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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  1. […] feedback – Part 1 May 20, 2008 at 10:04 am | In Uncategorized | As tough as it is to *give* someone negative feedback, surprisingly, it’s often as difficult to *get* it. Why is that? Here are five reasons that I […]

  2. You know, it’s really interesting the difference you describe between a coaching situation and “feedback” and a professional situation and “feedback”…I’m glad you wrote about it. Most people never find themselves participating in organized sports, it’s really not the majority of kids that do this in school (Jr. High, High and University), that’s for sure. And that is really too bad b/c other than learning how to handle criticism, the literal team building and interpersonal relationship development of organized sports is underrated.
    Now that I’ve had the chance to ‘think’ about it, I know that the criticism that I got in sports, because it’s a constant, certainly has helped me constructively deal with and provide criticism in all areas of my life. I’m sure there are other activities where people can get the benefit of this type of feedback experience other than in organized sports, I’ve just not been exposed to it…I think.
    I could fall back on the techie stereotype where interest in sports and IT are like oil and water and that’s part of the reason why critical feedback is a touchy subject 🙂
    Looking forward to your entries on getting feedback.


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