As leaders at work and in our families and communities, we have the opportunity on a daily basis to provide feedback to others. Over the years, I have seen so many examples firsthand of how providing feedback can quickly turn into criticism (actual or perceived), or unsolicited advice-giving where the underlying message is to “do it my way.” When we observe others providing feedback in such a manner, we can usually spot it and shake our heads in dismay as we see how demotivating it is to the receiver. Here are some questions I ask myself in order to think hard about the way I want to provide feedback to my team.
Am I providing feedback with positive intentions?
Am I making the feedback about my own needs instead of the best interest and development of the other person?
Do I think to give feedback only when something negative has occurred?
Do I tend to save up feedback or do I make the time for it regularly?
Before providing feedback, I find it useful to pause long enough to check my intentions. That pause has saved me from making mistakes I would later regret so many times. It allows me to notice if I am making ill-conceived assumptions, harsh judgements, or making a mountain out of a molehill. It challenges me to focus on providing positive feedback focused on strengths rather than weaknesses.
In my work, 95% of the feedback I provide is positive. I look for ways to recognize quality work and the simpler the communication the better in my experience – saying thank you in-person or writing a note. Positive feedback is a powerful motivator. Negative feedback may get you compliance (if you’re lucky), but noticing great work will result in consistently great work. I have seen both trust and performance improve among my team and this has been validated by others in the organization. I believe that regular positive feedback has been a key factor in our professional success.
I don’t ration feedback. I try to give it as quickly as possible in relation to the awesome performance I witness. Every now and again, I will save something big for a formal, public recognition of a team member, but I have received feedback (it goes both ways) that the little, ongoing recognition means just as much.
Don’t get me wrong, as a leader in my organization, I also have difficult conversations and will give blunt messages if performance is poor. When that is necessary, I have found my message is usually heard loud and clear without a lot of defensiveness, because the trust has already been established on the team by focusing on positive strengths 95% of the time.
As a leadership coach, I challenge my clients to make the time for positive feedback to members of your teams. Don’t wait. Let me know how it works for you.