Thoughts + Articles

The Key to Giving Great Feedback Is to Start with Encouragement

Author, Ted Engstrom, wrote a story that happened many years ago at the University of Wisconsin to a group of extraordinary young men who had the “ability to put the English language to its best use.” These students were essayists, novelists, and poets. They “met regularly to read and critique each other’s work.”

Engstrom said, they “were merciless dissecting the most minute literary expression into a hundred pieces. They were heartless, tough, even mean in their criticism.” They “called themselves the Stranglers.” They strangled all the hopes and dreams they each had.

The young women at the university with literary talent decided to begin their own club calling it the “Wranglers”. “They read their works to one another but criticism was much softer, more positive, more encouraging. Sometimes, there was almost no criticism at all. Every effort, even the most feeble one, was encouraged.”

Study Done 20 Years Later:

An alumnus from the university, twenty years later, did a “study of his classmates’ careers”. He noticed ” not one” of the Stranglers made any “literary accomplishment”.

On the other hand, “from the Wranglers had come six or more successful writers, some of national renown such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling.”

In both groups the education and talent were equal. Ted Engstrom “concluded, the Stranglers strangled, while the Wranglers highlighted the best, not the worst.”

What was the difference between the Stranglers and the Wranglers evaluations?

The Stranglers demoralized their members sucking out all their creativity by criticizing everything they did wrong. They beat each other down. Left no one standing!

The Wranglers on the other hand, built on the strengths of their members. They encouraged, inspired, motivated and helped their members to continue developing and creating their writing projects. Honest sincere compliments lift others up encouraging them to want to continue the work they are doing.

At Toastmasters positive evaluations are given:

As a Toastmaster member since 2009, we learn to help other members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. At Toastmasters constructive feedback is given on prepared manual speeches. Constructive feedback is given in a positive friendly atmosphere. Evaluators listen carefully to the speaker they are evaluating and tell them what they have done well to build the speakers confidence, and then make one suggestion that they can improve. Every person needs positive encouragement to motivate and inspire them to the next level of their journey.

Successful Leaders Are Wranglers:

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay cosmetics said, “Never giving criticism without praise is a strict rule for me. No matter what you are criticizing, you must find something good to say… Criticize the act, not the person.”

Harvey Mackay, businessman and author, says, “Successful leaders.. understand that results reflect their management skills. Constantly belittling or blaming means that either the employee isn’t a good fit or that the criticism isn’t being delivered effectively… Positive results start with a positive environment in which employees know that they will be treated with respect even when they make mistakes.”

Words have power:

The words you say to others are powerful. Think before you say them!

What 5 ways can you encourage and empower others to be good wranglers/ good finders to family, friends, and fellow employees?

1) Show them you care about them and want to learn about them. Ask them about their families, their hopes, challenges, and dreams.

2) Matt McWilliams, online marketing expert, says “Use the four magic words: I believe in you. Take the time to tell your team, your friends, your family, and your followers that you believe in your abilities and that you are confident that they will succeed.”

3) Written words of praise last a lifetime!

When did you last thank someone who helped you in some way? (Your mentor, parent, grandparent, coach, teacher, boss.) Did you write them a note of thanks, or send them a text to tell them thank them? If they are no longer with you on earth, write a blog on the net memorializing their work with you.

President Abraham Lincoln when he died had 8 newspaper clippings in his pocket on the positive things written about him during his re-election campaign. He had read and re-read these newspaper clippings many times, to remind him of the nice things they had written about him. During his presidency he was maligned many times by the newspapers.

When Mark Eklund, a young soldier, died in Vietnam, he had two well -worn sheets of paper in his pocket that he had read and re-read many times. On the two sheets were “all the good things” his classmates had written about him when he was in the eighth grade. (“All the Good Things” by Sister Helen P. Mrosla.) Written words of praise last a lifetime!

4) When you speak about your employees, your children, your spouse or sibling in public, praise them to others. When you are speaking to a team member at work and are talking about another team member say something positive about them. Build others up by building on their strengths.

5) Chris Martin, Author Development Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, say, “Listen to others’ concerns and ask how you can help. One of the best ways to earn the ears of others is by learning to use your own. When you use your ears and listen to the concerns of others, you tell them that what preoccupies them matters to you, and even if you can’t do anything about it you care.” So stop talking and listen to others.

Leaders are wranglers and good finders who build on the strengths of their employee/ team members, family, and friends. They show respect, increase the self-esteem of others by helping them develop through their strengths, and building on them. Just like Toastmasters, – leaders who are wranglers/ good finders begin with what their team members/employees do  well, and then  demonstrate how to correctly do something that has been done incorrectly.

The “Wranglers” built on the strengths of their members. They encouraged, inspired, motivated and helped their members to continue developing and creating their writing projects.

In all of life, people need praise and encouragement to improve, to be inspired, to learn, and grow. When President Lincoln and Mark Eklund, a young soldier died, they had with them well-worn “treasured” sheets with ” words of praise” to them.

Words of praise last a lifetime!

Remember, “the key to giving great feedback is to start with encouragement”!



Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award winning teacher, Best Selling Author, speaker, business owner, and concert artist. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Business”. Her innovative observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. She writes a monthly newsletter “Madeline’s Monthly article & Musical Tips Blog” and a monthly radio show “Madeline’s One Minute Musical Radio Show”. Her book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available anywhere books are sold. Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at


This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 at 8:20 pm and is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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