• Recognizing and supporting the positive values demonstrated in other people’s actions
  • Fostering an environment that encourages GuideMarks and other healthy behaviors
  • Acknowledging, with specificity, the good work of others


We need feedback in all areas of our life. If we don’t receive feedback, then how can we ever learn or get better at what we do? We can’t. Therefore, receiving feedback is vital to our growth as individuals and to our ability to fulfill our job responsibilities. We should all practice being good receivers of feedback.

But there is another side to this equation. In order for someone to be receiving feedback, there must be someone giving feedback.

And just like we should strive to be good receivers of feedback, we must also work on becoming good givers. One way we can do that is to practice this week’s GuideMark: Reinforce the Good.


Reinforce the Good is all about becoming a better giver of feedback. When we Reinforce the Good, we acknowledge, with specificity, the good work of others. Effective feedback is not be limited to general compliments or to kudos focused on outcomes. Instead, it involves taking the time and extra energy to recognize the specific positive values demonstrated by someone – and then letting them know that it was noticed and why it was good they did what they did.

A general compliment is polite, but it shouldn’t be confused with feedback that encourages good conduct and motives.“Congratulations on winning that $10 billion appeal” is a compliment, not feedback. It’s polite to acknowledge obvious outcomes in general terms; however, that generic “well done” isn’t necessarily going to help or encourage someone later down the road.

Focusing our feedback solely on outcomes sends the wrong message. When we respond to others based entirely on the outcomes of their work, it misses the point that how we do what we do matters. (If we lie to help a school get funding, it’s not a successful outcome.) What if your colleague does their work properly, but, for whatever reason, the outcome isn’t deemed a success? You will find it hard to congratulate them on the outcome. “Congratulations on losing that $10 billion appeal” is not a compliment, or feedback. It’s just mean. In fact, in cases involving a negative outcome, it’s easier to find yourself complimenting someone on the positive values that they demonstrated: “I know you didn’t win the appeal, but you worked diligently to get it done and we were all proud of how professional it looked.”

Reinforce the Good is a standard that says we at FFL will reinforce with specificity good conduct before we address work outcomes. If we are not intentional about reinforcing good motives and right behavior, we can subtly send the message that outcomes are more important than the manner in which we achieve those outcomes. Both are important. Both should be acknowledged.

  • When you notice someone else’s positive conduct, it sends a powerful message. It lets them know that you are paying attention to them and that you value them as a person
  • By providing specific positive feedback, it tells the other person precisely what it is you noticed and appreciated about what they did.
  • After completing a difficult task well, it’s encouraging when a colleague gives you a shout out. This can be especially true when the work at hand doesn’t feel too rewarding (like telling a client they won’t be getting the funding that they’d hoped for.) The positive reinforcement may be the only “warm and fuzzy” someone gets and it will also encourage them to do a good job the next time they are faced with a tough assignment.
  • When we give someone accurate encouragement about positive aspects of their work, we also make it easier for them to receive constructive criticism from us later. By receiving a broad spectrum of feedback, the other person learns to trust over time that there is a real interest in helping them to grow and learn.

Here’s a simple example of how an FFL GuideMark could be specifically recognized and reinforced:

“I really appreciate how well-prepared you were for that meeting. Your thoroughness ahead of time helped us make a better informed decision and it saved us a lot of time because we didn’t have to schedule another meeting. Thank you.”

In this case, you reinforce the good (“thoroughness”) by acknowledging it specifically and then sharing the reason it was good.


Pay extra attention this week to the good things people are doing around you, and then take a few minutes to let them know about the good things you saw. By being deliberate to Reinforce the Good, you will help others to grow and get better. In doing so, you, yourself, will improve, which further Reinforces the Good for everyone.


Key Words and Phrases

Encourage a response; Support; Reward an action; Strengthen or increase; Instruct; Boost or shore up; Affirm and validate; Foster and sustain; Bolster or amplify, Emphasize or stress.

Opposite Terms

Ignore; Undermine; Weaken; Tear down.


GuideMarks – Distinguishing Characteristics of FFL E-rate Guides

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