How the Right Feedback Can Change Your Life
His name was Peter Cameron.
And his presence could instill fear in the most seasoned professionals.
He was a judge in the Class A division of the Arabian Horse Show World.
There is a horse show saying that in order to win a blue ribbon, you only have to be good for 15 seconds: the 15 seconds the judge is watching you.
Of course, the challenge is that you don’t know which 15 seconds the judge is watching you rather than all the other horses. In the 360-degree ride around a large oval ring, the judge may be watching you at any step, and at the same time the judge may miss your very best 15 seconds. But when Peter Cameron was the judge, you had to aspire to be good every second of your ride because he was watching your every hoof beat around the ring. And that’s why I liked him.
He evened the playing field. Professionals and amateurs,
3 million dollar horses, 3 thousand dollar horses, and 3 hundred-dollar horses,
the newest rider in the ring or the most seasoned. . .
All were held to the same high bar of performance.
To be good 360 hoof steps around the ring.
Although it has been almost two decades since I showed horses under his gaze, I can still see him standing erect in the middle of the ring. Imagine standing stationary as thirty horses, sometimes three or four deep on the rail, turned around you vying for just a second of your attention. He was determined to see every horse, every second they were in the ring. Like a whirling dervish this 60+-year-old man was able to change the direction he was looking so quickly that as a rider you were never safe from his keen eye.
The line up comes at the conclusion of every class. There is a brief interlude between the time the class ends and the winners are announced. Peter Cameron would walk the line during this interlude, telling riders what they did wrong, or what to-do right in the next class. These comments were often the only outside, objective feedback that riders ever received. Whether this was your very first horse show or you were a professional, you were the recipient of his advice. To me this was verbal gold.
At a horse show you have to wait until the show is completely over to talk to the judge. To ask him the all-important WHY: Why did you place me, or why didn’t you place me? However, when the judge instigates conversation, he/she can talk to you at any point during the show. He was the only judge I ever saw give pointers, feedback, and criticism while the show was still going on. It raised the level of competition because every rider could take immediate steps to improve their performance during the show.
On the other hoof, and in the horse world there are 4 “other hands” since there are four hooves, he could be spiteful. If he liked your horse, and your performance disappointed him, he would punish you in the next class. The next class you rode in, no matter how perfect you thought you were, he would not place you. It was as if he was testing you to see if you listened to his verbal gold. If you were good, and if you listened to his comments, then you had to sustain that level of performance for another class in order to receive your reward of a blue ribbon.
I loved showing under Pete Cameron. Professionals usually avoided him like the plague. They didn’t like to be told what to do, and didn’t like having to listen and implement his advice or be punished by not placing for the rest of the show.
Fast-forward 15 years. I find a mentor, Alan Weiss (the Million Dollar Consultant)
And he can be brutal, frank, brief, and you punish yourself after talking with him for not being well prepared.
It dawned on me finally, that these two experts, in totally different fields, had something in common. Their no nonsense approach to excellence through their use of verbal gold. Also in common was how I was drawn to them. Out of all of the horse show judges I could choose to respect or emulate, and out of all of the mentors I could choose to respect and emulate I chose their no nonsense approach to excellence.
There are two common denominators in the selection of professionals that you may choose to respect and emulate:
A. Do you want feedback, do you see it as verbal gold?
B. Do you want your feedback to be honest and concise?
You need to ask yourself:
Do you value feedback?
Do you align yourself with people who give you feedback?
How do they give it, are they honest? Do they use the scalpel of clarity
so you get the value efficiently and quickly?
How do you give feedback?
How do you use verbal gold to sustain your blue ribbon performance?