“You’re not funny,” writes Craig Bruce on a once-green Ryan Jon
A few years back, a young up and coming announcer, Ryan Jon, sent me an email with some audio attached looking for some feedback.
This was my opening response to that email: ‘Ryan, you’re not funny. Don’t try to be funny.’
On a recent Game Changers Rising Stars podcast with Ryan, who had just been voted one of the most exciting announcers in the country, I was reminded of those “words of wisdom”, (note the sarcasm) that I shared with him.
Initially, I was horrified and so disappointed with myself. How could I be so cruel? How on earth could this sort of feedback be anything other than deeply hurtful and demoralising?
Then I remembered my first air check with the Godfather of FM programming in Australia, Greg Smith. It was 1986 and I’d just driven my mustard coloured Escort RS2000 with a useless but attractive bonnet scoop from Port Augusta to Adelaide for a one on one review with the great man.
In my possession was my mullet that was so extraordinary it had its own postcode and a cassette tape with 3 and a half minutes of the best I could muster ready for his assessment.
Greg is a man of few words. And when he does speak, there’s no mincing them.
30 seconds into the air check and with my heart pounding out of my chest, waiting with anticipation for his approval, Greg stopped the tape, took a deep breath, looked me straight in the eye and said “Craig, you’ve got some potential…but I think you’ve got a speech impediment.”
A speech impediment!
What the actual F**%!!
The dream is dead.
It’s back to the ANZ bank and a life or pure misery for me.
Fast forward 32 years and you’ll be thrilled to know that I don’t have a speech impediment, but I’ve always had to work really hard at all of my spoken communication.
Greg’s feedback was the catalyst for me to enlist a voice coach, I also took acting lessons and starting reading out aloud for 20 minutes a day. All of this helped me improve my speech patterns but in reality it was always a challenge for me throughout my on-air career.
I look back on it now and Greg absolutely did the right thing by hitting me right between the eyes with an incredibly confronting piece of feedback that I needed to hear.
Have I just spent the last 200 words making myself feel better? A little.
When it comes to giving and receiving feedback I think Seth Godin sums it up perfectly.
“Good advice….is priceless.
Not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Not imaginary, but practical. Not based on fear, but on possibility. Not designed to make you feel better, designed to make you better.
Seek it out and embrace the true friends that care enough to risk sharing it.
I’m not sure what takes more guts—giving it or getting it.”
Ryan, you’re not funny, don’t try to be funny. Thank God Ryan had the self-belief and resilience to dismiss such a ridiculous statement.
By the way, the next thing I wrote in that very same email was that Ryan had a really interesting take on the world with loads of creative flair and that he should think about “focusing on those elements…”
Ryan has been exploring his creativity and unique worldview for the last few years and is steadily building a reputation that will set him up for a long career.
The moral of the story.
When you’re seeking feedback, what you might want to hear could be at odds with what you need to hear, which is specific information on how to improve and a perspective that will challenge you and move you forward.
If all you want to know is how great you’re sounding, just send an air check to your mother.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished with permission.