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Feedback – The Dangers of Over Positivity

My client is coaching his Son's football team and is adhering to the FA's coaching standard of 'positive feedback always'. Sounds like a lovely idea, however, this is wide open to interpretation and could be misconstrued as never giving real feedback for fear of hurting feelings. So we examined how this looks in real life...

a lady dancing with her eyes closed looking happy and carefree

How to lead positively without a personality transplant.

I have a smidge of a problem with the FA definitions. It's binary to talk about positive and negative feedback - the implication that it must always be sunny and endlessly gushing. But how can you improve if what you're doing is holding you back, and no one can tell you?!

In my view you can be 'positive' and 'critical', if done with the right intention - i.e for the other person's learning and forward progression. So my interpretation is - this comes down to is how you say things.

Instead of - 'No not like that' , 'that was terrible / disappointing' - these are judgements and unhelpful - they only elicit shame spirals and confusion. We try my CAREE feedback model.

Context - give a specific example - ‘when you were coming up to the goal you could see Billy was clear to take the shot and you had two of the opposition running towards you’.

Action - name the behaviour - ‘you didn’t pass to him’.

Result - explain the impact of this behaviour - ‘it meant you got tackled and we lost the opportunity to score. I think you were aware of your surroundings enough to see what was happening - too focused on getting to the goal’.

Expectation - what you would prefer to happen - ‘I want you to… (insert training bumph here)’

Expand - give them a turn to talk, ‘but this was my interpretation of what was happening - what’s your side of the story?’

This means this child has actual data to work from to improve their performance. If they shame spiral after this - we have a negative mindset issue, not a 'negative coaching' issue. And if that’s the case - that's when to talk to them in a super positive and encouraging way - but the feedback remains the feedback - because that's about performance.

I’ve been teaching my clients this CAREE feedback model and they have found it so helpful. It’s an easy structure, it helps them prepare for those ‘tricky’ conversations, and gives them an anchor point to come back to if the conversation goes down an unexpected route.


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