Breakfast of champions: Feedback, not Wheaties!


“I work in the training department for a Milwaukee-area employer. While we use external resources occasionally, most of the training we provide is developed and delivered in-house. My problem/concern is that we often co-facilitate the sessions we lead. I do a lot of training with one gentleman in particular. He is a long-time employee with more than 30 years of experience. During the sessions, he tends to talk too much, tell personal stories, and go off topic if he feels like it. I’ve tried to talk with him about it, but he gets defensive. His perspective is that he is a seasoned veteran who has more experience than me and the attendees like how he leads the session, they like his stories, etc. I’m frustrated because I don’t think we’re helping the attendees fully connect with the topic we are exploring. While we do a short written evaluation at the end of every session, it doesn’t really tell us much and he normally doesn’t bother to review the results anyway. I’m stuck and hoped you might offer some insights regarding what I can do to address this situation. Thanks.”


The situation you outline is a common one in our experience. Co-facilitating is a challenging undertaking. The facilitators must be operating cohesively. If not, those differences will become apparent to the participants and can have unintended, negative consequences. Effective communication and, more specifically, the power of feedback, is the core issue that I see in your situation. That will be the focus of this column.

From our perspective, to be an effective communicator there are some basic questions that must be answered: “How am I doing?” and “How are we doing?” Feedback in response to each of these questions is critical. The skilled communicator offers it and seeks it. He or she is concerned with both achieving a given task and using the best communication process to achieve that end. Effective communicators, then, de-brief their meetings and conversations, asking questions such as, “Did this go as you had expected it to?” “What worked well?” “What didn’t work so well?” “How can I help you to be a more full and active participant?” And so on.

Let’s start with a bold statement: If you want your people to become more goal-oriented, then you need to become more of a feedback fanatic! It might be the most important thing you can do as a manager. Don’t believe us? Well, here is what Tom Rath and Dr. Donald Clifton, authors of a wonderful book titled “How Full Is your Bucket?” have to say on the subject:


  • According to a Gallup survey, the number one reason people leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.



  • According to a longitudinal study done by British scientist Dr. George Fieldman, when employees work for years with bosses they don’t like their risk of coronary heart disease rose by 16 percent and their risk of stroke rose by 33 percent.



  • According to a Gallup survey of 4,500 call center employees, negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with. . . for good!



  • According to a Gallup survey, 65 percent of American workers report receiving no recognition in the workplace last year.



  • According to a Gallup survey, more than 90 percent of people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people.



  • A recent Gallup survey asked parents, “Your child shows you the following grades: English – A, social studies – B, biology – C, algebra – F.  Which grade warrants the most attention from you?” More than 75 percent of parents said algebra.



  • According to Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman, we experience more than 20,000 individual “moments” in a waking day. As a manager, how do you help your employees experience their moments?



  • Psychologist Dr. John Gottman has documented that the ratio of positive to negative interactions is critical. The “magic ratio” is 5:1. Less than 3:1 is too little. Greater than 13:1 is too much.



  • A study undertaken at the Mayo Clinic examined patients over a 30-year period and found that those who experienced more positive emotions lived on average about 10 years longer.



  • Positive emotions are not trivial luxuries . . . they are critical necessities for optimal functioning!


Virtually all people who communicate have one thing in common – they provide and receive feedback. Whether they do so consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, they do it every day.

Feedback can be defined as, “Information regarding the effectiveness or appropriateness of a person’s behavior based on another person’s expectations.”

All of us have expectations. We expect certain behaviors, skills, and results from each other depending on the situation. However, there are times when our expectations are not met. 

When expectations are not met, there is a gap between what you expected and what actually occurred. 

This gap can be positive or negative.

Positive gap: The actual exceeds our expectations.

Negative gap: The actual falls short of our expectations.

By providing feedback, we make a person aware of this gap.

There are two types of feedback. The feedback used depends on the gap to be communicated.

If the gap is positive, use positive feedback: reinforces an ongoing behavior.

If the gap is negative, use corrective feedback: indicates the need for a change in behavior.

For many years, Wheaties, the very popular breakfast cereal, has had a tag line that said, “Breakfast of Champions. The story in this column is that feedback, not Wheaties, is the real breakfast of champions.

In the final analysis, the suggestion in this column is to try to work even more collaboratively with your colleague in pursuit of goals that matter to you, him, your participants, the work areas, the organization, etc. n

Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D. is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants Inc. ( He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or

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