I Give It A 5: "Dancing With The Stars" Lessons On Feedback and Fairness At Work

Just as in your workplace, you will be criticized and judged as are the contestants on "Dancing With The Stars" by judges every week.

Just as in your workplace, you will be criticized and judged as are the contestants on "Dancing With The Stars" by judges every week.

Charo is a separate conversation.As someone who indulges in the “Dancing With the Stars” phenom along with 10-11 million other fans each week watching the amateurs and the pros try to make it all look effortless,  I can heed several important leadership lessons on display.In the middle of its 24th season, this glittery, sweaty, kinetic show can teach women leaders much about how to take criticism under pressure. Whether it’s praise or crushing judgment leading to elimination, we have to learn to take it.In order to succeed in the workplace, it’s best to accept that we will be judged and offered feedback on a regular basis, hopefully learning what fairness at work really means.[bctt tweet=“To succeed at work, we must accept we’ll be judged & offered feedback regularly #WomenAtWork” username=“takeleadwomen”]At Take The Lead, the mission is to facilitate women to prepare, develop, inspire and propel towards a culture with gender parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025. Part of the preparation, development and  growth along the way involves understanding the feedback and criticism that arrives.“We all like receiving recognition and appreciation at the workplace, whether it’s a pat on the back, an award for a job well done, or some one-on-one time with our boss. We have unique emotions attached to what makes us feel appreciated, and the nature of what we find motivating varies from person to person,” writes Karl Moore in Forbes.[bctt tweet=”#DWTS can teach us to gracefully accept judgment & make criticism work #LeadershipLessons” username=“takeleadwomen”]Here are 10 career takeaways from DWTS on how to gracefully accept the judgment and make the criticism work for you.

  1. The judges matter. Most every company or organization has a Len Goodman, a less than congenial older leader who knows everything and is the voice of wisdom and history. Do not cross him. Whether you are going for a raise or promotion, or trying to impress the CEO at a meeting, remain cool and do not get flustered when he stone-faced delivers to you the equivalent of a 5. And yes, most every company hopefully as at least one affable, generous, kind Carrie Ann Inaba, if you’re lucky. There could be a Julianne Hough mixed in the top admin or C-suite as well, but chances are you won’t be lucky enough to have two cool women leading the team promoting gender fairness at work at every turn. And there is an exuberant male colleague perhaps who is over the top and apt to jump on tables at the company party, in the form of Bruno Tonioli. Get to know the styles of the people in your organization and expect them to behave accordingly.

  2. Take in the specific details of the feedback. “Be it entrepreneurs, managers or employees, every person needs to hear that they made a mistake. Asking for feedback and taking it positively are two important skills that will set you apart from others,” writes Monty Majeed in YourStory. “When you are fully involved in a project, it can be very difficult to see the mistakes you are committing. Having another set of eyes go through your work will not only give you a fresh perspective, but also force you to reconsider the methods you have used or the results you have inferred,” Majeed writes. You may be painfully aware that you were stiff and not smiling during the tango, but hearing that others notice, may help you shift the behavior. When you make a mistake, don’t cover up, make it a chance to improve.

  3. Do not talk back and get defensive. If Bruno rolls his eyes or makes a snarky comment about a dancer, it is likely for him to get attention and tweets. Do not respond in kind. “Be grateful that they took out the time to give you feedback, because most managers don’t. According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, a majority of those surveyed said that they sought corrective feedback to improve their performance and wished their managers gave them more feedback on their work,” according to YourStory. Being unprofessional will never advance you, and the manager is always in the right to tell you, even if you do not believe he or she is right. Strive for fairness at work.

  4. Everyone gets bad scores sometimes. That is why it is a big deal to get consistent 9’s and 10’s. This is hard. So is your work. You may get the equivalent of a 5 or a 6 on some projects. “The thing is, no one is perfect – or doing their job perfectly. Even if they’ve just bagged the top job, they’ll be winging it some days. Look around you, the chances are that there are less experienced members of staff who are climbing the promotion tree for the simple fact that they’re more vocal about where they want to go – and they’re telling the right people. The good news is that the key to becoming one of those people is simple: it’s evidence,” write Phanella Mayall Fine and Alice Olins in Get The Gloss.

  5. Eliminate anger from the exchange. If you are judged harshly, take a breath and perhaps later defend the data and your performance. In the Harvard Business Review, Jon Jachimowicz writes about a study he conducted on a company finding specific gender discrimination and when he presented to the head of HR, he blew up, challenging the data. Instead of backing down, he clarified.”View your angry challenger not as an opponent, but as an ally. Find a way to collaborate, because once you have their buy-in, they are invested in the joint investigation. As a result, they will be more likely to view you as being part of the team. And then you can channel the energy that prompted their fury for good.”

  6. Do not bad mouth the judge when you get to the follow-up interview. Even if Erin Andrews seems like she wants you to be completely honest, no one ever looks good saying something unkind about a judge or the judging process in the after-interview. Just as you will not win if you go to your follow-up exit interview in Human Resources with a vengeance. You will need the good recommendation. Be classy. Keep your snippy comebacks to yourself and possibly cultivate the boss as a mentor. Know this: “A powerful mentor can easily be turned into a sponsor by letting them know how they can help. Look to others for endorsement and assistance, because promotions are usually the result of many overlapping and mutually beneficial working relationships,” write Fine and Olins in GetTheGloss.

  7. Fail gracefully; there’s always a chance for redemption. Don’t cry, don’t beat yourself up, don’t compare yourself to the other people in the competition. Just practice harder for the next project, challenge or goal. Life is like a dancing show. “Most of us are incredibly hard on ourselves when we finally admit some flaw or shortcoming: ‘I’m not good enough. I’m worthless,’” writes Kristin Neff in YES magazine. “No matter how well we do, someone else always seems to be doing it better.” Aim for self-compassion.

  8. Thank your partner and your team no matter what and learn from it. In dancing and in the workplace, give credit where credit is due and be accountable. Do a massive recallibration if you have a major failure. Think of the recent epic fail of the tone-deaf Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner. Many, many people created that ad and many believed it would be well-received. You would think maybe someone during the long, expensive creative process would have said, maybe a model offering a cop a Pepsi is not the solution to a massive protest? Someone was not paying attention to tone and interpretation. The lesson here is learn from the failure and never make that same mistake again.

  9. There are second chances. Considering all the contestants over the 24 seasons who have come from different industries and niches, and this year’s Mr. T, Nancy Kerrigan and Charo prove that you can learn completely new skills and approaches, even launch a new career. As Mr. T sent out in a Tweet: “ ‘Dancing with the Stars’ should stop the jibber jabber. They shouldn’t make the departure of a dancer so tear jerky because nobody’s going to war. They’re not dying. They’re just off the show.” Same with your chance at a new job even if you are eliminated or fired from the one you have. See it as an opportunity and expect to be treated with fairness at work at your next workplace.

  10. You don’thave to win the mirrored ball to be happy. This happens week after week, year after year. Contestants talk about how much they learned, how much they challenged themselves, how difficult it was—and they are all smiling. This is about being positive. “There is no doubt that happiness is the result of achievement. Winning a case, getting a promotion, meeting the love of your life. These things we know will bring us a great sense of joy and contentment,” write Zita Tulyahikayo and James Pereira in The Lawyer. “Yet we tend to assume that happiness always follows success. It is very common for people to put off experiencing happiness until after they have achieved some random goal months ahead. What we know from how negative and positive thinking influence our behavior, it is the positive thoughts are essential to develop the skills that lead us to success. In a nutshell, happiness is the required first step to achieving success.”

And as we all know, in “Dancing With The Stars,” and in your career, the steps are what count.