Trophies or Harsh Debriefs - Who Needs What Feedback?

Take healthy eating and exercise. Early on in a fitness goal, I need a lot of indicators of how well I'm doing - "I ate lots of fruits and veggies today and no processed food, ran for 24 minutes, and got 12,000 steps!" This strengthens my commitment. In contrast, if I'm 7 months into training for a marathon, missing a time goal on a run or gorging on pizza will probably fuel me to perform even better the next day - "I'm not there yet!" 

"Everybody gets a trophy" has become a tongue-in-cheek critique of children's sports. Yet Fishbach's research may indicate its appropriateness - at the right time.  Several years ago, our kids played in a basketball league that kept no score. There seems goodness in that - fostering confidence and love of the game without hyper-focus on winning. This can build commitment to the sport or sports in general. Over time, the positive feedback can appropriately shift to negative. I remember another parent observing that "no scoreboard" was fine for 6 year-olds while they learned the game, but that the older kids kept score in their heads - and it mattered. 

On the expert side, I once asked a former Delta Force operator how successes were celebrated. Instead, he told me how brutal the debriefs were after a mission. Everyone in the room was at the top of their game, and was ruthlessly committed to being better. Their preferred feedback - negative - was an indicator of their level of expertise.

So, your seasoned team member really might not need any campfire songs. But the new intern might need a whole playlist. And it takes time, conversation, and wisdom on our part to know the right mix.