If you use the sandwich approach to give feedback, the receiver recognizes the technique after a point. Genuine appreciation from the heart is the biggest boost you can give anyone. The challenge lies therein: all of us recognize the difference between mere lip service and genuine appreciation.
In the early 1930s, Mischa Borodkin was already an established symphony violinist when he decided to study conducting under the foremost teacher of conducting in the world, Felix Weingartner. Screwing up his courage, he journeyed to Switzerland during the symphonic off-season and presented himself to Maestro Weingartner.
“Maestro, I’m not sure I belong here. Everyone else seems to have studied conducting already. I have not.”
Weingartner looked at this student who, at age thirty, had already played in the New York Philharmonic for twelve years. “Very well, you will conduct first. Prepare a piece for tomorrow, and we’ll see if you belong here.”
Late into the night, Mischa prepared his first work to conduct.
The next morning, as the last note of Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture dies out, Mischa looked anxiously at the conductor. Weingartner spoke the single most important word a teacher can say: “Stay!”
At the end of the summer course, Weingartner bid goodbye to Mischa with a memorable sentence of encouragement: “Write to me of your success in America!”
Weingartner did not say, “You are a great conductor,” nor even, “You have made great progress.” He did not evaluate Mischa at all. His gift of a single sentence was much greater, because this appreciation told Mischa that Weingartner believed in him.
Of all his stories from his nearly fifty-year musical career, Mischa told this one with the greatest sense of pride.