Why positive feedback is crucial to high performance

TCii Strategic and Management Consultants
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When did you last tell an employee what a great job he or she is doing? Positive feedback is a critical element in high‑performing workplaces, but many managers don’t feel comfortable giving praise. They say it takes too much time, feels insincere or “too soft”, or just gets in the way of day-to-day activities.

However, they are missing a valuable business-boosting opportunity. Few things will do more to build trust and boost morale among employees than ongoing, sincere, positive feedback.

As human beings, we have an innate need to seek feedback on how we are doing. If we don’t receive it, we tend to make up information to fill the void – and it’s almost always negative. Giving positive feedback: 

  • prevents destructive information gaps
  • strengthens relationships between employees and their supervisors
  • improves the quality of work
  • increases accountability
  • generates a higher‑performing work environment.

Know when and how to compliment your staff

The first principle of positive feedback is knowing when and how to give it. Specifically, you should recognise and praise employees for specific behaviours and accomplishments that exceed the everyday expectations of their jobs.

For example, praise employees when they:

  • turn a difficult customer into a promoter
  • develop or contribute significantly to another colleague’s project
  • create a new process, product or approach
  • present an idea for doing something differently (even if the idea is not implemented)
  • do an exceptional job of influencing internally or externally
  • excel at a presentation
  • participate significantly in a community event on behalf of the company.

Giving positive feedback lets employees know that you’re paying attention. Taking a few moments to express your appreciation of their efforts can have a powerful impact on their self-esteem and their attitudes toward their work and the organisation as a whole.

Making the most of positive feedback

To maximise the effect of your positive feedback, make it:

  • Immediate. Give recognition as soon as possible after the event.
  • Specific. State exactly what the person did that met or exceeded your expectations.
  • Impactful. Explain how the event or behaviour affected you, the team or the organisation.
  • Encouraging. Focus on the positive only. Be appreciative without mentioning other things that might need to change or be adjusted. Save those for times when you are giving the employee constructive feedback.
  • Focused. State the ways in which the performance or action was positive and contributed to success. This will help prevent other messages, often made up, from taking the employee off track.

How not to give feedback

Don’t praise employees for showing up on time or doing the basics of their job. And don’t give positive feedback unless you mean it – otherwise it will come across as insincere, and recipients will wonder what your real agenda is or what you are trying to hide. And the next time you do give sincere praise, it will have far less impact.


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