One of the most powerful management tools we have at our disposal is the ability to know when and how to provide positive feedback to employees. We often focus too much on the corrective or constructive feedback piece and ignore the very powerful aspect of providing positive feedback. Why is it so powerful?
There are a host of reasons; however, one that stands out in our minds is that positive feedback reinforces the likelihood that certain desired behaviors will be repeated. It is also validation to someone that they are appreciated and that they belong. Providing positive feedback relates to two of Maslow’s five hierarchy of needs, Esteem and Self-Actualization.
One of the main reasons we provide positive feedback is to increase the likelihood of that same behavior to be repeated. As a very simple example, if an employee is always on time and a bit early for their workday, a simple “I appreciate you always being on time and here a few minutes early” goes a very long way in solidifying repeated behavior. As human beings we are consciously and sub-consciously always looking to be validated or accepted. To illustrate the power of positive feedback, a simple 10 second statement to an employee can often last for an entire lifetime.
How to’s of Providing Positive Feedback
Positive feedback should follow immediately after the behavior being reinforced is observed. The longer the feedback from the time of the event the less powerful it becomes. If not immediate, the thinking with employees is that if it was that great, why has my manager waited so long to tell me. Below is a brief checklist of the how to’s of providing positive feedback.
Do it immediately
Feedback goes stale when left unsaid too long, so give positive feedback as close to the event as possible.
In Public and In Private
Praise in public, criticize in private, that’s the general rule. But before you go praising in a public place think about what they would prefer. Some people get so emotional or embarrassed by public praise that it defeats your good intentions of doing it publicly. Do what’s right for the person.
Practice Makes Perfect
It’s easy to overlook good work or extra effort, so make it a habit to praise regularly.
Does the Reward Fit?
Keep the balloons and streamers for special occasions. Going over the top with rewards can be miss-interpreted as “buying” favors. Judge the amount of effort and reward appropriately.
Avoid creating “favourites” by doing quick mental tallies of whom you’ve praised recently.
Be Clear and Mean It
The best positive feedback is sincere and specific. Tell the person exactly why you are praising them;
“Susan, that extra analysis was really appreciated by the project team and allowed them to make a decision immediately”.
Susan now knows exactly what to do next time to get praise.
Catch People Doing Things Right
The more you catch people doing things right, the more right things they will do! Encourage positive actions by letting people know when they do things well. Start today, and in only two-three weeks’ time, giving positive feedback will be a life-long habit.
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By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner www.twogreysuits.com