I grew up in a house where television watching was limited to Disney on Sunday nights. Today, I still don’t watch much TV—but I very readily admit really enjoying The Voice. Apparently I have not been unique in my obsession, as the show has done quite well—and plenty of others have talked about it, too.
I think a large part of the show’s appeal stems from one fact: In our lives—whether we are managing relationships, children or employees—we are all hoping to develop the best possible “team” for success. On some level, we can all appreciate the difficult job that the Judges have as they try to shape a bunch of amateur singers into winning the ultimate prize: being named The Voice. Certainly the coaches desire accolades themselves, and want to know that they raised a “winner”. It is this eclectic mix of personalities, intertwined with the struggles and the promise of fame and fortune, that lead to NBC’s success with this show.
Here, I share six of the very interesting business lessons I’ve garnered from The Voice:
1) Listen to the “voice”.
On The Voice, each coach is required to blindly choose their starting “team” by making an initial assessment based solely on an individual’s voice. With their backs to the contestants—unable to assess physical appearance, clothing style (or lack thereof), resume, or any other factor that might contribute to a business hiring decision—the judges are forced to listen. In order to succeed, the Judges can’t simply hear the voice; instead, they have to really listen to the tone, breath, quality, range, scope and a zillion other indefinable factors that go into sharing an inspiring song worthy of selection. Imagine how your business conversations or any relationships might improve if you had to listen this intently when the other person spoke—listening as if your career success depended upon it. Well, guess what? It does depend on it.
2) Be candid…and nice.
There are many reality shows. Most—including Simon Cowell’s American Idol, which revived the Chuck Barris/Gong Show format—seem to have a mean streak. Whenever I’ve briefly tuned in, I’m reminded of the discomfort of high school—a place where being different and standing out is usually not cool. Now, I accept that being a judge on a talent-based reality show is not necessarily easy, as an opinion is required. But do critiques have to be given in a cutting rather than constructive way? Of course not. Judges can be candid, offering their years of successful experience, and be nice at the same time. This magical mix is what is making this season of The Voice such compelling television. Candid feedback delivered with kind intentions is alive and well…and viewers like it!
3) Adversity can be a precursor to success.
Our daughter (a singer and Voice watching partner) onece commented: “Mom, have you ever noticed that everyone on this show has had a very hard life?” Yes, I’ve noticed. Apparently, certain people are very good at channeling their life challenges into cultivating their voice and also harnessing the intangible emotions that can propel them from being not just a good singer but into being an exceptional one. Each week brings memorable lessons for making lemonade when life hands out lemons.
4) Give it your all…every time.
The Voice’s contestants are away from home, in a big city, in front of the radio idols they’ve come to admire, on a big stage and on television plus the internet being watched by millions of viewers worldwide. Imagine their nervous energy! That they manage to stand up and sing without choking is a sign of truly remarkable poise. Each contestant knows this is the chance of a lifetime. They may not be “the Voice”—but you can bet countless careers are being launched as these individuals give the audience and judges their all. There are no second chances on these shows. One poor performance and the contestant is eliminated. Life usually gives more opportunities to recover from errors—but not on live television. This is a harsh format. The time for practice ends the minute those contestants walk on stage. And you know what’s most amazing? What makes The Voice compelling entertainment is that 99 percent of the time viewers know that person is trying their hardest to win. They are out there at full throttle. Any viewer would be hard pressed to not feel really bad when any one of the talented contestants are eliminated. After all, in this game—but luckily not for the businesses we run—there is only one winner.
5) Be vulnerable.
Be honest with me (and yourself). Have you ever cried while watching The Voice? I have. Watching the vulnerability as the contestants describe the circumstances of their lives, and how much winning means to them, is very moving. Yes, I realize it’s “made for TV” drama—but there is also something especially heartwarming when someone allows themselves to be vulnerable. It’s been said that business is nothing more than a “dog-eat-dog world”. This could be true. But my life, even my business, got a heck of a lot better during the times when I tossed my coat of armor and shared my frustrations, challenges and fears with my employees and clients, too. When someone tells me I shouldn’t take business personally, I never listen. It’s all personal to me. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable—and admitting it—is often the first step to significantly improving your work, relationships and career.
6) Find your own voice.
Many contestants do a damn good job singing a particular pop song as well as the original recording artist. Interestingly, these are also usually the very same contestants that get eliminated. When (kindly) critiqued by the Voice judges, these artists are told they sounded super…but what everyone really wanted to hear was the contestant’s true voice—not a great imitation of someone else.
Graffiti, that I read years ago on a Grand Central Station bathroom wall, elegantly declared: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” In my opinion, this is life’s greatest lesson. It’s also the magic behind The Voice and the secret to success in any endeavor.