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Power of Positive Feedback

You can predict the outcome of an employee’s performance based on what you reinforce!

Believe me?  Here’s why.

If you only or mostly catch me doing things wrong and correct me, I’ll give you more wrong behavior.

If you only or mostly catch me doing things right and complement me, I’ll give you more right behavior.

So -as amazing as it sounds one of the assurances in high productivity is letting people know when they are doing things right.

If you tell me I’ve done something good, I’ll feel the need to live up to that complement.

If you tell me I’ve done something bad, I’ll feel the need to live down to your opinion of me.

One of the basic drivers of humanity is the need to be appreciated. As important as negative feedback or feedback for improvement is over time when that is mostly what an employee receives it will deteriorate the relationship and output.

We can see this played out on two reality shows: Dancing with the Stars and American Idol. When a judge gets a reputation for being consistently negative, participants want to please that judge very much . . . to a point. At some point, the consistency of the negativity leads participants to feel that there is no point in trying to please that judge because he/she is never going to give positive feedback.

Likewise when a judge consistently gives positive feedback, contestants want to please the judge consistently. They want to do better each week so the judge will notice.

Do you want to encourage or discourage? Do you want to be a cheerleader or a brow-beater?

Charlie is the manager of a large company and his habit of giving feedback is the old sandwich approach: Tell them something good, tell them something bad, and then tell them something good. Charlie doesn’t see a lot of happiness in response to his good words or a lot of improvement in response to his feedback for improvement. He wonders about it sometimes, but so far he’s decided it’s the employees not acting appropriately to his feedback.

Unfortunately people don’t respond well to the sandwich approach. They forget anything good said before the “but” that precedes the feedback for improvement and don’t believe the positive feedback they hear after the feedback for improvement. They also begin to anticipate the “bad” in the sandwich. This makes both positive feedback and feedback for improvement ineffective.

Do you believe people can grow from positive feedback and negative feedback? Why or why not?

I think we usually think negative feedback offers the most opportunity for growth. I agree that when people are presented with specific, timely negative feedback or feedback for improvement and they act on it, we usually see what we call growth. They improve their knowledge and/or skills and become more productive.

Positive feedback also provides opportunities for growth, I contend. When an employee knows that she is doing the right thing and doing it well, she will often look for other places to apply herself and grow. Because the person is doing well overall, we may not see the many ways in which she is growing until it’s time to give an important assignment. When determining who will get the assignment, we look at productivity, ability to learn and apply learning, and find the employee who has been growing because of positive feedback is the right person.

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