The Power of Positive Feedback

“Would you please raise your hand if you’ve received too much positive feedback in your career?”

I pose this question when I train groups on how to give and receive effective feedback. Time and time again, I get the same response from participants—not one person raises a hand. This simple question quickly illustrates a common phenomenon seen in our homes, schools, and workplaces. While we’re often swift to level criticism or “catch people doing things wrong,” we rarely provide effective positive feedback.

Some of us fail to give positive feedback because we simply don’t think about it. In fact, many managers think, “I’m just not the person who gives positive feedback” or “I don’t think I need to tell people they’re doing a good job just because they come in on time or do what they’re supposed to do.” When we think like this, we’re missing a major opportunity to impact our team’s engagement. A survey from Gallup found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths—positive feedback—were fully engaged in their work, as compared to only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses. Employees feel appreciated and more confident when given positive feedback. The Harvard Business Review found that employees who receive positive feedback often give more positive feedback to their peers, which helps improve teamwork, collaboration, and morale. Giving consistent positive feedback also helps build trust, which means people are likely to take in critical or constructive feedback more easily.

We may provide positive feedback, but many of us don’t provide feedback that is effective and impactful. We rely on the simple, “Great job!” or “That was nice!” or “Thank you!” Our intent in delivering this feedback is to be encouraging and helpful, but to those around us these comments may seem vague and meaningless. I often hear from leaders, “I hesitate to give too much positive feedback because it may come across as insincere.” The best remedy for insincerity is specificity. To provide specific, positive feedback that makes an impact, embrace the Situation-Behavior-Impact (or S-B-I) model for giving feedback.

The S-B-I Model

 

  • This model starts with SITUATION. The situation defines where and when something happens and provides context for the other person. For example, “Mike, when we were in our team meeting this morning” or “At the client meeting on Monday afternoon…” When providing positive feedback, tell people exactly when and where they did something right.
  • After you’ve explained the situation, move to BEHAVIOR. Describe exactly what you saw the person do or say. Again, this should be specific. For example, instead of saying, “You seemed really engaged in the meeting,” say, “In the meeting this morning, you really leaned in, asked good questions, and shared your thoughts with the group. I was impressed by your attentiveness and focus.”
  • Finally, talk about the IMPACT of the person’s behavior. Use “I” statements to describe how the other person’s action has affected you or others. When people know the impact they’ve made, they are more likely to repeat the behavior. This might sound like, “I’m proud to see you so engaged in our team meetings because it sets the example for some of our newer team members. Your willingness to share your thoughts opens the door for more people to provide input and it really helps me get a feel for where everyone stands on an issue.”

Would you rather hear from your manager, “Great job in today’s meeting!” or “When we were in our team meeting this morning, you really leaned in, asked good questions, and shared your thoughts with the group. I was impressed by your attentiveness and focus. I’m proud to see you so engaged in our team meetings because it sets the example for some of our newer team members. Your willingness to share your thoughts opens the door for more people to provide input and it really helps me get a feel for where everyone stands on an issue.”

The next time you see someone doing something right, say something! Positive feedback should be given as soon as possible. Challenge yourself to adopt the Situation-Behavior-Impact model when providing positive feedback. Consistently providing effective positive feedback will make a difference on your team and you’ll make an impact on the people around you. My hope is that if I asked your employees to raise their hands if they’ve received too much positive feedback, I will see many hands in the air!

Libby Ehrig is a Facilitator at ATW Training Solutions. She can be reached at libby@atwtraining.com.  ATW can be reached at www.atwtraining.com.


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