Giving Good Feedback which Motivates Employees

Giving feedback is important. For agile organizations it is an essential part of the methodology applied. There are several meetings that focus on continuous improvement and giving and receiving feedback, e.g. the sprint retrospective. Yet, giving feedback is rarely practiced in real life.

Even though it might be obvious – why again do we need feedback in the first place?

Here are some facts and benefits about feedback for you:

  1. An organizational psychologist (Dr. M. Losada) found in his research that high performing teams actually give more positive than negative feedback. The ratio is about 6:1. Now – how often do you give (or get) positive feedback to your colleagues or employees?
  2. Good feedback results in higher employee engagement. Studies found that two thirds of the most engaged and effective employees are getting positive feedback from their managers
  3. Feedback focused on strengths improves employee productivity within teams by enhancing their strong skills and abilities.
  4. Enhancing one’s strengths was also found to result in lower turnover rates. Gallup found that employees stay longer within a company if they receive strength focused feedback regularly.
  5. As a result of higher productivity and engagement, positive feedback also creates greater profitability.

Even though there are a number of benefits, as mentioned above, feedback is rarely practiced or applied in the long-term in actual work life. And even when people receive feedback, studies showed that most of them do not use the lessons learned during daily work.

Many people rather think of feedback as ‘I did something wrong’ or ‘somebody doesn’t like my work’. Why is that?

Well, a lot of people do not celebrate small wins. Feedback is not only about (constructive) criticism, it is also about complimenting someone for a great job (though simply saying ‘you did a great job’ won’t do it). Feedback results in a negative resonance within our thinking, because it is mostly used in negative ways in real life. Feedback is about telling someone what you think about their performance. Why do we only tell people if we dislike their outcome? You should compliment someone on wins, too, and give positive feedback as well.

This is e.g. why regular feedback sessions (as in agile frameworks) can be a useful tool. By regularly giving feedback it might be easier to include positive comments, too. You can even apply simple techniques such as requesting one good and one ‘improvable’ aspect of the team’s work and thereby, not only requesting points of improvement but also enhancing positive feedback. Or simply leave the team alone during the feedback session, and if there is nothing bad to say they might start realizing that there are good things which could be indeed mentioned instead of being silent for 30 minutes…

However, not everything is always going great and sometimes you need to engage in constructive criticism. This often results in negative emotions. Why? Because e.g. people’s feedback is too personal instead of straight and objective or the feedback given is off topic.

There are certain guidelines for providing one another with good, effective feedback even if the message behind is addressing someone’s weak spots:

  1. Give reasonable feedback. Don’t make things up or your feedback loses credibility and power.
  2. Create a safe space. This also means stay objective. Getting personal barely makes anyone feel good about what you’re saying. By focusing on their effort and appreciating them you further encourage a growth mindset which builds the base for future learning and growth.
  3. Stay related and specific. Don’t drift off or unload a bunch of stuff you always wanted to say. Feedback should be related to the topic at hand.
  4. Be positive. Don’t only mention the negative aspects. Phrase it in a positive but determining manner. Also give a little compliment first, and maybe a nice confident boost in the end. For example: “You’re smart but pretty quiet during meetings. I would appreciate you talking more, I am sure you got a lot of beneficial insights to contribute.”
  5. Say it now. If time is passed on too long, the feedback does not relate to the situation anymore and might come off like a late hit. Tell people immediately what they can improve so they actually have a chance to grow.
  6. Listen and consider the other person’s thoughts. Feedback is not universally applied in the same form to every person. Listen to the person’s fears and be open to them to manage them together. Tailor your feedback to the person you are speaking to.
  7. Lead by example. Ask for feedback first and accept it. That can help people open up to hearing come constructive criticism as well.
  8. Give examples. Being too vague can cause frustration and confusion. However, avoid pointing fingers by saying ‘last week, you did…’. Formulate your examples based on objective facts or use ‘I feel like’ instead of ‘you did’.

By considering these 8 points you can not only improve the quality of your feedback but also help people grow and improve their performance. Of course, following these guidelines does not guarantee success. In the end they are simply guidelines for good feedback, yet the receiver needs to accept it. However, by understanding the difference of good and bad feedback you take a first step into creating a more learning and productive workforce.

Good Luck with trying them out 😉

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