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Feedback ~ The Positive and Negative principles.

Today’s business world demands that leaders and managers have the ability to assist their employees to adapt to the constant changes in technology and workplace practices. In fact, being able to assist team members through this process is a critical skill for effective leadership. It’s about developing the ability to change your influence in order to guide other people’s behaviour.

One of the most effective tools in behavioural change is the use of feedback.
In fact, through the use of feedback you can have a significant impact on other’s behaviour, attitude and results.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
– Bill Gates

Different types of feedback

There are three distinct feedback scenarios:

  1. Positive feedback

Positive feedback recognises positive behaviour and reinforces positive behaviour.

  1. Negative feedback

Negative feedback is directed at unacceptable activities or behaviours and stops negative behaviour.

  1. No Feedback

A lack of feedback is just as powerful an influence on people’s behaviour as either positive or negative feedback.  For example, people who are not receiving any form of recognition or feedback will often resort to negative behaviour, making mistakes or causing trouble as a result of being disheartened by lack of feedback.
Lack of feedback creates a psychological vacuum in people’s minds.  When they don’t receive feedback, they don’t believe that their leader or managers are concerned or invested in what they are working on.  They feel they hold no value in their leader’s eyes.  Attention is often gained by doing something wrong rather than by doing something well.  In the absence of feedback people will often move to doing things differently or incorrectly.

Which type of feedback is most effective?

Both positive and negative feedback are effective if you use them in the correct manner and at the right time.

  • Negative feedback can be used to keep a team member from repeating negative behaviour but does not necessarily contribute to the substitution of a positive behaviour to replace the negative one.
  • Positive feedback, on the other hand, reinforces desirable behaviour. Immediate and positive recognition for positive performance will motivate an employee to want to repeat the behaviour.  Leaders can create a cycle of productive behaviour by recognising positive behaviour which encourages further positive behaviour and positive feedback. This creates a continuous improvement process.

How to use positive feedback?

To achieve the best results through positive feedback, follow these principles:

  1. Ensure the positive feedback you are providing is unconditional.  Don’t provide recognition and then take it away, i.e., “That’s a terrific sales record you’ve achieved this month Larry.  Can you see now how you could have done that previously?”
  2. Ensure that the feedback is genuine.  False praise has the opposite effect and is de-motivating.  Always ensure that the feedback you are giving is open, honest and genuine.
  3. Enhance the feedback.  Encourage the person to talk about their accomplishment and let others know how well they did.
  4. Share the recognition for the person’s accomplishment with other team members.
  5. Be clear and specific when giving positive feedback. Telling the person exactly what it is that you are recognising.  Then tell them why you like it.
  6. Finally ask the person a question about their accomplishment, i.e., “Jenny, what did you do to achieve such a great outcome?”  This gives the person a chance to explain how they achieved the result and also to re-live the experience.

When you are clear and specific with your feedback, people understand the behaviour that is being recognised and are likely to repeat it.  Some tips for effective communication can be found here and applied to your feedback principals.  Further processes and tips can be utilised from our courses should you decide to up skill your performance.