by Amanda Dreher
When we hear the words “difficult conversations” we often default to the assumption that this is a conversation focused on conflict or correction. In reality, however, both negative and positive interactions can be difficult. One of the most challenging conversations to have can be that of feedback, both positive and negative. Positive feedback is often overlooked or forgotten.
Leaders may feel that their people will intuitively know when things are going well. As a result, the amount of feedback tends to diminish when things are good. On the other hand, corrective feedback is equally as difficult to give. When someone’s work, behavior or choices need correction it is challenging for the recipient as well. But developing tools for navigating these difficult conversations can transform these challenging situations from conflicts to be avoided into opportunities to be embraced. Try these tips for both positive and corrective feedback.
Positive feedback can easily be forgotten if it does not get the priority it deserves. Becoming intentional about letting people know what they are doing well can be a powerful tool for employee development, job satisfaction and motivation. A few tips for giving more effective and impactful positive feedback are:
1. Be prompt
Positive feedback is most impactful when it is given as closely to the event as possible. Giving feedback in a timely manner allows you to be more detailed and specific. Quick feedback is also more relevant and sincere. When it comes to positive feedback, there is no time like the present.
2. Be specific
A general "Good job" is always nice to hear, however, it does not give the recipient any information that they can incorporate into their performance. Instead, focus on specific behavior, actions and decisions that the individual made that contributed to the "Job well done." Tell the person exactly why you are praising them.
3. Be consistent
Celebrate both the large successes and the small ones. Of course your feedback and celebration should be relative to the size of the success, but be sure to give it consistently whenever you notice an individual or team success on any scale.
It is also important to give positive feedback consistently amongst all members of your team. Give praise to all team members regularly. This will help to maintain a healthy staff morale.
4. Be sincere
Really mean what you say when you are giving positive feedback. People are very perceptive and will see right through you if your feedback is in regards to a trivial task or delivered in a trivial way. Make an effort to only give positive feedback that you truly believe. The goal here is not just to boost egos or self-esteem, but to give your team members feedback that they can use to continue to improve their performance.
Giving corrective feedback can be a difficult process. However, if done well, giving productive corrective feedback can be beneficial for the employee, the team and the organization. Along with the tips given above for positive feedback, the tips below will help you give corrective feedback that is more productive and impactful.
1. Focus on the future
Focus on improving performance and on the future, rather than spending too much time discussing the past that cannot be changed. Use past actions only to inform the crafting of new strategies for improvement.
2. Focus on behavior
Comment on behavior, not personality or character. Behavior can be changed much more easily than personality, and assaults on character rarely have a positive result because they are much more difficult to talk about objectively.
3. Focus on specifics
Avoid absolutes like always or never. These absolutes can easily be refuted with one example where it wasn't always or never. Instead, point out a specific behavior at specific times and remark on how you perceived that behavior. This leaves the discussion open for understanding intentions behind the behavior, even if it didn't come across that way to you.
4. Focus on achievability
Focus on performance over which the person receiving the feedback has control, like their behavior and their abilities (otherwise you are setting them up to fail).Breaking down the needed improvement into smaller steps that the person can achieve will get a better result than expecting drastic improvements immediately.
5. Focus on improvement
Show them respect as the people they are today, but care enough to not let them stay there. Enlist them in the solution, so they feel more ownership and investment in the outcome.
6. Focus on support
Show you are behind them now, just as they are. Tell them specifically why you believe in them and their capabilities. Let them know that you see great things in their future.