The time has come again when thousands of people line the streets for their once-in-a-lifetime shot at an American Idol audition. Now a staple in nearly every household across the U.S., American Idol draws thousands of would-be stars to audition for their shot at fame. These hopefuls range from awesome to awful, from fabulous to foul, as each lines up for his or her feedback from four judges–the Talent Supreme Court of reality television.
Aside from the zany judges, a high-point in the season (at least for many viewers) is found within the first few shows of each season as delusional contestants are shocked by the harsh reality that their unpleasant crooning does not receive the three judges’ stamp of approval. What many viewers don’t know is that, of the thousands of wannabes auditioning, less than 100 are actually permitted to parade their talent (or lack thereof) in front of Randy, Mariah, Nicki, and Keith. The select 100, as well as their other thousand-plus counterparts, actually begin their audition process over a week prior, auditioning before several other layers of judges.
What makes this process even more amusing is that these sour soloists are put through this masochistic process, only to be told for the first time in their lives that their vocals aren’t fit for even shower performances. Could this be true? Could this really be the first time they have heard this feedback?
After being told they will not be moving on to the next round (and will, consequently, not be further afflicting American viewers), they exit the room in palpable bewilderment, falling dramatically into the arms of their equally shocked allies. As they recount their rejection stories to their commiserating “fans,” these friends (who, apparently, are even less gifted than the rejected, talentless performers) appear to be in states of shock equal to, if not surpassing, their would-be Idols. Amazing. With an Idol viewership in excess of 30 million, these contestants have managed to find the three people in America who are deaf, blind, and have never turned on a radio. The conversation then typically turns to plotting revenge on the three judges who refused to subject America to further suffering. Exhibit A:
This is what we refer to as “Feedback and the American Idol Effect.” These contestants illustrate a phenomenon that is not limited to television– we tend to surround ourselves with those people who will affirm our own views of reality. In fact, we even seek out those who build upon this already-established perception. This further distorts our self-perception, as evidenced by these failed Idols. When confronted with the truth about our performance, we look for ways to discredit the messenger, rather than looking to our own degree of underperformance.
Have you ever noticed that your voice sounds different, even strange, when you listen to a recording of yourself speaking? As we speak, tone and timbre are changed as our voices resonate through the bones of the skull. Therefore, you will hear my voice differently than I hear it. Yet we assume we are hearing things the way others hear them. While likely not an excuse for these poor Idol performers, we are able to see a strong parallel to other realities. I assume others’ perceptions of me match my own perceptions. When they do not, I surround myself with those who will support my “reality,” rather than looking at how my own perception may actually be flawed.
Enter feedback. Feedback provides me with a clearer view of how my performance and behaviors may be perceived by others. In turn, I am able to adjust in order to reach optimal performance levels. We have found that 360-degree feedback often provides this reality-check. In fact, in many of the organizations with which we work, as many as 75% of 360 feedback participants will rate themselves differently than others score them. The congruence between my own perception and that of others is a factor of awareness, and is a critical component of what we refer to as Leadership Intelligence®. Those with advanced levels of Leadership Intelligence typically use both formal and informal feedback mechanisms to understand how they impact others. This feedback helps reduce the distortion of self-perception, and increases both performance and relationship effectiveness.
So, it’s agreed… 360-degree feedback as a prerequisite for American Idol participants? For some reason, I doubt that would fly. But, in a way, that’s exactly what they are getting, and many are surprised.
I wonder if my day-to-day performance would amuse 3 million viewers?