Early on in my leadership career a key individual on my team, whom I had hired just two months earlier, asked me if he could speak with me privately.
He asked me for feedback on how he was doing. To which I replied, “Steve, you’re doing fine. Don’t worry, just keep doing what you’re doing and if you aren’t performing to my expectations I’ll let you know.”
What he said next surprised me and became one of the best pieces of feedback anyone ever gave me. “Skip, that’s not good enough for me. I need more consistent feedback from you on what I’m doing well so I can know I’m on the right track.”
Ever since that conversation, which took place about this time of year 16 years ago in 1994, I have given personnel whose performance for which I was responsible consistent positive feedback. It’s amazing how powerful it is and how much it builds trust while improving performance quickly.
Providing regular positive feedback gives a leader the opportunity to direct more energy to the performance areas that they want to continue. It reduces the need for mind reading by the individual and eliminates a feeling of uncertainty thereby much more quickly builiding the confidence of those being led allowing them to continually build on their strengths.
Likewise, when individuals regularly hear feedback on the things they are doing well, it is much easier to provide constructive feedback to direct performance toward improvement in areas where its needed. These constructive conversations no longer take on a negative tone or are controntational in nature because the relationship has been built on a solid foundation of feeling valued.
One other point on ‘positive’ feedback. It’s not just pie-in-the-sky “atta-boys” of things people are doing well. ‘Positive’ feedback can also be constructive, corrective feedback, but there is limited focus on the inappropriate and undesirable behavior with significant time spent on describing the positive, desirable alternative behaviors required.
Specific positive feedback is a process that is taught in two leadership development programs, “Influencing Skills” and “Managing for High Performance & Retention.” Click on those links to learn more about how you can bring those programs into your organization to improve the results of your employees.