I think feedback is a wonderful thing. The very definition of the word reflects its potential impact: “Feedback is information about performance that leads to action, to change, or to maintain performance.” However, I often wonder if that definition shouldn’t sometimes include a caveat. Isn’t it more appropriate to say: “CORRECT feedback is information about performance …”?
Constructive and/or developmental feedback is priceless and has so often been the decisive factor in many a success story. On the other hand, improper or misguided feedback can be terribly destructive. It’s entirely possible to receive feedback that influences us to change course or even give up on a chosen direction. In short, like everything else in life, feedback should be taken in moderation. It should be weighed carefully and evaluated often before allowing it to influence one’s thinking.
As we review our rich heritage and recount historical events, we find many valuable examples of when it may have been more advantageous to ignore feedback. Review the following examples and consider what may or may not have occurred had those involved paid heed to their ill-advised feedback.
- In 1958, CBS television producer Don Hewitt told Barbara Walters: “With your voice, nobody is going to allow you on the air.” She then signed with NBC and has been broadcasting and producing for nearly five decades!
- In the early 70s, a famed literary agent told Danielle Steel that she’d better learn to cook because her book would never sell. She found another agent and has since sold close to 400 million books!
- Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy in 1941, said: “No matter what happens, the U.S. Navy will never be caught napping.” Three days later, on December 4th, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, catching the U.S. Navy fleet totally unaware!
- In 1908, Orville Wright claimed: “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris!”
- In 1848, Daniel Webster, senator of Massachusetts, said: “I cannot conceive of anything more ridiculous, more absurd, and more affrontive to all sober judgment than the cry that we are profiting by the acquisition of New Mexico and California. I hold that they are not worth a dollar!”
- During a 1963 audition, a BBC radio producer said: “The band’s okay but, if I were you, I’d get rid of the singer with the tire-tread lips!” Of course, he was talking about The Rolling Stones and their lead singer, Mick Jagger. Nearly 45 years later, the Stones are still touring to screaming audiences all over the world!
- In 1959, a Universal Pictures executive said: “You have a chip in your tooth, your Adam’s apple sticks out way too far, you squint your eyes, and you talk too slow! You’ll never make it in Hollywood.” He was talking to Clint Eastwood.
- In 1911, Marechal Foch, French military strategist, said: “Airplanes are interesting toys but of absolutely no military value!”
- In 1969, Margaret Thatcher said: “No woman will in my lifetime be Prime Minister.” That was 10 years before SHE was elected Prime Minister!
I guess “THEY” don’t always know best!