Using Constructive Praise

Hands giving 'thumbs up' signMost of us recognise that giving and receiving feedback is a difficult task and one that we need to get better at.  But a number of recent surveys by Zenger Folkman suggest that up to 44% of us find it stressful to have those difficult conversations, the ones we need to have when our people have not quite met our expectations, behaved poorly or not delivered on the agreed outcomes. To make matters worse, the same surveys suggest that because of the stress involved, around 20% of leaders avoid giving any feedback to their people.  By failing to have these difficult conversations we are not meeting the responsibilities of our roles as leaders. We are not providing accurate and timely feedback that will enable our people to be successful and grow as individuals and as members of the team.

The result so these studies were identified in a recent bog by Leah Fessler, Good managers give constructive criticism, but truly masterful leaders offer constructive praise.  The author identified an even more alarming trend in her blog.  She stated that up to 40% of leaders are failing to recognise and provide feedback on the positive outcomes and behaviours of their people.  It is suggested that the vast majority of us are still underestimating the power of feedback and the value it can provide to the individual and the organisation alike.

There is no doubting the power of effective feedback. Feedback delivered in a timely manner is such a simple way to connect with and motivate your people. So why are so many of us still shying away from providing this valuable feedback?  The research conducted by Zenger and Folkman is suggesting that some of the major reasons we are not providing positive feedback are:

*The provision of positive feedback will create the illusion of close relationships that can make it difficult in the future if disciplinary processes need to be utilised.

*Positive feedback can be seen as insincere and misleading.

*The provision of feedback will be seen by some as sign of weakness.

*The feedback will be interpreted as providing a judgement on that particular person.

While these perceptions may exist, we as leaders need to work hard at getting better at providing feedback in a timely and positive manner.  Once we recognise the power of feedback, we can then employ a simple formula for providing any type of feedback.  That formula has been around for a long time and involves being specific about the situation, identifying the behaviour or outcomes you observed and discussing the impact of that behaviour of outcome.  It is a universal formula can be used for behaviours or outcomes that have met your expectations or where the behaviours of outcomes have not met with your expectations. The more specific you are about the behaviours or outcomes and the impact they have had, the better.  You are trying to influence the behaviours and skills of those you are leading and they need details and specifics if they are to develop sustainable changes into the future.

We know that in order to an effective leader, we need to have an emotional connection with those that we lead.  The provision of timely and effective feedback is one way of making that connection and enhancing the levels of trust between yourself and those that you lead. As Professor Steven Levitt said’ ‘he key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it.’  So help your people grow by providing timely effective feedback.

Happy Leading!