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Feedback for the Win

Top-performing athletes have systems in place to give them feedback around levels of strain, recovery, and sleep so they can improve their performance and reach their fullest potential. It makes sense when we think about this regarding our favorite teams or players and yet, unfortunately, we often fall short of applying this practice to the individuals and teams we lead in our own meaningful work.

You may be thinking “Yes, of course, it’s obvious our performance is significantly impacted by clear and thoughtful feedback.”

I agree with you, but would also suggest that not all feedback is clear and thoughtful. In fact, some ways of providing feedback – or the feedback itself – can actually reduce or constrict performance. How you give and frame feedback is just as important as whether you get it at all. Feedback focusing on errors and missteps can easily trigger the fight or flight response and limit a learner’s capacity to engineer new outcomes. If your goal is to support interdependent thinking that leads to creative solutions and higher performance, consider the following five thoughts on how to give feedback

  • Start with a clear picture of future success.
    • “What do you actually want to have happen?” is a great question to ask yourself prior to the conversation, as well as directly to the individual asking for your reflections.
  • Explore the present, past, and future.
    • When someone asks for your feedback or advice on a matter, resist the temptation to immediately dispense your own insight. Instead, ask, “What two or three things are working for you right now?” Then, “When you’ve faced this type of challenge in the past, what did you do?” Take some time to mirror and rephrase the insights they’ve collected over the present and past. Finally, turn to the future and ask, “What do you already know you need to do that will work toward a better result?”
  • Embrace and identify your own bias.
    • “Here are a few things that have worked for me in the past … What about those could be useful for you?”
  • Identify wins along the way.
    • Watch for moments of excellence and be intentional about celebrating those wins authentically.
    • Focusing people on their shortcomings doesn’t improve learning; it impairs it.
  • Check in sooner rather than later with follow up
    • Setting a time for a next action can be a great way to capture valuable insights that may surface following the initial dialogue.

Giving and getting feedback in a way that produces positive outcomes and higher performance is complicated and requires practice. Support, coaching, and direction on this matter are critical for leaders across all fields of work and study. Your influence matters, and utilizing it for the greater good of those you lead is worth the work of improving your feedback skills. If you’d like some assistance getting started, contact me at




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