Grading Out Miss America Contestants

I gave in and ended up watching the Miss America Pageant last night.  Even though I think it’s whack.

I have a hard time seeing past the fact that the first two rounds shown on national television are entirely appearance-based and that you never hear the women speak more than 40 seconds at a time. It makes me uncomfortable. Which is why every year I feel conflicted over whether or not a should tune in.

And without fail, I flip it on. I tell myself that I’m watching it so that I’ll be able to participate in the chatter the next day. Deep down – I know I just want to see the dresses and any major flubs. I know, I’m a monster.

Last night the cringe-factor was high for 3 reasons:

  1. When women were eliminated from the pageant they had to sit on stage for the rest of the event. You know that the only thing those women want to do is cry over a king-sized Butterfinger and a bottle of wine.
  2. What the #### was up with those questions?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m over the world peace, it’s all about the children, yada-yada-yada nonsense questions too. But damn, you’re really going straight for their thoughts on ISIS and beheadings and Ray Rice and domestic abuse?
  3. Thanks for the random facts? For those of you who didn’t watch, as participants pranced on stage, random facts about the women popped on the screen. The intention was clearly to endear us to the contestants. But lets get real for a hot little minute… so what if someone is terrified of frogs or has 130 pairs of shoes? And you like to accentuate your giraffe like qualities? Thanks?? How about some factoids that are a little more substantive.

Cringe-factor aside, let’s imagine that you’re in a similar situation.
You’re on the receiving end of a public performance rating or maybe everyone is ranked out publically. Let’s say you also receive private feedback.

That means you get feedback you need to improve, but bystanders (who may be peers or proteges) hear nothing other than the numerical or rank assignment.

Here’s the question:

Should feedback be shared with the wider audience so that there’s some explanation and context for why public ratings were assigned? Should the manager or person assigning the ratings be required to make clear statements about why and how ratings were made and what distinguished each of the top performers?

After a few hours of soak time, I think the feedback and reasons for the ratings should be part of the discussion. Here’s why:

  • There’s developmental value in having open conversation around what good-to-great performance looks like in specific terms.
  • Eliminates/reduces speculation.  When ratings are assigned publically and never explained, the reason(s) behind that rating is up for interpretation. Not only can that lead to inaccurate or inappropriate conclusions being drawn, but there’s zero developmental value. So at the end of the day, you end up with unclear explanations and no one grows. That doesn’t seem like the right move.

I’m still marinating on it. Did you tune in last night? What are your thoughts?


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