I Took a Lesson in Feedback Practice From an Acting Class and Adapted It to a Self-Feedback method to Drive Learning, Development and Growth

Actors in training receive more feedback than most other people do in their entire WorkLife. That’s a fact. And it doesn’t stop there. Their training enables them to build a finely-tuned self-feedback muscle that allows them to know in the moment, or soon after, how an audition, rehearsal or performance went.

Some years ago, I did a Saturday afternoon acting class called Actors Studio. It was a class that attracted both actors in training on their path to launching their WorkLife as performing artists and experienced actors who had already made their debut treading the boards on Westend stages, been in film and on tv — including an actor from Games Of Thrones! (To namedrop, just one of the people I met — without fully namedropping!)

The actors in training wanted to develop their toolbox of skills and techniques to support them in launching their acting career. The seasoned actors wanted to hone their skills and techniques in-between jobs.

I was neither an actor in training or a seasoned actor but qualified for the class because I had completed a year-long Foundation In Drama course. A one day a week class that differed in nature from other part-time acting classes I’d attended because it demanded that everyone turned up every week, on time, fully prepared. Other classes were more relaxed on those fronts.

As its name suggests, it set the foundation of what is required and expected from anyone who is thinking of pursuing a career in performing arts. Having taken the Foundation In Drama course was important because it demonstrated I had the commitment needed to participate in the Actors Studio class.

Now, here’s the thing, I had never wanted to follow a career in acting. I began taking acting classes in the hope that it would help me overcome my nervousnesses when speaking in public. The part-time classes helped, but my fear was so crippling that I needed more time, and I needed to be pushed even more to take me out of my comfort zone. The Foundation In Drama course gave me all of that because week on week, I was expected to show vulnerability in my work. To achieve this demanded tapping into my most deepest feelings and emotions. It was hard-going for sure, but together with my fellow classmates and teachers, we created a safe, supportive environment for each other to be at our most vulnerable.

I got so much from that class over and beyond, overcoming my extreme nervousness when speaking in public. Although I knew I didn’t want to follow a career in acting, I also knew I did want to continue to learn, grow and develop through the skills and techniques I would gain in the Actors Studio class, in the same way, the actors in training and experienced actors did. Their level was so much higher than mine, and the wonderful thing about that class was how generous everyone was in supporting the learning, growth and development of each other. Many of the experienced actors were alumni of the school, and I think it was their way of giving back to the school and the teachers who had helped them get onto their WorkLife path and in giving forward to the actors in training, ahead of them getting onto their chosen path.

Depending on the school year, each term ran for ten to twelve weeks, during which we worked on three or four very different performances from modern-day and contemporary to the classics, from Miller to Chekov to Shakespeare to Greek Tragedy. This included solo performances, two-handers, three-handers and bigger ensemble pieces. We would spend two to three weeks rehearsing each piece, then the following week, we performed our pieces to our audience of fellow classmates.

Our performances were filmed and played back at the end of the class. We were each required to give feedback on our own performance, then we each got feedback from the person sitting to our right, and finally, we got feedback from the teacher.

Each piece of feedback began with something we liked about our performance, that we thought was good, that we’d like to keep. Then one thing that could be better that we’d like to improve upon. And finally, one thing we didn’t like, that we’d like to let go of or change in some way. So, we each came away with three pieces of feedback for what was good that we’d like to keep. For what could be better that we’d like to improve upon. And for what we didn’t like, that we wanted to let go of or change in some way.

I really liked this Feedback practice. It became yet another technique that I drew from the skills and experience I gained in the acting classes I did, which I went on to use in my work as a WorkLife learning practitioner.

But I wanted to adapt it to a technique that would allow people to give themselves self-feedback (myself included). Of course, there wouldn’t be a camera on hand to capture learning moments, or a classmate or teacher, or necessarily a colleague or boss, for that matter. I’m also a firm believer in being self-reliant, and I believe that we all have the knowledge and wisdom we need within us to be our own best champions and best critics.

The key to doing this lies in the power of observation — a simple yet profound and powerful strategy to help you develop and fine-tune your self-feedback muscle. A practice that will allow you to know in the moment or soon after how you did in WorkLife situations. You may not have auditions, rehearsals and performances, as actors do, but it’s likely you’ll have interviews, presentations, and talks, and many other situations that you’ll want to reflect upon and evaluate to enable you to know what you liked, and thought was good, that you’d like to keep, what could have been better, that you’d like to improve upon, and what you didn’t like, that you want to let go of, or change in some way.

The following exercises are designed to allow you to develop and fine-tune your self-feedback muscle to be your own best champion and critic in your WorkLife learning, development and growth.

Re-Wind/Re-Play Your Day Observation Assignment

A Day in The Life of … Drumroll … You!

To develop your power of observation, begin by taking something that happened in your day. I like to suggest a two-minute event, but it can be shorter or longer. It could be a brief interaction you had in a coffee shop or in a meeting. It could be something you observed as you went about your day without interacting with anyone. It could be a moment when you were at home alone doing something.

Now replay that in your mind. The idea is to observe yourself when you were in that moment, along with everything else that was going on around you.

Simple? — Yes! The power of observation really is that simple.

Developing Your Power of Observation Assignment

The power of observation becomes more and more powerful the more observant you become as you go about your daily WorkLife.

Find something to capture every day. Begin with one moment building to many moments.

Maybe there will be days when you think there is nothing to observe because they are very normal days. But actually, normal days are great days because they force you to be a little more mindful, a little more aware, a little more creative.

Building Your Power of Observation Assignment

At the end of your day, consider what your most important moment was that you want to give yourself self-feedback on that will help your WorkLife learning, development and growth.

Ask yourself what you liked and thought was good, that you’d like to keep; what could have been better, that you’d like to improve upon; and what you didn’t like, that you want to let go of, or change in some way.

Write down your response, and then let it go.

I like to suggest the practice of journaling by way of reflecting on questions.

The next morning sit down and journal on anything further that has come to you through self-feedback in response to the questions you asked yourself. Anything that comes up through your stream of consciousness. Self-expression in your journal will help you to tap into your power of observation, to turn your self-feedback and ultimately your WorkLife story into a work of art.

These assignments have been adapted from my books: Your WorkLife Your Way and How To Fine-Tune The Superpower of Observation from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

Photo by Bradyn Shock on Unsplash