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“If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing – a lot of people would be drowning” – Criticism Simon Cowell style.


Christmas in on its way! I don’t define the onset of the festive season, by the sale of tinsel in the shops (although scarily enough a certain large clothing store had Christmas cards on sale last Saturday). I know when the festive season is on its way, when my Saturday night entertainment includes the highly entertaining singing talent show that is The X Factor. Yes…it’s back on our screens, and back with a vengeance!

Having been an avid viewer since its conception in 2004, I would’ve anticipated that my interest would’ve waned by the 7th series. Indeed had there not been a change in the judging panel this year, I may not have been so inclined to get caught up in Series 8 as I have been. So what’s so different about this year? For me it has to do with the welcome departure of the sharp tongue-lashing judge that was Simon Cowell, people tend to either love him or loathe him. In previous series’, the outspoken Mr Cowell with his set of perfect pearly whites, often appeared unable to give constructive criticism to those unfortunate singing wannabes, who didn’t have the vocal abilities of the likes of Leona Lewis or Alexandra Burke (previous contestants with fantastic voices for those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about)

There was little or no praise for those who had tried, and positive advice to those with less than perfect vocal ability was virtually non-existent. Instead the music mogul millionaire preferred to dish out his point of view in the form of  harsh one liners, that would be of no benefit to the person on the receiving end, and would likely end in them breaking down in floods of tears with their dream in shatters.

There are many memorable quotes, but for the point of this blog I think this one gets my point across:
 "You sound like a cat in a vacuum cleaner. Dreadful."

Criticism comes in many formats including logical, factual, negative, constructive, practical and theoretical. Many people tend to think of criticism in a negative vein, it can leaving you feeling that you’re at fault and that the work you produced just wasn’t up to scratch. However, criticism in its purest form is purely the judgment of both the merits and faults of an individual or group. The issue that arises is generally not the criticism itself, but the way in which the feedback is delivered. Case in point – Simon Cowell’s judging technique on The X Factor.

Simon may have been bang on with the comment about the appalling singer sounding like cat in a vacuum cleaner, but there was nothing logical about how he delivered his left hooked virtual punch. If his judged response was that with the vocal abilities the would-be singer had, he/she would be unlikely to obtain a record deal, then with his experience in the music business, the comment would quite possibly be justified. Yes, the criticism may hurt but what he would’ve delivered would have been a logical criticism, voiced in a factual way, based on his knowledge of the industry. However, blatantly comparing the singer to a 4 legged animal of the feline variety, trapped in a Dyson-style contraption on national television, can be perceived as nothing short of a personal attack.

To improve ourselves, feedback is necessary. On an individual level it forces us to look at our own flaws and weaknesses which we might otherwise choose to ignore. Let’s face it; it’s far easier to bury your head in the sand than to acknowledge and work on the parts of us that require change. However, the head in sand syndrome prevents us from improving ourselves. Within an organisation, feedback is equally important, as people’s performance can potentially determine the success or possibly even the failure of a business.

360 degree feedback is one tool that is widely used in business. Step one is the gleaning of the feedback through a 360 review; step two is the delivering of the feedback, and to ensure that everyone involved gets the most out of the process, delivering it constructively is essential.

So, next time you find yourself in the position of having to give out feedback, think about how what you say, may effect the person sitting opposite you. Take a moment to picture Simon Cowell, dressed in a black tightly fitted t-shirt, black high waisted trousers, pearly white teeth gleaming, pulling some poor soul apart with one of his infamous caustic comments – need I say more?

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