I was teaching the Science of Happiness to a group of CEO’s and their spouses last week in Richmond Virginia at the beautiful Jefferson Hotel.

Even though the purpose of the meeting was to teach couples how to use the tools of the science (and some that I’ve developed over the years) at home, the business discussion of happiness was never far behind.


The day became a most interesting mix of business and personal lives, and it’s all about relationships any way so it all worked out well.

At one point in a discussion about constructive and destructive feedback one of the young execs asked about the importance of giving constructive criticism.


Since I’m used to getting pushback when I talk about reframing this phrase I asked the question, “What if you simply dropped the word “criticism” from your vocabulary?” I asked.


You could hear a pin drop.


I could feel resistance building in the room, as it always does. People seem so afraid I’m going morph into Pollyanna at any moment. (No chance – it’s all business and science and it’s all measurable as a KPI.)


“What if you started thinking of that concept simply as “constructive feedback” – feedback you can give to course correct, guide to appropriate behavior, get back on track with values, advise someone they are straying from the plan?”


I watched his face – as we all did.


“Would THINKING about that action differently cause you to deliver the message a little differently?”

I took a breath and kept quiet.


His face softened as he thought about it, a small smile, almost imperceptible at first, appeared before the head nod.

Wise young man.


The faces of others in the room began to change as well as they realized that as WE think of something as “criticism” it’s perceived as negative even when our intention is good.


Leaders in a positive culture don’t need to “criticize.” They need to guide, counsel, support, invite people to get back on plan. They need to be clear about goals, responsibilities and obligations for sure.


Sometimes they have to be a little sterner than others, of course.


When these things are done in the spirit of constructive feedback, they are heard differently.


The language of leaders is as important as their actions.


The other night as I relaxed by watching the finals of the TV program “The Voice” where relatively unknown singers get the opportunity to work with famous singers (their coaches) and compete with one another to win, I was struck by something profound.

The four finalists all did a spectacular job of belting out their tunes, and each coach gave them feedback.


“Beautiful job – so relatable” “You are so gifted, your voice is so smooth” “That was the best yet, just gorgeous” “Beautiful message – so special – your choice of music was perfect” “It’s an honor working with you”

The smile on my face couldn’t have been wider without squinting my eyes closed.


Then in the next round the host asked the singers to give their coaches feedback and it brought tears to my eyes. “Your kindness and encouragement has made me believe in myself” “Thank you for believing in me.” “I’ve never felt more beautiful and confident and because of you I feel like I can do anything!” “Thank you for believing in me as an artist and a person.”


The evening was positively energizing!


I was feasting on the feedback and wondering what the workplace would feel like if both the “coaches and singers” learned to regularly give positive feedback – constructive and corrective feedback when necessary – but always with the thought, “How can I deliver this message in a way that is useful, kind and as constructive as possible?”


I’ll bet you would have a bunch of superstars as well!


Want to learn more about the tools of positive leadership?


Give yourself the gift of coaching in 2020. You can still get the “3 PACK” for $997 – that’s 3 coaching sessions to help you discover how to be the best leader you can be in 2020. That’s a limited time offer and goes away in Jan, when regularly priced 8 session packages are available. Email me JoAnna@ReturnOnHappiness.com and I’ll send you a link to access it.

And of course, I’m going to encourage you to enroll on the ON LINE Positive Leadership program and start the New Year off as a “Positive Energizer” – enroll before January 6th and get two coaching sessions for f*ree! One session to start you off and one in the middle to keep you moving along (That’s worth almost DOUBLE what you pay for the course.)

Do. It. Now.


You deserve it coach!

And here’s the BIG NEWS for the New Year – I’m now able to help you MEASURE your Happiness as a KPI at work. Stay tuned for more details or call me 561-279-0027 to set up a presentation!

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!


Want to read about the VOICE finals?



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