If you don’t give feedback, or only rarely (eg. only during Annual appraisals), then your employees get very little encouragement to provide exceptional performance, as the assumption could be that all is fine.  No news is good news?  Although not great for building confidence levels.

Studies have shown that people who received regular praise and recognition increase their personal productivity, improved team cooperation and were more likely to stay in the company.  However, it would appear that the majority of people, when asked, say they receive no recognition at all.

This could be that they don’t “hear” the recognition and only hear the negative feedback.  It’s also been reported that employees react negatively to criticism more than half the time and, unsurprisingly perhaps, react positively to criticism just once out of 13 times.

It’s also worth being aware that the phrase “can I give you some feedback?” can automatically instill anxiety in people (a motivational threat), thinking that this means they’re going to be made to look stupid.

So how do you make sure that the feedback you provide is effective, recognising them for a job well done and helping them understand and learn the new skills to progress going forward?

Throughout my early management career, the recognised way of giving feedback on issues was to hide it in between two positives.  That is, say something positive, say something critical (constructively), then say something positive again.  This was especially noticeable in written appraisals.  However, people can spot that a mile off, and also it’s normal human behaviour to dwell on the negatives and forget the positives anyway.

Now though, what I’ve found works much better is to change your attitude as the leader and feedback provider, to one of genuinely wanting to help, by believing in and listening to people.  Lead your employees with the view that they have all the tools they need to be successful, and will just benefit from exploring their thoughts and ideas with someone.

If you always have that in the back of your mind, you can transform the performance of your employees by asking them questions that can encourage them to discover their own strengths as well as solve their own problems.  This not only provides recognition, but empowers people to take responsibility, learn from mistakes and develop new skills essential to the ongoing success of any team or organisation.  That, to me, is effective feedback.

How about using questions such as these as part of your discussion or appraisal meeting:

  • What did you do well, and what have you learnt about yourself?
  • How could you do more of this?
  • What impact has this had on the project/team?
  • What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Earlier this year a report for DDI by Harris Interactive found that employees would rather suffer a bad hangover, do housework or see their credit card bill arrive than face the prospect of sitting through a performance review with their boss, and only 40% of respondents reported that their boss never damaged their personal self-esteem.

Self-esteem can often be damaged when mistakes happen – people will be extremely tough on themselves (without any encouragement from us) and then have to hear negative feedback from their leader in a way that accentuates the issues and provides little to help them going forward.

There will always be times when someone completely messes up, and needs honest and direct conversations about poor performance, which is timely and fact-based.  However, by changing your attitude as the leader to one who believes in and listens to their employees, you can provide relevant and effective feedback for ongoing development and success through taking on new challenges.  And … hopefully make performance reviews much more enjoyable for all involved as well !!!



  1. admin

    Thanks to William Chadwick on Linked In:
    Good article reflecting the three magic questions and associated arrangements before the feedback meeting that I always use and like to see in place. Attention to the questions AND the arrangements will usually ensure that the person receiving feedback does 60% of the talking with an economy of words and in a structured convivial environment.THANKS KAREN!

  2. admin

    Thanks to Richard Simpson on Linked In:
    There’s something about where the power lies in the feedback process. Some bosses will always put their own self-esteem (as someone with power over others) ahead of the self-esteem of others. I believe those receiving feedback should see the report before the meeting and be allowed to draw their own conclusions as a basis for ensuing discussion. That will help draw some of the sting from the power nexus.

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