Recently I pet-sat at a home in Santa Barbara, California. I know, lucky me! One activity that I especially enjoyed during my stay in Santa Barbara was observing a vocal masterclass at the Music Academy of the West. Picture this:
A young opera singer walks on stage, stands in front of the grand piano, and she and her accompanist bow to the audience. The master teacher/opera singer sits to the side of the stage and listens intently. They perform the aria, to my ear, beautifully. Then the teacher asks the singer what the songs is about. She gives a brief answer, and then he asks her to begin the aria again. He stops her after a few bars and then gives her a specific suggestion of how she might approach that section. She sings the passage again, following his directions, and like magic it sounds even better than it did the first time.
They work their way through the piece, and for each short section, he offers suggestions that may include how she breathes, pronounces a vowel, the tempo, or the intent of the character. With each piece of feedback and with practice, the singer transforms how she performs the aria. The teacher has taken what was a pretty piece and made it even more beautiful through the way he gave the singer feedback.
As supervisors, teachers, parents, and partners, what if we gave feedback that way?
- Ask what the person did/thought
- Give a specific suggestion for how the person might improve
- Ask if s/he has questions. Does s/he want to try it in this new way
- Give the person a chance to practice the new way and feel the change
- After the person has improved that part, then start the process again with a new part
I believe these simple steps, with practice, will help you to become a master at giving feedback.