Tailor your feedback and praise to the unique motivations of your coworkers and employees. Provide feedback from a source that is most meaningful to them. For example, if feedback from customers is most influential, consider posting a picture of the recognized employee with a prized customer; if feedback from you is most motivating, tell the employee privately why he or she is such a valued member; if feedback from peers is most meaningful, celebrate publicly the person’s achievements.
Targeting the type of feedback you provide reveals your attentiveness to your audience’s needs and uniqueness. As a result, you will more likely motivate the coworker or employee to seek continuous improvement opportunities.
When providing feedback to a colleague or co-worker, frame problem areas as “opportunities for continuous improvement” and link them to something that is motivating to the person. For example, instead of saying, “You need to work on your spelling and grammar”, try “I know you’re interested in continuously improving and being viewed as a consummate professional; one opportunity is to focus on proper grammar usage and spelling. For example…”
This positive orientation accomplishes several things: 1) it communicates your belief that the person is motivated by continuing to attain a higher level of performance and 2) it links the area of improvement to attaining a personal aspiration.
Routinely recognize employees for their contributions. Recognition can take the form of an expression of appreciation or a sincere pat-on-the-back. As the best-seller One-Minute Manager suggests, “catch” employees doing the right things and tell them. In fact, our research shows that over 40% of employees are dissatisfied with the amount and quality of daily feedback.
The daily pat-on-the-back may do more good than the most carefully planned appraisal interview. Rewards and recognition are critical components to having “engaged” employees. Research reveals that employees who feel connected and involved in the organization—vs. those who are “pleasantly plateaued”—are more productive and contribute more value to their company’s bottom line.
When providing feedback, focus on specific behaviors rather than personality traits. For example, instead of saying, “You are very stubborn” (a personality trait), try “During meetings, you might consider listening more carefully to other peoples’ ideas and suggestions. You could look at them while they talk and even try to restate their opinion rather than your objections.”
Discussing personality traits, which are often viewed as unchangeable aspects of an individual, creates defensiveness and an unwillingness to change. On the other hand, you can change behaviors through skill-building.
When providing performance feedback, be specific and descriptive when making evaluations. For example, instead of saying, “Excellent report”, consider, “Excellent report. I appreciate the thoroughness of your research.”
The descriptive comment reinforces what is valued and is more likely to influence the employee’s future behavior. It also reveals that the co-worker or manager pays attention to the employee’s performance.
Think like a coach when conducting a performance appraisal. Coaches focus on continuous improvement and elevating the performance of their players. Begin with, “We’re here to enhance your performance and contributions to the team”, instead of “We’re here to conduct your annual performance appraisal” (sigh).
60% of employees are dissatisfied with the performance feedback system in their organization. The underlying problem is that some appraisers avoid the process, while others sugar-coat the results. Successful appraisers don’t view a performance appraisal as a burden, but as an educational opportunity to maximize the individual’s contributions to the organization.
When criticizing an employee’s work, begin with positive and clarifying comments. You can frame the initial criticism by suggesting that perhaps your instructions weren’t clear. For example, you might begin by stating, “You’ve been doing a nice job with the arrangements for the quarterly meeting. Maybe I haven’t made it clear that you’re also responsible for managing media relations. Lately I’ve found that the media have not been contacted about important events and developments….”
Relaying negative news demands a delicate balance of maintaining goodwill while presenting the problem. Starting with a positive statement creates a more conducive atmosphere so the criticism will seem less like a one-sided attack. The positive words, though, should build a motivating platform, not sugar-coat the criticism.