How often do you provide positive feedback compared to negative feedback? And in what way do you provide that feedback? When it comes to team development, delivering feedback can make the difference between a team that just does their jobs vs. a team that is excited to excel.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we dish out praise nonstop. Nor does it mean that our feedback to team members should always be “constructive,” lest some of them begin to think that your compliments are always tinged with criticism (even if you mean to correct, not criticize).
Finding a balanced way to give feedback takes time but is well worth the effort. It starts with awareness of how you’re delivering feedback now.
For example, a colleague of mine told me he used to deliver negative feedback to employees by going outside for a walk with them. While he thought that this was a discreet way to deliver negative feedback, he found out later that his team dreaded the words, “Let’s go for a walk,” because it always meant they were about to get bad news.
On the other hand, a team leader at one of my seminars told me that when she was a new employee, her supervisor constantly praised her, even for routine tasks that she did over and over. After a while, she said, the constant praise was confusing as she felt that she never knew where she really stood in terms of performance.
Make a conscious effort to deliver praise or positive feedback when it is most warranted. Surpassing a goal? Heck, yeah. That’s a perfect time to cheer the team’s efforts. But what about in the middle of a push toward a project benchmark? If you’re not sure whether positive feedback is warranted, keep this little adage in mind: Behavior that is rewarded is behavior that is repeated.
Remember that. When a team member performs a task or meets a goal in a way that is worth repeating, call out that success. For example: “Callie and Mark collaborated on the problem we were having with a bug in the code, and put in extra hours after their shift was over to test out their idea. They helped the team get through this coding sprint on time, and they deserve a hand.”
Even if the team members didn’t solve the problem completely, they demonstrated initiative and worked together to try and find a solution, and those are behaviors you want to encourage among the team.
Giving negative feedback, of course, is more difficult. There are many ways to do it – and every company’s HR department has guidelines for providing negative feedback at different levels. We’ll talk about that in another post.
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