Don’t Forget the Positive

It’s a well-known fact that managers are the translators of corporate messages. They take the vision and goals set by senior leaders and translate them to the employees for dissemination and achievement.


That being said, it’s not surprising when managers focus on the gaps in performance that could prevent the company’s goals from being met. But in an effort to ensure that all teams are performing at their highest effectiveness and productivity, the identification and reinforcement of positive behaviors that enables high performers to be high performing, sometimes gets forgotten.


Providing positive feedback such as praising a productive employee or rewarding a job well done can be difficult for both new and experienced managers. Perhaps managers who are uncomfortable with this had leaders in the past who were hesitant to offer praise and positive feedback.


But the effects of not giving positive feedback can be detrimental to any team. Good behaviors that are not reinforced, can slowly disappear. In addition, employees who aren’t given that praise or reward for a job well done might replicate that same behavior when they become managers.


Giving good feedback reinforces the fact that good performance and the behavior behind it is being noticed, contributes to the success of the team and should continue.


So how does one give positive feedback? The first thing that any manager should do is observe the team and look for positive behaviors with the same amount of focus that they do with performance gaps. The manager should engage in direct observations, meaning that the employees know and understand they are being observed and for what reason. Indirect observations, in which the employee is not made aware, should also be used and might include using systems tools, reports and employee interactions to gather information. It is important for managers to document these observations, just as they should document them when employees exhibit behaviors that need improvement or should be changed.


The manager should then link the behavior to the specific situation in which it was observed so the employees can visualize themselves in that situation. The impact that this behavior has on the team, the company and the customer should be discussed so that the reason why this behavior should continue is reinforced. The best practice here is for the manager to question the employee about the situation and the effect of the positive behavior so that the manager is creating an environment of self-discovery for the employee.


Finally, the discussion should center on ways that the employee can continue this behavior, not only in the same situation, but in others. Again, this should be done by enabling the employee to self-discover these ways through questioning. By doing all of this, the employee now has a positive reason to continue to exhibit this behavior. If managers adopt this “self-discovery” intent with all their employees, the outcome should be a feedback-rich environment and members who actively, constructively and freely seek and offer feedback.


In this fast-paced world, thought should be given to providing positive feedback as well as the feedback used to correct undesirable behavior. This positive feedback shouldn’t be reserved for one-on-one meetings with employees. Positive feedback should also be given in the moment it is observed. When this happens, managers can be assured that they are balancing their efforts to coach their team to success. This is truly the job of an effective manager.



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