Merge's Blog

Why instant feedback is so useful

Recently, a family member suffered a partial lung collapse (it’s okay, she’s recovering 🙂 ) and part of her rehabilitation therapy is to practice breathing slowly and deeply through her nose. But old habits are hard to break, and she often forgets and reverts to rapid, shallow mouth breathing, which of course is not what anyone wants. So her medical support team implemented an instantaneous feedback system.

They hooked her up to a pulse oximeter and sat her in a chair so that she was facing the display screen. A pulse oximeter is a small non-invasive painless medical device, which when placed on a finger measures how well one’s blood is absorbing oxygen. Ideally, you want readings of 95 to 99 percent. When my family member does what she is supposed to do – breathe deeply and slowly through her nose – her pulse oximeter readings immediately climb to over 95 percent. But when she forgets (or dozes off) and reverts to shallow breathing, the readings drop and an audible beeping sound gives her an instant reminder to correct her breathing. The best part – the more she practices, the better she gets at remembering to breathe correctly, even when she’s not hooked up to the device. Cool huh? And what a great illustration of the value of instant feedback!

As leaders, one of the most important things we can do to coach our employees towards higher performance is to give them open and honest feedback. But feedback must also be timely; and in fact, as this example demonstrates, instant is better! Advice or criticism offered one week or one month after the event, or god forbid, once a year, to employees is simply not useful. The best feedback is that which is given in the moment (or as soon as possible after) so people can immediately adjust and adapt their actions. The bottom line: timely feedback is much more likely to create change in behaviour than that which is given after (or ages after) the fact.

So are you making it a point to give timely, even instant, feedback to your employees? If not, what’s getting in the way? Please share your thoughts by adding a Comment below.

P.S. Looking for some more specific ideas on how to give feedback, particularly negative feedback?  Check out the two video tips on this page (scroll down about half way).


  • The difficulty with instant feed back, like arriving at work on time … how does one address this issue? Feels like a reprimand no matter how you phrase it and when it is frequent that is really overwhelming for everyone.

    There are always reasons for being late some truly unavoidable and others of course are not.

  • Of course Debbie, you will always have to make a judgment call regarding timing and frequency. But … I still stand by the general rule — when it comes to feedback, sooner is always better than later.


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