Immediate feedback in the moment

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —July 2, 2008
Filed in Business storytelling, Employee Engagement

The best way to learn a practical skill is to receive immediate, helpful feedback while you are performing the task. I was reminded of this fact this morning at our junior basketball competition. Next to each referee was an apprentice referee in a green shirt, whistle in mouth ready to make the call. They get six weeks of working with an experienced ref but only get their stripes when they can demonstrate their ability to confidently and accurately blow their whistle and do what a ref needs to do.


So why don’t we employ a similar approach in the workplace? Managing staff, conducting performance reviews, facilitating sales meetings, leading teams, co-ordinating communities of practice, and I’m sure you can think of a heap of others, are practical skills you need to learn which you just can’t read from a book.

I suspect workplace cultures make these types of apprenticeship initiatives embarrassing. “I’ve been employed to do this job and I can’t let anyone know I have a lot to learn. Plus I don’t want to bother anyone else.” Organisations that make an apprenticeship approach just part of the norm are going reap the rewards.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Anna says:

    This month I am leaving my job for exactly this reason – it’s a very small, highly specialised software company.

    After weeks of confusing directions and trying to work things out myself, I started asking repeatedly (once a week or so) to “sit beside” my supervisor to see how she’d like things to be done. My requests were always received positively, but then there was always something more pressing for my supervisor to do. I’ve been promised more complete training “after the next project is delivered” three times now.

    What they’ve not understood is that this means there is bad outcome for everyone. My supervisor has additional work because I’m unable to properly do what’s expected. I have been unable to fulfil my role and my hopes – in effect, I’ve failed. The rest of the company doesn’t realised this is a serious problem that will restrict the growth they are aiming for. Probation was simply a date on the calendar, rather than a proper assessment of past and future. I could go on and on – it’s been a very frustrating experience.

    But thank you for this post – I agree wholeheartedly. And let me tell you, your suspicion about workplace cultures is true! It was either embarrassing or threatening or a burden to have trained me apprentice-style and now they are down one good, clever content engineer.

    I’m not embarrassed, just unemployed!

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