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"The gentleman helps others to realize what is good in them; he does not help them to realize what is bad in them. The small man does the opposite." Confucius (551-479 BC) The Analects

Recognising what others do well - and telling them


'Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking ...' Public speeches of thanks are one ritualised way in which the 'causes' of success are publicly acknowledged.
'And I would like to thank all those without whom this event would not have been possible. I would like to thank ... a, b, c, d, e, f ..... x, y ... and last but not least .... I would like to thank ...'
In the public speaking ritual the idea is that no-one gets forgotten however small their part. As the speech of thanks is drawing to a close, someone rushes up to the speaker with a slip of paper ..
'Ahem ... and I would also like to thank ...'
This public ritual can be much more fun when converted into a reviewing technique...
  • The rule is that no contribution, however small, should be left unmentioned.
  • A volunteer (or the facilitator) kicks off by standing on a platform (or at a lectern, or holding a microphone) and begins a speech of thanks that is about the various ways in which group members have contributed to the particular achievement that is being reviewed.
  • When the facilitator (or the next volunteer) chooses, the speaker hands over saying:
    'Now my good friend [person's name] would like to add a few words of thanks ...'
    And so on, until everyone has had at least one chance to thank and everyone has had at least one mention (preferably many more than just one).
Part of the 'game' is to search hard for positive contributions made by others. As people get thanked for smaller and smaller contributions, the humour tends to grow (a bit sad if it doesn't!). If it catches on, the humour will actually help to break through people's resistances to giving and receiving thanks (and praise). If this 'routine' is enjoyed, learners may even wish to use it again!



The 'One Minute Manager' (by Hersey and Blanchard) is about catching people doing something right and telling them so. These regular positive strokes are designed to motivate the work force and destroy the myth that managers are trying to catch people doing something wrong.

The 'One Minute Facilitator' is a more casually dressed 'One Minute Manager' [I have no idea if it is also a book title!]. But the facilitator should not be content with being the only person who is handing out praise. She should be encouraging each learner to be doing this too. If you want more specific guidance on how this can be done, make the necessary changes to your copy of 'One Minute Manager' (or buy one) or try Bingo (next) or Positive Charting.


BINGO: giving and receiving positive feedback

Many people (including educators and trainers) are unaccustomed to giving positive feedback. One piece of advice I have given in the Feedback section of this guide is to wait until there is a good chance that everyone in the group has something positive to say about everyone else in the group before holding a feedback session.

If you are thinking that you could be waiting for ever with some of the people you work with, think again. How long would it take the 'One Minute Facilitator' to find something positive to say?

With a bit of practice (and encouragement) people start noticing 'positives' where none seemed to exist before.

  • Set up a 10-minute co-operative task (e.g. a creative task, a decision-making task or a solution-finding task) for half the group you are working with.
  • Before briefing for the co-operative task, take the other half of the group to one side and ask them each to write down the names of everyone in the other half group. Ask each observer to look out for examples of co-operative behaviour, and to shout 'Bingo!' when they have noted down at least one positive, co-operative point for each person carrying out the task.
  • The observers should work individually. The only co-operation should be within the group they are observing.
  • Now brief the task group and let the task continue until someone shouts 'Bingo!'
  • That was the practice in 'observation' skills.
  • Now for the practice in 'feedback' skills.
  • Everyone in the task group now receives at least one piece of positive feedback, while the observation team give feedback to each of the 'doers' one at a time. Encourage direct feedback using the second person e.g.: 'Melanie, you supported Susan's idea when you said ...' rather than indirect third person feedback: 'Melanie, she supported ...'
  • Repeat the exercise with half groups swapping round so that everyone experiences giving and receiving positive feedback. Use a new task and make it known that you have given a different brief to the new observers - both to maintain freshness and to reduce the chances of the doers trying to provide (or avoid!) what the observers are looking for. (The new observation team could, for example, be looking for 'leadership' and 'initiative'.)
  • This exercise provides useful practice in feedback skills, is an indication of people's existing skill levels, and will almost certainly lead to an interesting discussion about feedback.



'Positive Charting' is similar to the 'Bingo' exercise described above. In 'Positive Charting' (as described by Jim Thompson*) the coach (or trainer) makes a list of all team members and records 3-5 positive points about each individual's performance during a team game or training exercise. These points are given as positive feedback at the start of the next session.

Delayed feedback can have a powerful impact, but when observing team development exercises, I prefer to interrupt after about 10 minutes to provide positive feedback to each participant. I also like to encourage the giving of positive feedback between participants. Making notes avoids the embarrassment of an individual being left out and not receiving any positive feedback.

*Jim Thompson, youth baseball coach and author of 'Positive Coaching', is founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance which is dedicated to ''transforming youth sports so sports can transform youth''. A summary of 'Positive Charting' used to be at:
and a summary of Jim Thompson's 'Positive Coaching' at:


SEQ: Style, Effect, Questions - appraisal method


It often happens that feedback to group leaders (from group members) is presented within a positive-negative frame - so that the leaders ONLY hear about what springs to mind when people are thinking about 'positives' and 'negatives'.

A positive-negative frame may not be tapping into other kinds of potentially useful feedback that group members could contribute.

Even worse, a positive-negative frame can even stifle positive-negative comments: some people clam up when asked to give criticism, while others build up a defensive wall when they know that critical feedback is on its way.

SEQ: Style, Effect, Questions

SEQ is one of many alternative ways in to giving feedback. Its particular strength is that it tends to focus on what most people want to hear: what they were like, what effect they had, how well they communicated, plus an opportunity to ask their own questions to the group.


  • What 5 separate words (i.e. not a 5 word phrase) best sum up how this leader went about their task?
  • What kind of leadership style best describes how this leader performed?
  • In what ways did this leader not fit in with that particular style (if any)?


  • What effect did this leadership style seem to have on the team as a whole?
  • What effect did this leadership style have on you as an individual?
  • What effect did this leadership style seem to have on getting the task done?


  • Ask for questions from the group to the leader - especially questions that focus on communication issues e.g. was there anything that the leader said or did that puzzled you at the time?
  • Ask for questions from the leader to the group - especially questions that invite further feedback (see Warm Seat for guidance on this)
As a facilitator you are a kind of leader - so an excellent way to demonstrate SEQ at work is to use the SEQ framework for feedback on your own style and effect and communication. If you feel reluctant to put yourself in this position, take it as a sign that SEQ may not be appropriate for this group at this time.

But don't forget that leaders need quality feedback at some time if they are to learn from their experience of leadership - rather than simply having an experience of leadership.

The leader is a natural focus of attention when it comes to giving feedback. But not everyone in the group may find themselves in a leadership position. [See Programme Design for Leadership Training] SEQ can apply to the carrying out of any other role or responsibility within a group, and can even be applied to the role of 'team member'.
[See the Feedback section of this online guide for more feedback and appraisal techniques.]


PMI = Plus Minus Interesting

The whole world of creative and lateral thinking is about escaping from two-dimensional pictures of the world.

Both change and creativity are assisted by escaping from fixed ways of seeing, and discovering new angles and perspectives on experiences.

Change is possible from within the confines of a positive-negative dimension, but where our job is to facilitate change (i.e. make change easy), we owe it to learners to find easier pathways for change that avoid the fixed positions and resistances that so easily build up within the tramways of conventional 2-dimensional thinking.

This useful creative routine from Edward de Bono (PMI) is an example of a simple lateral thinking exercise. When evaluating an idea or an experience, open up a third angle:

    + What was PLUS about the idea / experience
    - What was MINUS about the idea / experience
    ! What was INTERESTING about the idea / experience
We must not forget that learning thrives on curiosity. And we must remember that judgement can kill it.

You have an immediate opportunity to try out the 'Plus, Minus, Interesting' format using the feedback form below to comment on what you have seen of this section on 'Reviewing Success'. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. But I appreciate any comments as these will help me to improve the quality of this site - and have already done so. An example of learning from experience!
[Also see 'Credit Cards' and 'Gifts' in the Feedback section of this online guide.]

Thank you to Rajaram Subbian who has added this feedback exercise which involves hearing positive comments and seeking explanations:

This is done with the group that is familiar with its members. Break the large group into small (four or five in each group). Each member is to note down three or four positive qualities observed in others (each by name) and on self! After everyone has completed, within each group a feedback is given in an agreed order, starting the feedback on one person - each person saying what s/he has noted down. While doing this members are encouraged to look eye-to-eye and say it using their names, so as to make it personal and impactful! The listener, after having listened would say what s/he has noted down on self. S/he is also encouraged to seek explanation from the reporter on the observation made.


A metaphorical "store" - nothing to pay :-)

Appreciative Inquiry: recommended links AI Assumptions include:
  • In every society, organisation or group something works.
  • What we focus on becomes our reality.
  • Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities.
  • The act of asking questions of an organisation or group influences the group in some way.
  • People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known).
  • If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past.
  • It is important to value differences.
  • The language we use creates our reality.
from Liz Mellish's article on Appreciative Inquiry

Examples of Strengths Based Approaches in Action
Appreciating Success: recommended links
  • How to Improve the Effectiveness of Performance Management and Appraisal by Overcoming the Root Cause of the Problem by Julie Freeman
  • Creating a high performance culture through effective feedback by Sarah Cook. summary of Training Journal Article, August 2001 (page has moved)
  • The trials, tribulations and trauma of feedback! by Carol Laughlin. Summary of Training Journal Article, April 2000. Tips are in the full version. [Internet Archive, Wayback Machine]
  • The Pygmalion effect reconsidered: its implications for education, training and workplace learning by Daragh Murphy, Clifton Campbell and Thomas N. Garavan, Journal of European Industrial Training 23/4/5 [1999] 238-250. A detailed critical review of what the research does and doesn't say. It incudes some practical checklists summarising effective practice that harnesses the Pygmalion Effect.
    Abstract: Reviews the literature on the Pygmalion effect and in particular its implications for workplace learning and training. The article considers the wide ranging debate within the education literature on the value of the Pygmalion concept and also considers research conducted in training and workplace settings. The implications of the concept for learning design, trainee self-esteem, trainer behaviours, and workplace learning are considered.
  • Building From Strengths (The Gallup Organization)
    People progress more rapidly in their areas of greatest talent than in their areas of weakness. Yet too many training and development approaches focus on making improvements in areas of weakness. Gallup takes the opposite approach. Gallup helps organizations capitalize on human talents through learning and developmental programs that show employees how to develop talents into strengths, then apply strengths to build personal and career success.
  • Stop Worrying About Your Weaknesses by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review
  • Play the Game You Know You Can Win  by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review

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