I first learnt how to develop others to give useful feedback nearly 30 years ago on a programme run by a feminist organisation working on ways to change work culture. Feedback is still sparse in many settings or very generalised so not actually very useful: ‘Good job!” ( Er… what exactly did I do right ?).
We need to catch people in the act of doing something right and give them sincere and specific praise. “You led that meeting in a way that was efficient and clear covering all of the agenda items. I noticed that you made sure that all the participants had a chance to comment. At the end I was super clear about what everyone was going to be doing to move our project forward. Thank you.”
For me the opportunity to give out positive feedback and reinforcement is a real pleasure as I see people bloom and grow and feel good about the recognition of their efforts. It is free and it builds trust bit by bit. Noticing people’s small steps and efforts is as important as seeing the big achievements.
Positive reinforcement motivates people and enables them to move up a learning curve and deliver the projects they have been asked to do. Why is it so many managers don’t do it?
Many people I coach have a very vague idea of how they think they are doing at work because of lack of or unclear feedback.
In a coaching role I am able to feed back to my clients about what I have seen them doing well and right as a positive reinforcement and thus a boost to their confidence. Many of them will have had unclear or no feedback so I am actually confirming back to them that they are not mad and that they have achieved something great. The relationships that I build using positive reinforcement of what people are doing right will mean that I can also make an occasional suggestion for improvement and it will be heard.
Research suggests that a minimum of 5 pieces of positive reinforcement will allow for 1 piece of improvement advice to be taken seriously and not seen as judgement. Researchers at Harvard Business School have observed the opposite ratio to be more likely to be the case in businesses. So leaders and managers need to work hard at this to change the pattern and it will reap rewards for them and their organisations.
We can use our privilege to give people in our organisation and elsewhere positive feedback. Research shows women often receive very little or unclear feedback – the same for men and women of colour. We can use this as a powerful tool to change our organisations, build confidence, open up talent pipelines more. It is about giving people careful attention and encouragement even if they are shy about taking it. They might well be so as they have become used to cultures of negative criticism being focussed on them : judgements about how women look (too old, too young, too frumpy, too sexy) how they talk ( too assertive, too bossy, too shy), racist low expectations of black men and women found in parts of our education and work systems and microaggressions in the workplace, a focus on what people with disabilities can’t do rather than what they can do.. and more. Feedback to encourage and grow people should become day to day currency of management communication. The policing style of talking to people only when they have done something wrong should be something of a previous millennium.
Feedback can be as small as a smile and thank you to a young black man for his work in the local garage. It can be a continuous flow of praise and specific feedback over a number of years to develop a new cohort of women leaders.
Things to remember about giving feedback.. :
- be specific so that the person knows what they can do more of to do a good job,
- be sincere
- choose a time when the person can listen properly and understand what you are saying,
- be prepared to explain what you mean if they have a question,
- explain to your employees it is something you want to do regularly as part of your way of working,
- tell them about your intention to give them a maximum of positive feedback to encourage them.
It will enable people to learn and perform better and you will feel good too!
Have a great week!
#feedback #motivation #learning #culture change #diversity #inclusion