How to Give Positive Feedback that Works

Positive feedback

There are lots of articles about how to give negative feedback in a way that builds people up. Surprisingly, there is hardly anything about positive feedback, i.e. when staff have worked well.

Why is it important to give the right kind of positive feedback?

It’s easier to explain if we look at the wrong kind of positive feedback. Common examples are: Well done, good job, you did great, you managed that project really well.

What does it do?
It encourages staff, and shows them that you have noticed their efforts and successes.

What does it not do?
It does not tell staff specifically what they did well. It is crucial to know what made the project a well-managed one … so the person can use that skill/technique again in future, and manage that one really well too.

To turn it on its head, with the right positive feedback, you are offering on-the-job coaching. This will help staff develop their strengths, and use effective skills again and again … rather than in a hit-and-miss kind of way … In the end it means well-managed projects, well-run teams, happy customers …

So what is the right kind of positive feedback?

It is clear and specific.

■ ‘Well done’ becomes ‘You did really well in leaving that customer some space, because they looked like they were still browsing’ … Learning point for the staff member being: It is good to give customers time before asking if you can be of service.

■ ‘You managed that project really well’ becomes ‘You did very well to explain to the team why this change is important. This helped bring them on board and work hard’. So the project manager knows to communicate reasons for change to the next team they manage.

So what happens next?

■ Think of the last time you gave positive feedback. How could you make it more clear and specific? Doing this will help you get your head round giving this type of positive feedback.

■ For the next time you need to give positive feedback, take time to phrase is in the right way, i.e. clear and specific. When you are happy with this, you can communicate it to your team member.

■ Practice!

■ Observe the positive impact on your staff’s professional development and performance!

I would love to know how this is working for you. Tell me about your experiences. Also tell me about stumbling blocks, so I can give you tips on how to work through them.

Dr Sharon Xuereb is an employee engagement specialist, and a psychologist working in the UK and the US.


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