Feedback is a two-way street. You need to know how to give it effectively and how to receive it constructively. When you make a conscious choice to give and receive feedback on a regular basis you demonstrate that it is a powerful means of personal development and positive change.
According to a study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkmanon, some leaders are uncomfortable receiving positive feedback, which can result in them not giving positive feedback to others. Many leaders, when given the choice between positive and negative feedback, feel that the negative feedback will be more helpful. However, 71% of people say that they appreciate recognition and praise for a job well done.
Done properly, feedback need not be agonizing, demoralizing or daunting, and the more practice you get the better you will become at it. It may never be your favorite means of communicating with your team members, co-workers or your boss, but it does have the potential to make your workplace a much more productive and harmonious place to be.
That’s not to say feedback always has to be good, but it should be fair and balanced. When done in the right way and with the right intentions, feedback can lead to outstanding performance. Employees have to know what they are doing well and not so well. For them to really hear your thoughts and suggestions on ways to improve, though, that feedback has to be delivered carefully and frequently.
Giving feedback is a skill. And like all skills, it takes practice to get it right. So, in this article we’ll give some tips on how you can give feedback constructively and effectively.
Capture the Moment
Consider which of your team members’ positive contributions you currently take for granted. Make a list, and start calling out team members for their strengths when you see them in action — and try to catch people at it in the moment. The more specific you are, the better. The more you notice what’s meaningful to a person, the greater your potential impact will be. Some people prefer a pat on the back in private; others want to bask in the glory of a crowd.
Make It Regular
Feedback is a process that requires constant attention. When something needs to be said, say it. People then know where they stand all the time and there will be few surprises. Also, problems don’t get out of hand. It’s not a once-a-year or a once-every-three-month event. Though this may be the timing of formal feedback; informal, simple feedback should be given much more often than this – perhaps every week or even every day, depending on the situation.
When praising an employee for his or her achievement, the “good job” cliche doesn’t cut it. U.S. News & World Report writer Chrissy Scivicque suggests that you should use the employee’s name as well as describe the specific actions they took to achieve the positive outcome. By describing in detail what you appreciate about the employee’s efforts, they will know exactly what they need to do in the future to keep performing.
The closer to the event you address the issue, the better. Feedback isn’t about surprising someone, so the sooner you do it, the more the person will be expecting it. Think of it this way: it’s much easier to provide feedback about a single, one-hour job that has been done properly than it is to do so about a whole year of forgotten, one-hour jobs.
Schedule One-on-One Meetings
If you don’t tend to give much feedback, start scheduling one-on-one meetings. Tell each individual what you want them to start, stop, and continue doing. See if you can list a few straightforward actions for each of these prompts. You may ask one employee to start speaking up and sharing their ideas in a meeting, and stop being critical if they don’t voice their concerns during the production process. You might compliment them on their creative design ideas and their efforts mentoring employees. Let your employee know that you appreciate these efforts — and that you’d love for them to continue doing these specifics.
Give Positive Feedback the Spotlight
Keep your positive and negative feedback separate. Positive feedback needs its own focus, too. According to field data studied by Paul Green, a doctoral candidate at Harvard Business School,, the “sandwich” approach – where you say something positive, negative, then positive – is not a great strategy. What people hear is the negative with a transparent effort to soften the blow. Or they lose the message entirely.
If you want to praise an employee’s success on a certain project, focus on the success, not what they could have done even better. If you need to discuss room for improvement, schedule another time where you can provide constructive criticism.
Providing effective feedback is a crucial managerial skill. One might feel telling people that doing an excellent job is easy, but the fact is that most of the people do not know how to give helpful, genuine and constructive feedback.
Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown that a sense of progress is the most powerful motivator in the workplace, even stronger than personal recognition or pay. Encourage people’s strengths by providing your employees with specific feedback on how they are helping your team or organization. Focus on how you deliver the feedback. Home in on potential blind spots that could be limiting the power of your feedback — or, worse, having a detrimental effect on employees. Gather feedback from others. By providing effective feedback well, you can ignite your employees, helping them and your organization to thrive.
As researcher Ayelet Fishbach explains: “Several motivation theories attest that positive feedback is more effective for motivating people to pursue goals than negative feedback. Positive feedback increases the outcome expectancy of the goal and perceived self-efficacy of the pursuer. According to this theoretical approach, positive feedback increases people’s confidence that they are able to pursue their goals, leading people to expect successful goal attainment. Negative feedback, in contrast, undermines people’s confidence in their ability to pursue their goals and their expectations of success.”