My girlfriend has a 9-year old son and he’s a stud football player. He’s the quarterback and, when you’re nine, the majority of plays are runs. But, they do call some passes and last week, even though they won 20-0, he threw two interceptions. He didn’t step into the throws and left both of them short.

That was on Saturday. On Monday night, my girlfriend was going out of town for work, which meant I could eat pizza with him and watch Monday Night Football 🙂

She said, “You should really talk to him about stepping into his throws and how he could do it better.”

I responded, “I could do that, but in the last three days I’ve heard him bring up those two interceptions at least five times. All talking to him about it is going to do is further ingrain what he did wrong and the mistakes he made. He doesn’t need that right now.”

We all have a propensity to give more weight to the negative (it’s called Negativity Bias). Ever had a performance review? It’s the reason we pay much more attention to what wasn’t as good.

Normally, I’m all about being straightforward and direct with feedback, but…

…Outperforming leaders also have a way of finessing their feedback to effectively make their point.

In this case, while we were watching Monday Night Football, I pointed out specific instances where the quarterbacks stepped into their throws by planting and pushing off their back leg.

I didn’t bring up his two interceptions and I didn’t need to say that he was doing it wrong. He’s a smart kid and he, like all of us, is a visual learner. Pointing out someone else doing it right is enough feedback to make the point and boost his performance.

And, for the record, it is not lost on me that he is NINE. But it is never too early to start teaching kids there is no failure; there is only feedback. The right way.