Giving positive feedback seems so simple on the surface, but you'll often find it's not always easy to praise employees or sales people in ways that will leave lasting impressions. And, because your goal here isn't to correct bad or negative performance, many feel that there isn't any harm in not mastering the art of giving kudos. Meaning, if they "fail" at giving praise, the worst that can happen is that top performers keep performing at high levels, and everyone goes on their merry way.
Think about the whole idea of extinguishing behavior. If someone continuously hits their goals, is a great team player, and is a steady example from which other employees should learn, but yet, they aren't receiving positive feedback, it's only natural for them to stop performing at such high levels. Just as detrimental, even if they continue being a star employee, they might be seeking to fill that role with another company. Motivation is important, and it can easily dwindle if the right signals aren't being sent.
So, when it comes to giving feedback, I have a few general recommendations: Be direct and don’t exaggerate; and that goes for both positive and negative feedback. In addition to these basics, it's helpful to keep the following examples in mind:
Examples of How to Give Positive Feedback
1. Use facts, not hearsay: Base your positive feedback on factual events. Stick to what you have observed and know, not on rumors or information that you've received secondhand. For example, "I really like the way you took control of that meeting. It was obvious things were going awry, but because you stepped in and got everybody back on track, we were able to walk away accomplishing all of the items on the agenda."
2. Share the right details: Focus on the specific details (the big ones that matter), not all the other noise, but the specific thing you're giving feedback on. When you're straightforward, it's easier for the person you're talking to to understand precisely the behavior they should continue to exhibit. In the example above, if the goal of the positive feedback was to praise the employee for making the most out of the meeting, that fact could have been easily lost if feedback was mixed in with praise for preparing adequately, or amongst negative feedback that they should've stepped in sooner.
3. Show authenticity: "Good job" isn't positive feedback. Not only is it not detailed enough to encourage repeated behavior, but it displays the lack of conviction needed to make encouraging words really stick. For example, something like "I know it took you hours to prepare for that presentation, and it really shows. The way you were able to adequately touch on all relevant points, while keeping everyone engaged and interested made this a success. This is important because they should now be motivated to apply your main points to their everyday activities."
4. Illuminate the big picture: Explain the big picture and how employee actions impact it. How does employee behavior affect individual or group goals? When you illuminate the ways that their tasks link up with the company's larger goals, it's easier for them to understand just how powerful their actions were (and can be). For instance, when you look at the above examples, all of the statements feature a "because" statement. It's not that the employee just did a good job, but it's because of their good job were they able to achieve XYZ.
5. Spread the love: Sure, you will always have some employees who consistently outperform others. But even so, don't operate with blinders. While it might be more difficult to pinpoint positive behavior in certain employees, it's an activity worth your time. There is a fine line between an employee performing at the expected average versus one who could easily become disengaged should their positive contributions go unnoticed.
6. Be immediate: Give feedback immediately after the event prompting the feedback, as soon as time allows. Being immediate ensures your employee precisely remembers the action being referenced, and of course, decreases the chances that you forget to give the feedback. If you fail to offer positive feedback in a timely manner, your employee might be left thinking that the positive behavior was in fact something that wasn't appreciated or valued.
7. Focus on behavior: Keep it specific to their behavior, and don't let your own views distort the specifics. With all feedback, you want to be genuine. If employees feel their praise is being manufactured or is false, it might leave them feeling worse than they would have had you not said anything at all. Not to mention the frustration you're creating in the eyes of others witnessing false praise.
8. Pick and choose: Even though you want to be immediate with feedback, you also want to make sure you're not giving too much. Thus, you'll want to reserve your words for times of maximum impact. If not, you run the risk of greatly watering down your remarks, causing employees to lose focus of which specific behaviors are ones worth congratulating.
9. Confirm: As you end the discussion, confirm that the person you're talking to understands your feedback. This doesn't have to be as formal as you asking if your employee understands what you're telling them, but just make sure they hear and process what you're saying. To help in this regard, try and pass along feedback in private, one-on-one, to minimize other distractions.
10. Verify: It might be natural for some employees to "take the next one off" after receiving positive feedback. Meaning, if an employee does a great job with a certain activity, and you give them praise, they might feel they can slack a little bit the next time around. So, verify the desired behavior continues, and doesn't change or drop off once positive feedback is received.
How do you provide feedback to employees? Tweet @Xactly and share your tips!