Pep Guardiola gave Rahim Sterling a dressing down after Manchester City had just won the FA Cup Final. As I watched a clip of this on the news, it made me wonder how many managers in the corporate world don’t know when a good time to deliver constructive feedback is. If a high profile manager of a major football team doesn’t know (or forgot in the heat of the moment), it doesn’t bode well for us mere mortals!

What happened?

On Saturday, Sterling scored two goals in City’s 6-0 win over Watford but he thought he’d scored a third until it was confirmed the second goal belonged to Gabriel Jesus. Later, there was a moment caught on camera, where Manager Guardiola appeared to be making a point to Sterling about something he was unhappy with. Sterling tweeted afterwards: “He (Pep) just said I shouldn’t have tried to steal that first goal …” The message ended with two laughing emoji’s.


If you’re like me and are unsure of the players and their successes, Sterling is one of the Premier League’s best attacking players, and is to be rumoured to be earning £300,000 per week since signing a new contract with City last year. The goal Guardiola was referring to was the second of the match, when Gabriel Jesus had hit the ball past Watford’s goalkeeper, only for Sterling to smash it in on the line, and claim it as his own.

Rookie Mistake

Man City players were understandably euphoric after their win, and this is when Pep should have been praising, thanking and congratulating his players for their valiant efforts and dedication. It is not the time to give constructive feedback. In the business world, an equivalent scenario might be after your team has won a large contract after weeks of late-nights, hard work and stress, and you pull one of your team members aside to give him or her a rollicking.


Giving constructive feedback when your team member is tired and/or emotional means that they will not have the right mind-set to take on board your words of wisdom. This is because they’ll find it difficult to be objective when emotions are running high; even if those emotions are jubilant. Equally, you don’t want to leave it so long that they’ve forgotten about the event, or when they are not in a position to attempt to put it right if something needs to be put right. The ideal time is after everyone has calmed down, has had rest and recuperation as well as time to gather their thoughts, but make sure it’s soon enough after the event that it’s still fresh in their minds.


In Pep Guardiola’s case, on the evening of their victory he should have praised the whole team for their well-deserved win, and joined in the celebrations. Then on Monday morning, when they are together as a team with clear heads, they can deconstruct what happened, and think about what they did well (the positive feedback) and what they could do better next time (the constructive feedback). Then Guardiola should have a one-to-one conversation – in private – with Sterling to provide his constructive feedback on ‘that’ goal, as well as giving Sterling the space for him to respond. They can then objectively talk about how to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again (assuming Sterling agreed with Pep’s feedback).

So if you have superstars in your team, even the best can still learn and improve with feedback. As a manager, it’s up to you to motivate your team with positive feedback, and challenge them with constructive feedback; that’s how they become high performers and win the business-world equivalent of the FA Cup Final. Just make sure you give it at the right time!

You can learn the skills and mind-set that enable you to give feedback confidently, and in a timely manner, to motivate the individuals within your team to be the best they can be, and in doing so, create a high performing team with my Toolkit for Managers course.