How to coach: 5 tips

My painting teacher lifted my painting skill to a much higher level within a year. During class I started to realize that he probably used every reward rule my research would suggest. Do you also want to coach someone? Read the 5 tips below!

1: Suggest talent

Practice makes perfect and practice requires motivation. Believing that you will be able to master a task (‘self efficacy’) is one of the most important conditions for motivation Albert Bandura showed.

2: Reward improvement with compliments

Compliments are rewarding. Moreover, people learn from reward: they repeat the rewarded behavior. This means that you can use compliments to gradually shape ones behavior in the intended form. B.F. Skinner first showed this in pigeons. Humans work the same way. So don’t save your compliments for perfect performance!


3: Punish only what should NEVER be repeated

Punished behavior is less likely to be repeated. However, punishment doesn’t tell you what to do. Therefore you should only punish what should never be repeated. In the painting example: drawing circles around eyes instead of gradually shaping the surface. Check out this happy painting video!

Trying to improve behavior by means of punishment is like rolling a dice.

4: Be unpredictable

When you look in a bright light it becomes less bright over time. This is a process called adaptation. A light keeps its strength when someone unexpectedly turns it on and off in a dark room. Your brain responds the same way to reward. If it continuously receives reward it barely responds after a while. Unpredictable reward keeps its strength.

– This is why dating websites suggest responding to text messages at irregular intervals!


5: Provide sparse rewards

My research shows that people learn less form their errors when they receive abundant reward. The results have been published in Experimental Brain Research. Moreover, people reach a concentrated state of ‘flow,’ when success and failure are balanced.

Read more about the benefits of sparse reward in my blog ‘why reward may be your digital sugar.’


3 thoughts on “How to coach: 5 tips

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s