys covering slightly different topics can and should also be used to capture feedback from individuals and departments with whom your team partners on its projects such as IT, Facilities and Communications. The questions on this type of survey would skew more towards topics such as collaboration, teamwork and customer service.

Internal Surveys

There is also tremendous value to be gained from conducting internal surveys. Just as a client may not be inclined to deliver valuable feedback in person, your reports and peers may be hesitant to discuss gaps in how the team is run and how you lead the group.

The most powerful tool I’m aware of for soliciting constructive criticism on your performance and leadership abilities is the 360 review. In this process, you and you manager invite potential respondents drawn from your peers, reports, clients managers and partners.

The 360 should focus on all the skills and aptitudes that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. Key areas to gain feedback on include both soft and hard leadership skills such as communication, collaborative, business strategy and coaching expertise.

In addition to gaining insights on your leadership team, taking your group’s temperature about how they feel about their working environment can provide valuable information to guide future workplace refinements and restructuring.

As with the client surveys, an online tool such as Survey Monkey is probably the best option for administering the survey. Here the questions should focus on your team’s opinions of their benefits, compensation, career advancement and professional development opportunities. You’ll want to find out if they feel they’re being properly acknowledged for their contributions, they have all the tools and support they require to do their best work and if they feel secure and supported in their jobs. The survey is also a great opportunity to solicit suggestions on how to improve the business.

Surveys, when employed strategically, are one of your most effective tools for gaining critical feedback on the state of your business that will help you chart a course to improve your team and better serve your organization.

I’ll be exploring more of the top 10 means for gathering intel on your business in future posts.