The Importance of Growth Feedback

I was watching my daughter’s volleyball game last weekend.  I was enjoying it because there were decent, long volleys that built up the tension of, “oh, I hope they win this point!” 

Within the long volleys there were plenty of awkward, but surprising saves. One girl shanks a hit, but her team mate dives and gets a “pancake” save. That’s when you just get your hand to the floor, flat on the ground and the ball hits it perfectly to bounce off for your team mate to send over the net!

Ultimately, one team gets the hard earned point and you hear the simultaneous groans of some parents and the screams of the others. 

And there were many more times, because the team really doesn’t have the awareness and skills yet, the ball falls right between two or three of the players. Those are tough to see. 🙂

But what I’m really watching is how the girls are communicating and working with each other through the course of the game. And that was great — they seemed to have a desire to win, but they were supportive of each other, laughed off awkward mistakes and shared tips with each other.

After the game, as we were driving home, I asked my daughter, “What does the coach say to you all during the game? What kind of feedback does he give?

“He just tells us we have to get the ball over the net and other general stuff. It’s not really that helpful. We had a different coach two weeks ago and she was great. It wasn’t that she was telling us stuff we didn’t know, but it was helpful to hear it and have her mimic the right moves and rotations and stuff.”

“Frankly, I’m starting not to like this coach much because of it.”


Wow. I immediately realized she just gave me insight for my weekly email! It was some pretty damn clear thinking about coaching and feedback!

I introduced a set of growth mindsets in the training I’m currently delivering. Things like Beginner’s Mind, Equity & Inclusion, and Start Small to Learn Fast.

It seems to me that professionals working on growth mindsets would benefit from “growth feedback.”

Growth feedback is feedback in the workplace meant to help each other grow. It’s a lot closer to sports coaching than it is “performance evaluation” or judging if someone is “doing their job.”

I’d love to explore this with you just a bit.

Like my daughter who identified useless feedback from helpful, let’s identify types of feedback in the workplace that help our colleagues grow.

Here’s a first shot:

Growth Feedback Types

  • I see you. I appreciate you. This may seem really subtle to some, but I realize how much it means to my colleagues when I take a minute to say the simplest thing — that I appreciate them and their talents. That we get to work together to try and make great things happen.
  • Encouragement to pursue their growth. “You love to get geeky on the data. Take more time to show the team what’s possible.”
  • Feedback to reduce their risk.  “That’s a really good direction. I’ve seen a lot of ideas and that one has a lot of merit. Go for it. I have your back.”
  • Technical support. Taking the time to understand their technical challenge and helping to figure it out with them. This is rolling up your sleeves to honor the challenge of what they are doing. 
  • Work product feedback. This is best provided as critique throughout the creation of the work product. No one wants to hear feedback after the work is done. Being a sounding board and an objective set of eyes on the work without judgment is an advantage to anyone!

Granted this is a little rough right now. What kind of feedback do you give your colleagues, direct reports and supervisors?

Let’s build a more complete list of growth feedback together!

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *