Give Feedback Like a Golf Instructor

When someone new to golf takes a lesson, there could be 100 things they must change. But a good instructor tells the golfer to change one thing. #feedback #employeeexperience #performancemanagement

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I heard an analogy today around golfing (note I am not a golfer). When someone new to golf takes a lesson, there could be 100 things they must learn and change. But a good instructor tells the golfer to change one thing. For example, to just focus on improving their grip. Once that is perfected, then they move onto the next thing.

This same process applies to feedback at work. Giving feedback is an art and a science. It should be detailed, in the moment, and focused on things that matter. It must be delivered from a base of trust so that the receiver can accept the feedback as a gift. And it should not be overwhelming. Imagine a golf instructor telling one of his or her students to change 100 things at once. The student would walk off the golf course.

What we know does not work, is an hour-long feedback session outlining everything a person is doing wrong. 

Let me walk you through an example at work. I am in learning mode. I moved to a new position and am doing lots of writing here at Workhuman. I have an intense curiosity and background in how people work together, and I decided to take these ideas to the market through blogging. Writing is not one of my natural skills, but I love the creative outlet writing gives me.

Sarah, managing editor of the Workhuman blog, has been fabulous with giving me feedback. She has been my golf instructor. There are many things I need to learn to become a great writer. Instead of taking my first few blogs and telling me all 100 things which I need to correct, she told me just one thing I needed to do to improve. And she said it in such a positive manner.

She said, “Lynne, you have such great stories, put more of them into your writing.” Wow. I was expecting to see a page of red lines and grammar edits. But instead, she said to bring more of my stories to my work. Instead of getting frustrated, I felt confident, empowered, and energized.

She gave me a piece of feedback that had the most substantial impact on my writing. It would make my writing more emotional and connect with the reader. She did not overwhelm me with 100 things to change – just one.

With each piece of writing, her feedback would be similar. Just one essential item to consider. I can manage one essential change. I can improve my writing one piece of feedback at a time.

Here is why Sarah’s feedback was so useful:

  • I trust Sarah. She is a peer with whom I have worked for a few years, and we work together very well.
  • She focused on the feedback that had the most substantial impact.
  • She used my strength of telling stories as part of the input.
  • The feedback was in the moment. It was not weeks after I wrote my blog.
  • I asked for feedback. Just like a golfer goes to an instructor. I considered Sarah an expert and wanted her feedback and advice.

Learning through feedback happens one step at a time. Do not give someone 100 things to change. Yes, you may see the 100 things that need to be improved. But focus on one thing at a time. Give the feedback with the mindset of a coach. The coach who tells the golfer to just change the way they hold the golf club.