Are you an American Idol fan? Whether you are or not, it’s a great reminder of the importance of providing open, honest feedback on an employee’s job performance. Tonight, there were several contestants who rocked the house (Pia, Stefano, and James), while others barely made the grade (Naima, Haley and Paul). Struggling with stage presence, boring songs and pitchiness these three contestants really failed to live up to the performance expectations. But perhaps the most distressing part of the evening was the softball pitches the judges were throwing instead of providing meaningful performance feedback.

The opening number by Naima was absolutely awful, she was pitchy and flat and really hard to listen to. As she finished, I anxiously awaited the judges’ feedback thinking surely they would highlight similar concerns.  But right out of the gate, Steven Tyler lamented, …”I just loved it, it was beautiful”. What!? Did he hear the same thing I did? Does he need a hearing aid in addition to those reading glasses he uses every week? Or maybe he just struggles giving constructive feedback – opting to gloss over performance issues to insure everyone “likes” him and no one gets mad at him. Not so unlike many supervisors and managers out there.

Well, whatever the reason, the impact is to shortchange all the stakeholders including American Idol (the organization), the audience (customers) and the Contestant (employee).  By withholding valid, constructive performance feedback supervisors and managers compromise their credibility and devalue the truly superior performance of those employees who strive for excellence and routinely go above and beyond.  And if these leaders continue to ignore the performance/behavior problems for years, it robs employees of the opportunity to move on to other positions or other more suitable employers better matched to their talents.

Providing meaningful feedback is never easy, but if given in an open, honest manner it has the ability to produce extraordinary results.