I spent most of my childhood in a ballet academy. At the end of each year, an international examiner would observe, and critique, my technique. Marks were given, but no matter what they were, I remember being disappointed for one reason or another. Though these marks were supposed to serve as a reminder of the growth to be had, I found little grace for myself and found it difficult to celebrate all that I had achieved.
I’d love to say that I evolved since then, but so much of my wiring is to reform – whether it was my dance technique as a youth or my business as an adult, I’m prone to constantly evaluating where improvements can be made. In 2020, a season of change, growth, and reflection, I found myself wrapped in three criticisms, from others and from myself. Instead of dwelling on these narratives, I used them to catalyze 200% revenue YoY.
1. “You’re such a perfectionist.”
This one always gets me good. For those of you who know the Enneagram, the one in me says, “Actually, I’m a reformer” (hence the use of the word above…). I feel misunderstood when people use these words. To combat this misconception, I created the “Strategic Alignment Guide” offering at Deore Design, a positioning and process document used to streamline the efforts of sales and marketing teams.
Though at the end of this engagement, there is an end product (that I certainly like to be well-polished), I designed this offering with the mindset of reformation, not stagnant perfection. Each quarter, I sit with my clients and revisit this guide, eager to make changes that will drive success in their marketing and sales funnel. This product has entirely redefined the way Deore Design is positioned and has driven the company’s success.
2. “You’re so particular.” (Read: Picky)
I’d say this is a self-critique when it comes to design, but I’m sure my team has felt this way a time or two. Having had the privilege of hiring multiple employees this year, I have coached different individuals on my expectations when it comes to design. Whether it’s balanced spacing, ruler guides, white space ratios, alignment issues, padding, or color usage, the business has a reputation for a specific style.
Because of my commitment to that style, we have been able to expand our sales enablement tools offering, creating hundreds of design deliverables for dozens of clients. Especially as I have learned to delegate, which is intrinsically difficult because of this characteristic, being able to clearly articulate specifics and preferences is imperative to establish consistency, especially when multiple designers are working on the project.
3. “You’re a bit blunt.”
This one more often than not comes from others in my personal life. Maybe it’s because my husband is an officer in the Army (soon to be retired), but we Grochowskis shoot it straight. I’m not afraid to call it like it is and tell you what I think. In years past, I wrestled allowing this trait to color my business; however, with the growth of my business I’ve been able to transfer this characteristic successfully from my personal life.
When I start a client engagement, it’s important to establish a sense of commitment and partnership, particularly when fulfilling deliverables on a quarterly or annual basis. I’m confident in my business, my team, and the work we do on behalf of our clients, and it’s important to me to frankly outline expectations for both parties. Additionally, I’ve learned not to be afraid of sharing what’s not working, regardless of who executed.
I titled this blog “Designing Reformation” because that’s what I do best – that’s who I am. I love what I do every day at Deore Design, working with incredible clients from different verticals and locations to design a strategy of reform for their positioning and processes. This reflection has helped me remember that those criticisms, no matter where they came from have allowed me to build something great and to help others do the same.
I’m committed to rewriting the narrative of those criticisms this year and am excited to face any new ones 2021 brings, whether self-induced or from others. In the meantime, I’ll get back to my passion for designing reformation and fueling the company’s growth with weaknesses turned strengths. If you need me, you can find me reforming strategy, specifying design, and conveying results.
What criticisms have you used to fuel your personal or professional success? Drop them in the comments. I’d love to grow together.