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.