Not all feedback is helpful

There is a difference between good feedback and poor feedback. The good news is that positive feedback is proven to drive more positive changes and performance than the negative.

The Corporate Leadership Council paper ‘Building the High-Performance Workforce’ gives powerful data: when leaders focus on improving people’s strengths they are nearly 40% more likely to improve performance. Compare this to when leaders place emphasis on an employee’s weaknesses: they actually create a negative shift in performance by nearly 30%.

This means that people who want to create a highly productive and thriving team need to get good at giving positive feedback at least four times more often than they give constructive feedback. This is contrary to what many of us believe. After all, it’s all about improving our weakness, closing the gaps and lifting our game, right?! Well, yes and no.

If you let people know what they are doing well, then they are likely to repeat the desired behaviours faster and better than if you focus on weaknesses alone. It’s about how we are motivated to change. It’s not just applicable at work, either. We can use this same concept at home.

When I tell my daughter how impressed I am that she apologises when she has been in the wrong and that it is a show of great strength of character, what is likely to happen in the future? Yes, she is likely to (and does) offer apologies when they are deserved. If I told her how poor she is at apologies then the behaviour change would be less likely. Similarly, I let my colleagues and clients know how much I value them getting back to me promptly with emails or phone calls. And surprise, they either get even better or continue to be consistent. (Not all the time, but mostly. Awkward if they are reading this now)

It’s not just the volume of positive to negative feedback that we often get wrong; it’s also the quality. There is a difference between constructive feedback that drives change and the other form, which is praise or criticism that is not helpful and can be damaging.

Feedback that improves performance, drives change and is easily understood is specific and based on tangible observations. Praise and criticism are opinions or vague statements. Yep praise is in there. Praise comes in the form of vague statements such as “You’re fantastic to work with!”, or “I love your reports” or “You’re a great leader”. These are lovely but not helpful to improve performance or productivity because they still don’t know specially what they are good at so they can continue or even amplify it.

To read more about this and becoming a remarkable communicator get your copy of Georgia’s Fixing Feedback.