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9 Things Every Manager Should Learn From "American Idol"...

Another season of American Idol is gone.  I like the way I view Idol these days, which is to say my wife runs through an episode of the thing on our DVR in about 10-15 minutes, watching the performers she wants to watch and all of the reviews.  Perfect.  Just don't make me watch the whole thing...

Without question, managers and HR pros alike have much to learn from Idol.  Here's my rundown of 10American_idol  things every manager should remember in the workplace as a result of watching Idol.

1.  The negative manager in the group (Simon, or your Simon) has a talent for cutting to the chase.  As long as he/she isn't a liability in other ways, you need them.

2.  The soft-hearted manager (Paula) can't be relied on to lay it on the line.  If they are talented in other ways, keep them.

3.  Lots of people get confused because it rarely seems like the critic and the soft-hearted teammate are on the same page.

4.  The moderate manager in the group (Randy) is usually the tie-breaker and holds the greatest power.  The moderate is like the swing vote at the Supreme Court, often analyzed and looked upon to validate the polar opposites present in the critic and the soft-hearted teammate. 

5.  Every breakout session needs a good facilitator (Seacrest).  They don't have to be good at anything else, they just need to keep things moving.  Dance, monkey, dance...

6.  Professional Coaching is tough to get your arms around and measure.  Dolly Parton working with all the candidates is the equivalent of a professional coach.  She said all the candidates had great potential.  If they all are great, how do you know who is expendable in a forced choice situation?  PS, I saw Dolly driving through a Nashville Jack-in-the-Box about a year and a half ago.  Weird sighting...

7.  Some employees don't take feedback well, some do, and some are going to react the same way no matter what you do - I love it when contestants start shaking their head "no" when Simon gives negative feedback.  I've had that happen to me, and it's obvious it's not going to go well.

8. Programs have a shelf life, then they start to die.  You can almost feel like the inevitable slide is going to escalate very soon watching Idol.  Just like in your company, got to keep it fresh.  Can a prison-based Idol be far behind?

9.  You get 10 candidates together for anything, and some of them are going to look like they are L.A.M.E.   Just the way it works once you see the best talent.  Doesn't mean the others aren't servicable, you just don't want to settle once you've had time to compare...

Hit me in the comments with your lesson for corporate America gleaned from Idol.  I think this one has about jumped the shark....   


Steve Roesler

Hey, Kris, this is actually a real practical look at the real dynamics of how things work.

One of the things I noticed this year was that everyone was pretty talented and there were no Sanjayas to keep the buzz going on the fringe. The result: Viewers said this year was boring.

The lesson:"Don't get rid of the weird guy too quickly." His very presence may generate enough energy to keep the meetings interesting for the duration of a project.

Paul Hebert

One thing is that even though Simon's criticism is hard and cold - everyone waits for his review. There seems to be more value in the criticism when there is no "fluff" involved.

Not saying we should be mean - but it's interesting that a thumbs up from Simon means more than a thumbs up from Paula.

Praise can be devalued if given too often and too easily. With all the discussion around Gen Y/Millennials being praise hounds it's important to know that scarcity of praise can have a benefit as well.

Art Havican

David Cook realized early on that it wasn't the judges he needed to impress, but the TV audience. After what he felt was unjustified criticism in one episode, he told Simon as much. Simon was offended, but David was right. In the final episode Simon said Cook had been knocked out by Archuleta, but the audience thought otherwise and voted Cook the winner. The lesson? The customers are your real boss.

Frank Roche

Really briliant...and on the money. This one caught my attention...I liked Idol and the

Totally Consumed

I love the analogy because it's so true. Like 'em or not Simon, Paula and Randy are a team and each play an important role.

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock


I hate Idol, waste of time, but this was an excellent post. Canada says keep up the good work!


I hate Idol, waste of time, but this was an excellent post. Canada says keep up the good work!

HR Wench

Lesson corporate America can glean from Idol: Some shows need to be canceled.

Meg Bear

Excellent post. Not exactly on topic, but Amy had us do an Idol competition with our teams for a Baby shower (all the songs were kids songs).

It was exceptionally funny. Amy played the role of Simon, I'll find a way to get that photo on the blog at some point, classic!

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