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iManage, Issue #30 The Positive Feedback Loop - 3 Steps to Successful Feedback
February 18, 2012


The Positive Feedback Loop - 3 Steps to Successful Feedback

Well considered, constructive feedback leads to better employee performance - which gives more opportunities for giving good feedback - hence a positive feedback loop.

Feedback is an essential tool in the manager's toolkit - but it needs to be handled carefully if you want a good end result. Here are 3 steps to successful feedback:

Step 1: Prepare for Feedback

You want to give feedback on a job well done. Have you explained to your employee what "well done" means? We all see things differently, and what your employee thinks is a good performance may not be what you had in mind. This disconnect happens all the time in business.

So spell out exactly what you expect. Take the time with someone to go through their list of goals, or even their job description. Are there any grey areas? For example, if a customer is not happy, is it OK for the employee to offer a freebie to help repair the relationship?

Set up targets or standards for the employee to aim for. Then your praise can be based on real progress. Praise is a fantastic motivator - and it is free - but it has to be genuine and specific. Less of "you are doing great" and more of "I really liked the way you handled.."

Step 2: Tackle Poor Performance

When your employee is not performing, you have to handle feedback sensitively and with care. Always give negative feedback in private so as not to humiliate the employee. Focus on the task and not the person.

Making attacks on their character, with statements such as "You are too slow" or "you are careless" can cause a lot of ill feeling and are unlikely to get you the result you want.

Use open, probing questions to help the employee recognise and address the issue. For example ""Tell me what happened with that customer just now.." "How could it have been handled it differently?" "What is the learning from that?"

Aim to see things from their perspective and to broaden it if necessary - and that may work both ways.

If there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, face them over a series of meetings so as not to overwhelm the employee, and agree measureable action steps for improvement. Your aim is to show them your concern, not your disapproval - and keep the big picture of why you need a better performance in their mind.

Step 3: Consider Your Approach

Be timely with your feedback and don't store it up for the end of year review. Catch people doing things right on a daily basis and praise them - ideally in front of others.

As well as impromptu feedback, always build in an element of praise in your team meetings and in one to one discussions with your employees.

Watch your body language so that you communicate properly. If you have a worried look on your face, or you don't maintain eye contact, or you allow phone interruptions .. then your message may not be received in the way it was intended.

Do you publicise your successes? Use noticeboards, newsletters and online means to create a positive feedback loop. Grow morale and you will grow business - particularly in recessionary times.

Watch out for our next free webinar, where we will explore how to give successful feedback in more depth.

For detailed advice on employee motivation and performance, download our Motivation in the Workplace Package for a comprehensive, step by step approach with lots of practical tips.

Best wishes

Ann Halloran

Practical Management Skills

Practical management skills advice for business owners and managers. Get best practice tips on a personal development and people management skills such as time management, leadership, communication, managing change and more.

Content based on 30 years management/consultancy experience gained in a wide range of business sectors.

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