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The Power of Positive Feedback



-By Annie John


Team member: “My leader only talks to me when I have done something wrong! When I do something good, the usual comment is ‘It’s your job’”.


Sounds familiar?


If so then chances are as a leader you are not giving your team members enough positive feedback and as a team member yourself, you may not be receiving any positive feedback either.


During a focus group conducted with different levels of leaders as part of a culture survey within my organisation, leaders at each level revealed that they did not give positive feedback to their team members because they themselves did not receive positive comments from their respective senior leader.


Hence a chain reaction of giving only negative or constructive feedback had settled into the culture!


This was creating a demotivated and less engaged workforce because their self-confidence was being chipped at with every ‘constructive’ interaction.


As leaders we cannot underestimate the power of positive feedback in boosting the morale and motivation of team members.


In one Gallup poll, researchers discovered that 61% of employees who hear about their strengths from supervisors are actively engaged at work. Among employees whose supervisors focus on weaknesses, that number goes down to 45%. Faring worst were the employees who felt ignored altogether—only 2% of them were engaged.


Why do leaders avoid giving praise? Reasons could be several:


  1. The belief that if team members are praised they will become lax, lazy and not perform to the optimum.

  2. The belief that it is a sign of weakness to praise team members.

  3. Often procrastinating giving positive feedback because it is not as urgent as constructive feedback.

  4. Could be emulating a prior boss who gave little praise but pointed out mistakes or weaknesses.


Giving positive feedback is quite simple. It’s okay to be brief, but it needs to be specific, rather than a general remark of “good job.” The feedback must connect to an impact and it must be provided in a timely manner, ideally soon after the praise-worthy incident. Finally, feedback must also be sincere and genuine or heartfelt.


For example: “Julie, your efficient and accurate handling of all the processing work while John was on sick leave has been a great help to the team and also helped us meet the delivery deadline. Thanks so much for helping out.”


The above example follows the Situation – Behaviour – Impact model of feedback, where situation is ‘when John was on sick leave’; behaviour is ‘efficient and accurate handling of all the processing work ’; and Impact is ‘great help to the team and meeting the delivery deadline’.


Often positive affirmations such as “I agree with that” or “That’s a terrific idea” or “Thank you for…” also goes a long way in building trust and confidence within the teams.


Now does that mean you don’t give constructive feedback at all to team members? Certainly not. There is merit in providing both types of feedback. The idea is to maintain the right balance of positive and constructive feedback. In a recent TED Talks, Bill Gates said, “We all need people who will give us feedback, that’s how we improve.”


Let’s look at an example of constructive feedback:


Leader: “Paul, I’ve noticed that you were not able to complete the task on time and we have had to extend the time lines to accommodate the delay. What happened?”


Paul: “Accounts department delayed the reports and so I couldn’t complete my work on time.”


Leader: “I can understand that”. “What could you have done differently to ensure you got the reports from Accounts on time?”


Paul: “I should have escalated the matter to the Manager. That would have got things moving.”


Leader: “Absolutely! Let’s do that next time! Thanks Paul.”


The above example also follows the Situation – Behaviour – Impact model of feedback but with two additional steps. One is to ask an open ended question to understand what happened, and the second is to get the team member to look for an alternate course of action to avoid a future recurrence of the problem.  This way you show concern as well as an openness to help the team member learn from their mistake.


The results of another popular study shows that the ratio of positive comments to negative ones is a key indicator of team success. The highest-performing teams averaged 5.6 positive comments for every negative one, while the lowest-performing had almost three negative comments for each positive one.


How revealing is that?


So now that you are all caught up on the power of positive feedback and how to give some effective feedback what are you waiting for?


Go out there and appreciate a few of your team members for a job well done and sit back and enjoy the energy and enthusiasm of the team. Chances are the team may even give you some positive feedback themselves!


Good Luck!


About the author: Annie John is a Leadership trainer and coach with a leading airline company based in UAE. She holds a Master of Science degree in Performance Management and Workplace learning and is passionate about creating effective and collaborative workplaces.


About UV Consultants: At UV Consultants, we focus on providing ‘Unique Value’ to our customers through Customized Training Solutions and Focused Coaching to Individuals and Corporates.


To discuss your training requirements, please write to contact@uvconsultants.com or call +971-4-8525752.