The thing about ‘reinforcing feedback’ is that everyone needs it. Not just individuals who are under-performing, but all-star performers, outside vendors, and everyone in between. Anyone with whom we interact in the course of the workday can benefit from reinforcing feedback. Even the most consistent performers need us to recognize and affirm their performances.
Keep in mind that it takes courage to give reinforcing feedback. If we put aside our own insecurities and recognize someone for a job well done, we are delivering a strong message: “I am confident enough in myself that I can openly praise someone else.”
And, we must be sincere in our feedback. Only give it if it’s well deserved, and not to manipulate another person. Insincere feedback is ineffective. It causes us to lose credibility, and may cause the other person to become cynical about our feedback.
We have worked successfully with clients on the three steps to giving effective reinforcing feedback:
Step 1: Give a clear descriptive feedback statement.
Positive feedback is not smiling and saying “Great job!” That’s a good start, but it won’t last. You will be more effective if you let the person know very specifically what behavior you value so he or she can repeat it in the future. For example, “That presentation you designed was well thought-out and well executed. I appreciated your attention to detail in how you created the slides.”
Step 2: Indicate the positive effect or impact of the behavior on the organization.
We can’t ever assume someone knows why an action was good or important. Clarify, clarify, clarify! Be as specific as possible in explaining what happened as a result of the behavior. For example: “Because you anticipated questions and planned the presentation so effectively, we showcased our abilities so well and landed the account.”
Step 3: Give a personal reaction.
Sharing our feelings and showing emotion about a situation is equally as important as making the feedback statement. An employee may not fully grasp the importance of his or her behavior and impact – it’s just data and information. We need to touch on the emotions to drive the point home. For example, “I’m excited about what landing this new clients means for our department’s success!”