Most managers want to give better feedback. A way to improve is to observe others giving feedback and then to consider whether and how they are effective. Is there something in their style or technique you can emulate or add to your toolkit?
Models are everywhere: parents giving feedback to kids; kids to parents; spouses, friends, coworkers, bosses, etc. to others. Ideally, you are working for someone who does this better than you so you can observe and imitate.
Watching the recent final season of American Idol provided food for thought around this. Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., and Keith Urban were the judges. I consider their collective feedback style “nicer, kinder, gentler” and really, doesn’t the world need more of that?
Previous Idol judges displayed a range of techniques that were not always positive. This of course can be instructive as well so if you are inclined to watch old seasons, it may help develop your skill. Just don’t imitate the stuff that makes everyone cringe.
Back to JLo, Keith, and Harry. I boiled down their best feedback moves into four qualities that I call Gracious, Articulate, Motivate, and Specific. Conveniently, these words can be ordered to create the acronym GAMS.
Gracious – defined as courteous, kind, and pleasant. I saw every episode of this final season except one and cannot recall an instance when the judges were not these three things. Even when the performance was weak and their message not positive, they remained gracious.
Articulate – JLo, HCJr, and KU expressed ideas fluently and coherently often using vivid descriptions or images that communicated how the performance made them feel. On more than one occasion, JLo told contestants she had gotten goosies all over from watching them sing. Everyone knew exactly what she meant.
Motivate – part of judging was motivating the contestants to push harder through their limits and really give their all. Once, when a song wasn’t quite right, Keith Urban said to a contestant, “And for me, I would always take an inspired attempt over soulless perfection any day of the week.” I just loved that.
Specific – Harry regularly got very technical about the music and the performance which he can do because of deep musical knowledge and a sophisticated ear. He learned from some of the world’s best, including Ellis Marsalis. Seeing someone who knows the mechanics of music so well that they can recognize very specific things and then communicate them was pretty cool.
The GAMS model of performance feedback can be used by any of us when called upon to tell someone what we think. Giving feedback is difficult but a skill that develops. Next time you are critiquing performance, incorporate one or more of the GAMS (Gracious, Articulate, Motivate, Specific) qualities into the process and see what happens.
Speaking of Idol, we hope to catch home-boy Mackenzie Bourg (4th runner up this season) onstage at a festival around here but so far no luck. I’ve fested quite a bit this spring and in doing heard two great quotes:
- Passed by one young guy saying to another: “I jumped into the light and I fell in love with her.”
- Said by a crazy guy: “Is it me or is everyone else here dizzy?”
Would love to know your thoughts on giving better feedback. Share them in the comments.