Focus on Coaching: Keys to Positive Feedback

By Matt Zobrist

The first and most powerful type of coaching is positive feedback. Positive feedback consists of praise, appreciation and acknowledgment, given when performance or behaviors meet or exceed standard. This should be the most common type of coaching a leader engages in.

When Positive Feedback is implemented correctly, it creates positive feelings in people about themselves and what they do. We all have the internal desire to be praised, recognized and appreciated. Tapping into that desire through consistently and correctly providing positive feedback is an amazing way to get top performance from your team members. Here are 5 Keys to correctly providing positive feedback

There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Positive Feedback. First off, you cannot tell people too much or too often that they are doing good and are appreciated. Seriously, people will never tire of hearing that kind of stuff and, as long as you are honest and sincere, they will respond and behave in a way to receive more. Also, never underestimate the power of showing appreciation and praise for just “doing their job.” Yes – you should be thanking and praising team members for their work when it meets standard, not only when it goes above it. Simply put, the more you appreciate and praise your team, the better they will become. For more on that, please seem my article entitled “Praise for Standard Performance? Yes!

Do Not Delay. Feedback should be provided as close to the performance/behavior as possible. The closer in time to the actual event praise or appreciation is given, the more important the receiver feels, specifically they feel they are valued by the leader/organization and have made an impact. Delaying may allow intervening behaviors/actions to overshadow the good performance. For example, a leader was going to wait a week to recognizing a team member’s superior performance; however, before she could praise that person, he had a pretty public screw up. When she met with the team member, her positive feedback was immediately eclipsed by the corrective action she had to take. Lastly, there is always the risk you will become too busy and forget to provide it at all.

Do It In Person. Too be most effective, positive feedback must be delivered in the richest method possible, where your tone and non-verbal signals will show that you, as the leader, are really, genuinely pleased with the performance. There is no adequate substitute for this interaction! Never, repeat: NEVER use email as the primary delivery method for positive feedback. Regardless of the content of your email, the fact you chose email conveys to the receiver that you don’t really care. Email can be a good follow-up tool AFTER you have provided positive feedback – even allowing documentation for future reference (i.e., for an evaluation, etc.).

Be Clear, Direct and Specific. Don’t let your message get lost in platitudes or “fluffy” language. Simply tell the team member what they did, why it was worthy of recognition, praise, and/or gratitude. The more specific your feedback, the more impactful it will be. For example: “Jackie, I really appreciated the way you made that client feel special when he came in today. Good work.” Or “Jennifer, you did a really good job presenting that information to the team today.” PRO TIP: If your organization has specified core values, try to tie positive feedback to one or more of your core values. Overall, linking individual performance to organizational values has a compounding effect as the team member sees the his or her actions are in alignment with organizational goals and aspirations.

Provide Positive Feedback Fairly. All team members are craving praise and appreciation (most importantly from their leader) and they all deserve it. Do they all perform at the same level? Of course not. But they all do things worthy of praise and appreciation. Remember: fair does not mean equal. It means everyone will get some positive feedback, no exceptions. It does not mean they will each get the same type though. If someone does a truly outstanding job, they should get outstanding praise and recognition; someone who does just a good job should get an appropriate level of praise. This means you need to ensure positive feedback is consistently provided to all team members. No one gets left out. Focusing all your positive feedback on one person, such as top performers only, can create the appearance of favoritism.

PRO TIP: Praise in public, correct in private is still a true precept, however, not everyone enjoys publicity. As much as you may want to share the praise, to encourage others, respect your team member’s desires and get their permission before any public presentations. You still need to provide direct, specific praise to that person, just not in a public forum.

The next article in this series will focus on some obstacles to providing Positive Feedback, and how to overcome them. Corrective Feedback will be discussed in the subsequent articles, and the last article will cover Training.

I am always looking for additional topics to write about. Please feel free to contact me with comments, questions, request a topic, or provide your stories (I love hearing about your situations). I can be reached at matt@discoveraegis.com.

Matt Zobrist is an energetic and dynamic facilitator, coach, presenter and speaker with Aegis Learning, LLC.

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