I never thought that the late, great Prince would teach me valuable life lessons, but a 2016 NPR interview with singer Corinne Bailey Ray got the ball rolling.
Corinne Bailey Ray told NPR of her experience with Prince following their Abu Dhabi concerts. After their respective shows, Bailey joined him for the after party. “…he said to me, ‘you know, do you want to come back to the hotel and watch the show?’ And I said, ‘What - are you going to do another show now?’ And he said, ‘no, we’re going to watch the show’.”
Prince and his band went back to the hotel room and watched the just-completed, 2-hour concert. “[Prince] went ‘round - and really subtly went ‘round to each member in the band and just gave them little pointers about, you know, how they could improve things.”
At this point in his career, Prince was already an accomplished celebrity, an artist of proven talent, and regularly drew thousands to his concerts.
And yet, he wasn’t satisfied.
Per the quote above, Prince was confident and comfortable providing feedback and coaching to his band. But he also led by example, influenced by other top artists who examined their own performance.
" A willingness to critically assess your performance is key and involves a degree of vulnerability that can feel uncomfortable "
The most successful and revered organizations, from professional sports teams to the Blue Angels, examine their performance following an event. How broadly or consistently is this done in the business world?
What can we learn from the “after-party?”
1. An attitude of continuous improvement helps separate the good from the great. Prince’s competition wasn’t another band, it was himself. “I want to beat that guy.” This involves a high degree of self-awareness and honesty, both with yourself and with others who directly affect your performance.
2. Take a look in the mirror. A willingness to critically assess your performance is key and involves a degree of vulnerability that can feel uncomfortable. Practice, training, knowledge and skill-building aren’t just for rookies. No matter where you are in your career, going back to basics and selfevaluation will be critical in your professional development.
3. In pursuit of incremental change. “How could I land on that beat better? How could I do this spin tighter?” Tighter . . .better. These adjectives represent repeated and incremental improvements, which help inspire us through multiple mini wins towards continued impact.
4. These tips help me. Give them a try. Prince was relentless in his program of self-improvement. You can start with a quick exercise.
• Pinpoint one skill critical to your performance that you want to improve. Not five. One.
• Identify two “Princes” to give you honest and constructive feedback live as you demonstrate this skill.
• Practice at least once every day for a week and allow your “coaches” to assess your progress.
While Prince’s success was undoubtedly due to a high degree of innate ability, don’t underestimate the importance he placed on continual improvement and the disciplined approach post-event debrief he took. That same approach is within our control regardless of our industry or role.