No Image Available

Seb Anthony

Read more from Seb Anthony

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Convincing evidence for value of positive feedback


I'm designing a learning programme for middle managers. The TNA has revealed that very few give any kind of positive feedback to their staff or colleagues - the prevailing management style and culture tends to encourage blame and criticism. However, staff feel keenly the lack of appreciation and goodwill.

We'll be doing 1:1 coaching and brief workshop sessions with the managers. I'm looking for ideas for experiential activities, research, etc, which will help to convince them to give it a go. Any ideas? I'm particularly interested in sources for often-quoted assertions about how much better people do with positive feedback!
Mandy Hetherton

11 Responses

  1. value of positive feedback
    Hi Mandy

    What about:
    Children learning to speak – if we did not reward positively and only reprimanded for poor pronunciation would we be able to speak
    Ditto walking..

    Flippant but true

    Look at the world of sports coaching, since using positive feedback to coach athletes performances have increases.

    Give some one a simple task like origami and ask them to fold a shape – then reprimand them each mistake – then try praising – its much more comfortable for both parties and both feel they have achieved something


  2. CLC
    The Corporate Leadership Council did some work around feedback. I believe the results were something like a potential 36% increase in performance if employees if feedback emphasised strengths and development whereas purely negative feedback reduced performance significantly.

  3. Feedback ideas
    Just to extend the origami idea – an alternative is to use one of those safe dart-boards (with velcro darts) and invite participants to – provide: constructive encouragement, negative comments, and silence. It needs to be managed so that the negative doesn’t become personal (this is also a good learning point) but it can be lively and most people thrive on the positive. The use of silence is interesting because many think that feedback isn’t needed – participants will often report that a bit of constructive feedback at the right moment helps performance, whereas silence can be as unhelpful as negative feedback. Exercises like this are useful because the follow-up discussions often reveal that we don’t all want our feedback delivered in the same way – sometimes the positive encouragement can seem hollow. The secret is the right amaount, at the right time delivered in the right way (by the right person).

    Incidentally, I found that one or two individuals did well with the negative feedback – they became determined to get it right to prove their detractors wrong. It is worth pointing out that this may seem like the right result but it has a high cost for relationships.

  4. Research says…
    Hi Mandy
    I train consultants (in the NHS) who like to know what the evidence is for these assertions- I have some material which quotes some useful research I could email you if that would be helpful.

  5. Coaching for Improved work performance
    Mandy,The book that changed my mind on this was Ferdinand Fournies “Coaching for improve dwork performance”. A very early work on positive reinforcement and it’s power.. and how the other stuff doesn’t work. Worth a read.. Rob

  6. how do they feel about their feedback?
    Hi Mandy

    I like all the other suggestions. How about using this ‘warm up’ task in an early workshop session. In pairs, participants describe to each other an event in their personal or work life when they felt excluded or included. (I often use this as a precursor in equality/diversity training). Ask them to describe the feelings they had and also what they did as a consequence. Share with the group and highlight common themes which I find include, invariably, the negative impact of feeling undervalued or diminished as well as the converse. Discuss the feelings of being valued/not valued and how they affects actions. Devoting this initial time to recognising their own feelings and sensitivities should help them to understand and empathise with the feelings of others (those they manage).

    This can be reflected in the 1:1 sessions as well. Unless they feel valued themselves, it will be hard to urge them to recognise the qualities in others.

    Good luck. Helene

  7. Hints and Tips
    Hi Mandy
    If you go to you will find a model of High Performing Teams which has 5 principles. One of them is Worth, which is about knowing the value of people ,in your team, and that depends on feedback on performance, capability and effort. There are some free downloads of articles there too and also a set of hints and tips about things to do to make improvements in any of the 5 areas.
    It is possible to audit the team’s view of the 5 areas and get them working on ways to improve.
    Wyn Llewellyn

  8. Positive Feedback
    Positive feedback is something that we do because we know how powerful it is.
    I am not sure that coaching or training would be sufficiently influential to change a managers behaviour from someone who never gives feedback to someone who instinctively looks for opportunities to tell their work force how good they are.

    The average manager believes they are doing a good job, whether they are or not, because their workforce tell them that they are.
    This means that the manager will be resistant to a suggestion from someone else that they could be doing better.

    To avoid the resistance that this suggestion generates the manager has to be allowed to discover for himself the power of positive feedback.
    He can only do this in an experiential learning situation.

    This means either design your exercise to show this power or go to the workplace and create a difference the manager can see and want to become a part of.

    I have no experience of the former, the book though is about the latter.

    Peter A Hunter
    Author – Breaking the Mould

  9. On the road to nowhere
    You *might* demonstrate the value of positive feedback by demonstrating the difficulties presented by using negative feedback – with this simple exercise, for example:

    The Road to NOwhere
    (Andy Bradbury, 2007)

    Give each delegate a printout showing a very basic map (just roads and a very few indications of buildings such as pubs, churches, etc.)
    Alternatively have the map on an OHP foil or a PowerPoint slide as long as it is clear enough for everyone to see and work from.

    The IMPORTANT thing about the map is that it should include numerous crossroads and roundabouts. In fact the more the better as long as everyone has a clear view of the map in some form.

    All delegates should have the same map – marked with the same start point for their journey.
    Each delegate should also have a set of instructions – all expressed in the negative: “At the next junction don’t go left”, “At the next junction don’t take the second exit”, “At the next junction don’t continue in the same direction” and so on (Note: use a non-commital term such as “junction” rather one which would give a clue as to what kind of junction it is).
    The instructions should be sufficiently ambiguous so as to potentially lead to several different “destinations” which can either be marked locations within the map or numbered points where roads run off the edge of the map.

    The list of instructions should be quite long so that decisions must be made in only 5-10 seconds max. Also the list should simply end, with no indication of what kind of destination is intended.

    Have delegates work individually or in pairs or trios and report back to the group as to the destination they reached.

    (Timing: Not more than 2-3 minutes, plus feedback and discussion. Keeping it brief will help to emphasis how difficult it is to work quickly and produce useful results when limited to negative feedback.)

  10. Request for Colin

    Hi Colin,

    I think your activity is great but I’m not sure that I have enough details to replicate it. Can you provide more details? 




Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!