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Beauty, Perceptions, and Feedback

Dove is really ‘cleaning up’ in the media these days. Following up on its controversial ‘real beauty’ campaign of recent years, the company has launched another powerful, media-savvy initiative.

The Real Beauty Sketches project is based upon the work of Gil Zamora, a forensic artist tasked with blindly sketching comparative images of women based upon their own descriptions of their facial features and the descriptions of others. In case after case, the illustrations that resulted from the description of a stranger was considerably more attractive than the ones generated by a woman’s own description of herself. The punchline is that women don’t recognize and appreciate their own beauty.

This sort of skewed personal perception isn’t the exclusive purview of beauty nor women. As I see it, this social experiment can be generalized to underscore the potential inaccuracies and blind spots we all have… and the value of another, more objective viewpoint.

As I see it, this social experiment can also serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of feedback in the workplace.

Day-in and day-out, employees toil away, offering their contributions to the customer, the process, and/or the organization. They calibrate their efforts based upon their own personal assessments of their behavior and performance. Yet, those assessments may be as off-base as the Dove women’s descriptions of their faces.

What employees need is that ‘second sketch’, the more objective description of how they’re doing… from the vantage point of the supervisor or leader. Sometimes (like the Dove women), employees don’t appreciate the quality of their performance, the magnitude of their contributions, or the value of their service. Savvy leaders offer recognition and positive feedback to help bridge the perception gaps in their cases. In the process, they unleash greater confidence, engagement, and capacity in these workers.

Sometimes it works the other way. The employee’s perception of their performance is more beautiful than how the leader sees it. In these cases, it’s critical to offer constructive feedback. These employees need to see things from their leaders’ eyes, generating a more objective understanding of where their efforts don’t meet expectations and how to address the gap.

Candid feedback can be as powerful to employees as the stranger-generated sketches were to many of the women involved in the Dove project. Constructive conversations about performance can hold up a mirror to employees, helping them get a clearer picture of how their doing and how they can excel. And that’s certainly a beautiful thing.


7 comments on “Beauty, Perceptions, and Feedback

  1. Kellie on

    Julie,
    This article is timely and much appreciated. The facts, “as we see them” can often been seen through rosy colored glasses, either too harsh and unrealistic or not realistic at all from the perspective that we don’t see the flaws. Either way is too far kiltered and not centered. You make very valid points and worth noting. We as a company are facing some tough customer service issues attempting to find our happy balance for all.

    Reply
  2. Julie Giulioni on

    I appreciate your comment. You’re absolutely right. The ‘facts’ are colored by so many different factors, biases, and experiences. And, while it could be argued that there is no objective ‘truth’, it is generally helpful to compare one’s own assessment against the assessments/impressions of others as a basis for more consciously managing performance. Good luck with your customer service challenges!

    Reply
  3. Mary-Louise Angoujard on

    Julie I just saw your post of 30th April and want to express my appreciation for and agreement with your points.

    Most people tend to give, and get ONLY negative feedback on a day to day basis. If they get any at all. If we all knew and really focused on our strengths we would be much happier, attractive in the right ways, and more productive.

    Thank you for your insights which are always so helpful.

    Reply
    • Julie Giulioni on

      Thanks so much, Mary-Louise. I so agree. Imagine a world where we all recognized and really leveraged our strengths… where we helped our kids so this… where we acknowledged what others were doing well. There would be no stopping us. And the good news is that each of us can start the revolutions beginning to practice these ideas in our own backyards. I appreciate your comments… and happy new year!

      Reply

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