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Provide Feedback - Be Specific - Help Employees Be Better

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

When providing feedback, it is important to focus on the positive as well as the negative. In fact, change the words positive to praise and negative to re-direct. These terms come from The New One Minute Manager and both clearly say what you are doing. This article from The New York Times states, “Too often...we forget the purpose of feedback - it’s not to help employees feel better [or worse], it’s to help them do better." The notion of feedback often causes feelings of unease and anxiety. By praising more than re-directing, the feedback becomes constructive, rather than something to be feared. One of IBM’s general managers states in this article from Inc., “I try to give seven positive [praise] reinforcements for every negative [re-direct] comment.” Praise Early and Often:

  • Praise the behavior you want to continue to see. By catching them doing something right, you are reinforcing positive performance.

  • Be prompt. Don’t wait to praise your teammate on something they did two weeks ago. Do it right away.

  • Be specific. Tell your teammate what was done well in precise terms. Don’t just say “Good job!” Let them know exactly what they did well. “That report was well thought out and very clear. I know you spent a lot of time on it.”

  • Tell them how they contributed to the overall project, mission of your organization, or a core value they supported.

  • Use different medium. Don’t just send texts. Mix it up by meeting in-person, send an email or even a quick handwritten note.

Re-Directing is Teaching, Not Reprimanding:

  • Re-directing is an opportunity for your employee to learn, not a scolding.

  • Always do it in-person or video, never via e-mail or text.

  • Be prompt. Don’t wait to re-direct on something they did a week ago. Do it as quickly as possible when the two of you can be together, but not in front of others. And if you are upset, wait until you have calmed down.

  • Make sure you were clear on your initial instructions. Oftentimes people make mistakes because they weren’t trained properly, or the directions were confusing.

  • Be specific. Review the steps from our blog Keeping It Professional When Things Get Personal

  • Allow time for conversation. Sometimes discussing the specifics of the issue can lead to a learning moment for the employee and for you.

  • Clarify next steps. Be specific on what you’ve agreed on. How things will be done differently.

  • Leave the conversation stating your confidence in the person and schedule time to reconnect in a week or two so you can provide praise on the subject.

Remember that the number one reason most people leave their job is not because of the company or the work; it’s because of their boss. Providing specific praise and re-direction is one of the best ways to retain top talent, making your job easier and a lot more fun.

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