“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
It’s true. We all need feedback. We need it to get better at what we do, to get closer to our goals, and become a better person and professional. But how many people in our lives offer the constructive feedback we are seeking? Many leaders and managers are still unable to differentiate between criticism and feedback. Hence, at the end of a discussion, they leave their teams wondering: How do we actually improve? What is it that we are actually good at? What do we need to work on more?
The problem starts with, if you look at the word feedback itself, it has a lot of negative connotations in English. As soon as we hear feedback, we get butterflies in our stomach and get anxious. A common mistake that both managers and reportees make is that they focus only on recent behavior.
So essentially, in my experience, the ground reality is that there’s still an oversupply of negative feedback and an under supply of positive feedback. In fact, it is not even feedback, it is just criticism. While performance and behaviour are both important, when too much focus is given to behavior instead of tasks, it feels like a personal attack. Hence, it’s hurtful, and it tends to stay with you for the wrong reasons.
So how can managers and leaders stop the practice of criticism, shift their focus from behavior to tasks, and unlock the power of positive feedback? Let’s explore:
1. Using positive feedback to fuel performance
When someone takes on a new role, they are on a learning journey. They have been chosen for the role because they have the potential and certain skills to take care of those responsibilities. However, no one is completely proficient at something. In this learning phase, what the employees need is guidance and coaching. At every milestone, as a leader or mentor shares with their teams what they have done well, they get motivated to go above and beyond the next time.
When you highlight the personal accomplishments of an individual, they get inspired to do better. If used wisely, feedback fuels growth and excellence.
A common mistake leaders make is with the timing of feedback.
With positive feedback they are too late to recognize the employee and with negative feedback they are often too early without giving the other person some time to learn. Also negative feedback is most often given in surplus, while there is a dearth of positive feedback.
2. Make a conscious effort to give positive feedback
Leaders are not necessarily trained to give positive feedback. Even if they are trained, it sure doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Hence, all leaders must make a conscious effort to provide their team with consistent positive feedback. For that, let’s learn what positive feedback means exactly? How do you differentiate it from regular feedback? How do you make it impactful?
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
A. Being clear vs being attacking
Mind your tone. Your choice of words. Keep your focus on tasks and goals. Share your thoughts on the work done. Avoid getting emotional. Learn how to manage your emotions. Be objective. The best way to ensure this is by doing your homework. Go to the meeting with crisp points and details. Give more examples.
B. Don’t wait for the performance appraisal
Leaders often wait till the very end of the year or quarter to give feedback. It is often too late till then. The good efforts you should have recognized early on were ignored and the employee has probably already lost the motivation. The small wins should be recognized and celebrated, as they happen. Even if you wish to guide your employees to help them course correct, the end of the year is too late. It will not only hamper their growth but also hold back your business outcomes. Initiate regular check-ins with your employees. Interact with them regularly.
C. Empty compliment vs Positive Feedback
Positive feedback doesn’t mean exclaiming praises like “Good job!”, “Well done!”, and so on. They involve highlighting actions which make the work good. Let your team know what their exact strengths are and why you like their work. Refrain from giving ‘empty compliments’ in the name of ‘positive feedback’.
Remember: Feedback must help your team to course correct and inspire them to achieve greater levels of excellence.
Positive feedback is 100% legal 100% ethical 100% proven to be having a positive impact on the field. So what are you waiting for? Don’t shy away from appreciating your employees, peers, and leaders with some constructive positive feedback. You can start practicing it from today!