I just had a wonderful conversation with Meghan Lawson, who is not only a very good friend but also has one of my favorite blogs out there! If you are looking for a weekly dose of inspiration and deep learning, Meghan’s blog is perfect!
In our conversation, we talked about sports and coaching, and I shared with her one of the best pieces of advice I had ever received on coaching basketball. The instructor had shared that the worst thing you could say to a player after missing a free throw in a basketball game is, “You have to make those shots!”
He then said, “Do you think the player wanted to miss the shot? Of course not! And now, you have made them feel bad about what just happened, putting more pressure on the next shot without any helpful advice.”
I then thought of my high school basketball coach, Kevin Grieman, who was such an influence on me and still is to this day. When I would miss a shot, he would say, “Make sure you are bending your knees because you are probably a bit tired.” Or, “focus on reaching up and putting the cookie into the cookie jar.” That was a visual he had put into my head repeatedly, and I thought of him when I saw Klay Thompson, arguably one of the best shooters in the NBA of all time, sharing the SAME advice with participants in a camp this past summer.
Meaningful and actionable feedback is essential and beneficial to better results.
Meghan mentioned that she had also witnessed something similar in the feedback teachers have received from admin in the past. My story was similar to a principal or superintendent saying, “We need to get our scores higher!”
Of course, no one wants their students to do poorly on any assessment. But what is the actionable thing that can help improve that outcome?
The same advice often given to students about posting online could be given to the adults in this situation; is it helpful or hurtful?
But there are some situations where we might know the answer, and when that happens, it is great to ask for advice to remedy the situation. For example, “We are looking to improve learning in our school with students; is there anything you are doing currently that you have found to be successful?” One of the best things an administrator can do when not knowing an answer is to tap into the talent they already have in their organization. One of the worst things they can do is pretend they know the answer. Tap into those you serve to find solutions.
Everyone wants to be good at their job. Actionable feedback will always be better than making statements that seem to assume the opposite.