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Why it’s good if Feedback makes you howl 22 January 2018

You’re busy, I’m busy. So I try to keep these thoughts, based loosely on the life of a journalist, to a few pithy paragraphs.  I hope you find them helpful … 

One of the first lessons I learnt as a BBC trainee nearly thirty years ago was from a radio engineer in a studio deep in the bowels of Broadcasting House.  I had clamped on a pair of Bakelite headphones, but heard a high pitched squeak.  Something to do with the microphone too close to a speaker.  “We don’t call that feedback here, chum” he said.  “We call it ‘howl-round.’”

But upstairs in the radio newsroom, they certainly did use the word ‘feedback’, very robustly.  It wasn’t a technical word, it was editorial.  “That phrase doesn’t bl***dy mean anything, ditch it!” one editor yelled at me after I’d filed a story about a government department’s multi-agency approach.  “I wanted this report 45 seconds long, not 47 — do it again!” was another kindly yelled suggestion when I was working on Radio One’s Newsbeat.

But it didn’t put me off seeking feedback.  It’s the only way we can see ourselves and our work through the prism of our actual audience.  It’s a reality check on authenticity and it builds our resilience.  Every single member of staff I deliver my workshops to is given a chance to fill in a Feedback Form before I leave.  I like to think that each one of them will either reassure me or, better still, improve me.

This past week, I’ve been working abroad, and lucky enough to receive some very perceptive feedback from a mind-readerKennedy’s quite a find: his act is part stage-show entertainment, part thought-leadership for business staff who sit, wide-eyed, as he adds a different dimension to a client’s conference.  So we could have been rivals: both our businesses offering energy and fun to business clients who are trying to make (a little) hay with their Away-Day.  But instead, we’ve become friends, and sat down several times to compare notes on how we actually came across from the back of the venue, and what we might have done even better.

I don’t think you can ever be too big for feedback.  Julia Chanteray, a highly respected business coach based in Hove, has just launched a new course, and kindly asked me to don my journalist cap to offer some thoughts on how the copy on her website came across.  I am happy to report that I scored her more highly than Daisy scored me after I’d delivered an Employability Skills workshop in her school several years ago (see photo). Daisy’s thoughts certainly did make me howl at first.  But they also made me realise that although you can’t please everyone, every day, you will please more of them if you actually listen.

If you’d like try out one of my half day business skills workshops for yourself, while doing a spot of networking, do join us in Brighton on Thursday 22 February.  Details here!

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