The other night I watched two teenage sisters shine. They shined so brightly that their audience beamed with pride at their character and accomplishment. The girls volunteered to make a presentation and be coached in front of roughly fifty adults at a meeting of the Institute for Cultural Communicators (ICC). After diligent preparation and no small amount of creative labor, the girls stood in front of their audience ready to deliver their performance. What happened next reminded me of a paper my wife wrote entitled “Feedback: The Breakfast of Champions.” The girls confidently delivered their presentation. Then they consumed enough “breakfast” for a team of champions. Again and again they performed and consumed, performed and consumed. It was beautiful– and so were they.
With each cycle their presentation improved. The girls listened carefully and graciously, though it was no doubt trying to be jostled around by such direct feedback– don’t do that, try this, now this… In the end, the performance was greatly improved and so was, I believe, the audience. We, the audience, witnessed two young ladies gracefully accept and respond to a public critique of something they personally created and performed. The contrast with the adult workplace was glaring, at least to me.
As I reflect on the contrast and draw on my years of experience, here is what I see.
|Feedback is expected and wanted by both parties||Feedback is threatening to both parties|
|Feedback is essential to the process||Feedback is an exception to the process|
|Critics are viewed as partners||Critics are viewed as rivals|
|Accepting feedback is sign of character||Accepting feedback is sign of weakness|
I doubt that these girls have always taken feedback so well. Most people don’t. But I am pretty sure I know how they got to this point: Their goal is to improve, and their learning process is collaborative. Twice a month they gather with other students and adults to work on their communication skills. In those sessions they routinely give and get feedback just like breathing– in and out, give and get—and the results are exceptional.
…I wonder what would happen if adults in the workplace did the same thing