Honesty might speed up your projects!


Written by: Cecilie Lyng


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About Cecilie Lyng: Cecilie Lyng is Head of Brand at NRK (Norwegian Broadcast Corporation). She has nearly thirty years of experience in the media industry focusing on how to translate strategies into design. 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson

Have you ever experienced that the real feedback on a project sometimes is stated after the team members walk out the door? That someone says: “I really think they have missed the focus here…” or “What they really should have done is…”

My experience is that holding back criticism is likely to happen in many processes.

Difficult honesty

Giving positive feedback is not difficult. On the contrary, it is easy and rewarding, leaving the appearance of the optimistic and positive colleague. Solemnly, we all know that constructive criticism is exactly what is needed.

Why is it sometimes difficult to give constructive criticism about what is not yet working or questioning solutions made? Why is it so hard to be honest?

There may be numerous reasons, like you don’t want to hurt the employees’ or the teams’ feelings, you may be afraid to take away their motivation, or it may be that you do not want to be the recurring dumbass who never just applauds all presentations. So, it is about them and it is about you. It is about culture.

Starting with those who lead

Facilitating openness and honesty in a collaboration requires something from every team member, but most of all from those who lead.

It is an advantage if the company’s values ​​support qualities such as openness or sincerity. But they are only guidelines that you can refer to. They need to be decoded to a certain kind of behaviour. My belief is that you have to set the scene in all projects, preferably at the start, describing a desired way of working together.

For example, “In this project we are completely dependent on us being open with each other.” “If we as a team see something that is not working, someone else will definitely see it too, so let´s help each other to make this product as good as we can—just say it in a nice way!”

I tell you; It is working!


After initially writing this essay, I have become even more aware, and have asked specifically – Now, let´s be really honest here! And last time the response from one of my team members was: Well, if we are to be really honest, (like taking the instruction, letting herself be allowed to take the role of saying something a little bit negative) she shared some very important thoughts that I am sure we would never have heard if the room for open feedback was not given.

The better we know the people in our group, the easier it is to forget about the politeness.

I have learned that not everybody knows you, not everybody knows you have the best intentions with your frankness, and you can´t just enter another project with your own rules of openness, even if you work in the same company.

What you can do, is ask what kind of feedback they really want in the project and do that BEFORE you are exposed to any ideas. Then you set the scene together.

There are times where there are room for a complete reversal, and there are times for tiny detail changes.

Creating a safe arena

I have worked nearly thirty years in the industry and have been collaborating with companies in Norway as well as highly respected creative companies abroad.

In a special project we are working on these days, we have received feedback from one of those international companies saying this openness in a project is quite unique and positive. And I’ve heard this before, that to speak straight out and ask for the same has something to do with the Scandinavian culture. I am not sure, but that´s what inspired me to write this essay.

All businesses talk about working smarter, working better together, spending time on the right things. Only through cumulative effort will we achieve the best possible solutions.

I have a strong belief that starting with small actions, creating a safe arena for good collaboration and building enough backbone both to be honest and to receive honest feedback will help push things forward. •