Giving negative feedback is uncomfortable for many leaders, but what is surprising is many don’t like giving positive reinforcement either. Results of a survey published in Harvard Business Review revealed that 37% of leaders don’t give positive feedback. Why is that?
Many supervisors feel that their job should be focused on correcting poor performance and incorrect behaviors, not reinforcing the good ones. Leaders may also see it as a sign of weakness. This is a mistake and probably a result of old-school thinking of management. The truth is, positive feedback has an even bigger impact on employee engagement than negative feedback. A Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, as compared to only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses.
Our own group of internal leaders recently discussed some of the reasons we feel uncomfortable giving positive feedback, and many mentioned that they themselves are uncomfortable receiving praise, which also makes it difficult to deliver. What makes taking a compliment so hard? Sometimes our efforts to be humble make hearing positive things about us rather difficult. This may be related to how we grew up. Other times we don’t believe the positive feedback is sincere or we only want to hear those things that we can improve. Whatever the reason, our feelings about receiving praise often affect our willingness to offer it to others.
The good news is you and the other leaders in your company can turn this around. Giving good positive feedback is simple. Make sure your feedback is:
Specific– Instead of simply saying “good job,” try something like, “Jane, that presentation you gave this morning was well prepared. I was very impressed and know it made the difference in closing that deal.” Sharing the positive impact that the performance had on you, the team, or the company as a whole maximized the impact.
Timely– As we like to say, a soon as you see something, say something. Providing feedback immediately following a great performance or behavior is best.
100% Positive– When offering positive feedback, make sure to keep it 100% positive. Provide coaching at another time. Avoid saying things like, “that presentation was great, but next time can you use a different font?”
Make sure any feedback you give is sincere. Offering praise to simply check a box off your to-do list will actually have a negative impact rather than a positive one.
Like anything, giving feedback becomes easier the more your practice. Start being deliberate about providing positive feedback to your team. Encourage your employees to praise one another as well.