by Justin Standfield
Every weekend, around 12 million people tune in to watch some of British television’s most recognisable people delivering feedback live on air to assorted celebrities. Yes, I’m talking about BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. The Strictly judges – Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood – are pretty much household names these days but I can’t help wondering as I watch them in action whether they’re actually any good at giving feedback. Like managers in the workplace, they have different feedback styles and seem to be aiming for different things with their delivery. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn.
Bruno has an effusive feedback style, which is rich in metaphor and is always delivered with his trademark flamboyant enthusiasm. He’s good at reminding the celebrity on the receiving end of his feedback of the aim of a particular dance and then giving feedback against that benchmark. During the actual giving of the feedback, it’s sometimes more about Bruno than the receiver as he uses it as an opportunity to draw attention to himself in some way – such as a frenetic impression or an exaggerated dance move.
Shirley is the dancing show’s head judge, having taken over from Len Goodman in 2017. She has an air of sincerity when she speaks and she gives specific examples based on her observations. She also takes her time over the feedback and is never rushed. There’s some added credibility in that Shirley has assorted championship titles under her belt. However, she can occasionally be too technical and use dance jargon which could go over the receiver’s head (most of us watching at home are unlikely to know what a “syncopated Cuban break” is either).
Darcey can always find something positive to say and can be relied upon to balance out any negative feedback from the other judges. She seems to look for opportunities to appreciate something about the performance no matter how dire it was, but could this be due to an avoidance of critique? Most weeks, she repeats some standard phrases that are too vague to be useful (beyond a temporary warm fuzzy feeling), such as “you always come out and give it everything, which is great!” and “I really got into the f-e-e-e-e-l of your dance”.
Craig Revel Horwood
Craig is the judge who’s always quick to criticise – in fact, his style has now become a predictable pattern of “criticise first and praise second”. Like Shirley, he often gives precise technical feedback but this can be lost on the receiver because they’re busy reacting to his barbed opening line. But all of this means that you know when Craig does give you some glowing recognition, he really means it (a-may-ZING). If you have thick skin and you’re mainly looking for a shopping list of what you need to work on, Craig is your man.
The question is: which of the four Strictly judges is the most effective?
It’s been said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and I guess something similar kicks in when it comes to receiving feedback. For example, Craig Revel Horwood is a bit like Marmite, with people seeming to either loathe his style or hang on every word he says because “you know he calls a spade a spade”. There are many factors that influence how we like to receive feedback, such as our ability, our confidence level, our past experience with feedback and our desire to actually change – to name just a few. Typically, the best way to deliver feedback is to discuss it as part of a two-way conversation with a mutual goal… something that’s not possible on Strictly.
- When you need to give developmental feedback to another person, do you tend towards the being a Bruno, a Shirley, a Darcey or a Craig?
- Which Strictly judge would you choose to give you some feedback and why?
If you’d like to develop your feedback repertoire and add to it with some new techniques, insights from current research and an awareness of your own style, get in touch with me by using the Contact option (top right menu) and ask about Incendo’s workshops on this topic.
Sequins are not included.