When was the last time you got actionable feedback on any task in any part of your life? I can take a guess. So why is giving actionable feedback so difficult? Is it even worth the trouble? In this post I want to dig deeper into the second point of Ericsson’s expertise development plan:

Is there an opportunity for immediate feedback and a plan for improvement?

Immediate feedback is something that is much easier done in sports as opposed to the workplace. In baseball I am able to watch a player swing during batting practice and see if they are making good contact. If they aren’t, I can start to diagnose what is wrong. As a coach it is then my job to give detailed feedback that can help the player correct their issues. The more immediate the feedback is, the easier it is to connect actions to results and see where change is needed. All too often the feedback we give as managers and coaches is vague and cannot possibly result in the action we most desire.

So what are we missing? We can give immediate immediate feedback (“Try harder”, “Do better next time”, “Keep your eye on the ball!”) and still not get results. We still need the second half of Ericsson’s equation: a plan for improvement. If a player was struggling with hitting outside pitches, we would focus on a mixture of drills designed to improve outside pitch hitting and explain the purpose of each drill. Once we have the correct set of drills designed, then we have to watch the little details of those drills and correct form as necessary.

I think this starts to show why this approach happens so infrequently. It takes a lot of time and effort. We have to design a system that provides the correct feedback, at the correct time, and develops the correct skill. When you are managing a work team with people doing completely different jobs, it becomes even more of a challenge, which is compounded since the feedback is often times not immediate at work.

As you develop employees’ project management skills, delegation skills, or leadership skills, it will take longer than 30 minutes in the batting cage to see results. If the task has truly moved your employee out of their comfort zone, they will most likely experience more task uncertainty and increased stressed due to a lack of previous experience. It then becomes even more important as a manager that you can assess the situation in real-time and provide meaningful feedback that helps an employee feel supported and creates the environment for growth.

The next few posts will focus on the last two points of crafting a development plan, identifying and crafting tasks towards elite performance. Until then- if you have any feedback approaches that have worked well for you, please post them in the comments below. I would love to hear from you about what has worked, or even what has not.

Posts in this series: Intro   Part 1: Comfort Zone   Part 2: Feedback   Part 3: Elite Performance