giving feedback

May 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 2 Comments

Giving someone positive feedback is a great experience. Regardless of what they say, there just aren’t many people who don’t like to hear good feedback. Conversely, giving negative feedback can be an awful experience because, regardless of what they say, there just aren’t many who take it well. Yet, if we’re doing our job as leaders, then negative feedback is a must.

I got to thinking about why this is so hard to do in work, but so easy to do in coaching. In fact, I would estimate that as much as 90% of the feedback you give a player when coaching is “negative.” I’m talking real feedback here, not the “good job” stuff. Yet you typically don’t see a team of players with their heads hung low. Just the opposite. You see a driven group of players who step up to the challenge. Why?

First, negative feedback is almost always followed immediately by a chance to improve. When I yelled at a kid for missing a block, the next play was about 60 seconds away where he could redeem himself. Second, meaningful instruction usually comes out in the same breath as the criticism. Third, it’s the accepted culture that folks are going to be corrected — a LOT — with no exceptions. Most coaches tell their players, “when I quit yelling at you, then you need to worry” and they mean it; for that means that the coach has usually given up on the kid.

We have lots of barriers to those things in the corporate world, but it’s up to us to continue to find ways around them to foster an environment where negative feedback is common. But rather than being seen as negative correction, it is in reality, positive instruction.

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