Acquiring effective feedback skills is one of the cornerstones of communicating to manage performance. Specific feedback encourages positive behavior. Not all positive feedback is created equal. Unfortunately generic (wishy washy, “nice job”) positive feedback can have reducing impact or even disengage employees over time. In addition generic positive feedback is often accompanied by specific detailed criticism “You wave your hands around when you present, which is very distracting.” We need to be as specific with what was good and what worked, as well as with areas to be improved.
For feedback to encourage positive behavior it needs to be specific and clear. “You did a great job with your presentation. Your message ‘Be the change’ was clear and memorable. I particularly enjoyed the story about how you were inspired to change by the action of your boss, and how you have since applied the lesson; that really resonated with me.”
Positive performance feedback works best when it is specific and used in tandem with one or two areas to improve, with suggestions clearly demonstrated. The balance should always be more specific positives than suggestions for improvement, encouraging the behavior we want repeated.
Unbalanced positive performance feedback can give people false confidence beyond their actual skill, or performance, levels. Positive reinforcement can be powerful, but to be effective it also needs to be specific and clear.
Consider these examples:
“Good job. Keep it up.” OR
“Your report was well written, your thoughts logical and your conclusions were on target. Your computer analogy effectively made your point about the outcome being only as good as the inputs. ”
The first comment may make the listener feel good, but leave them in the dark about why it was good. It might make them feel you didn’t notice what they did, that the compliment was automatic, rather than sincere. The second comment is specific and positive, it tells the listener what you valued, and clearly shows you paid attention. Additionally the second clearly shows which behavior to repeat.
Feedback for high Performance?
The problem is we often don’t feel comfortable giving or receiving feedback due to lack of skill, experience or an effective, supportive process. We have institutionalized the giving and receiving of Performance feedback, making it something we do by rote. We tend to save our praise and comments for the reviews instead of giving them in the moment, while the concept is still fresh in our minds. Once, or twice, a year we deliver a pile of “stale constructive criticism” to each employee and are surprised by the negative responses. No wonder the process becomes unnerving and fear provoking.
Giving and receiving Performance feedback is potentially some of the most important communication we can engage in with the members of our team. Team members need to know what they are doing well, and areas (with suggestions) where they can improve. Time needs to be made to involve them in the solutions, and to hear their feedback too. Team members need to see and experience, through our actions, that feedback is welcomed. For them to really hear, and take action on suggestions, feedback needs to be delivered in both directions, carefully and frequently.
Make Feedback easier:
Train leaders (and team members) on how to deliver effective, constructive feedback. Create a culture of open, growth mindset, supportive feedback through demonstrated action. Our teams follow our examples, not necessarily what we say they should do.
An effective process and practice, helps us avoid the uncomfortable feeling we all get when critiquing others.
Giving feedback effectively is a skill that takes practice to build competence and confidence. Without a tried, tested process, which is effectively trained and integrated into your organization’s culture, your employees will tend to avoid these potentially awkward, or confrontational discussions. This is a very human issue and one that is easily overcome with the right training and repeated practice.
Leaders with the most impact are those who can build and successfully manage great teams. Every day, we help our clients and colleagues achieve their highest levels of professional presence and personal effectiveness. That includes everyone on the ladder, from company presidents to project managers, to staff members. Contact us at 800-282-3374 to find out how we can help you impact your own productivity and the productivity of your entire organization.
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