How effective are you in giving and receiving positive feedback? How do you measure your effectiveness? How do people typically respond to receiving positive feedback from you? How do you typically respond to receiving it from others? How can you further elevate your effectiveness? What difference could elevating these skills make for you, people you interact with, and your company?
As a leader within your organization, you are always influencing how people you interact with perceive themselves and their situation. When you effectively give someone sincere, positive feedback, you influencr how they see themselves, you, their relationship to you, your organization and your corporate culture. Positive feedback when effectively given and received is empowering to both parties. By empower, I mean you expand someone’s experience of their capabilities and choices, and spark them to take action to unleash them. Preliminary indicators that someone is empowered by positive feedback include their words in response, more energy in their voice, a smile and shining eyes. A less common preliminary indicator is tears of acceptance. Everyone wins when leaders within their organization can readily at any moment put on the hat of a coach or a player to effectively give or receive sincere, positive feedback with anyone.
Effective leadership is not simply seeing people for who they already are; for what they have accomplished, and where they have fallen short. Effective leadership is empowering; bringing forth bold, noble, and compelling possibilities for who each person can become. Positive feedback is one tool leaders can use to unleash these possibilities. The sincerity and authenticity that a leader brings to feedback interactions is essential. Employees can readily tell when a leader truly cares about their people and values their ability and untapped potential without any words even being spoken. A leader’s perception of people around them can have either an empowering or a disempowering effect which then reinforces the validity of that leader’s perception.
To be effective in giving and receiving feedback, a leader will want to tap into their capacity to perceive any employee in an empowering way. A leader’s initial perception is not necessarily an empowering one. To quote British parliamentarian Aneurin Bevin “It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realize it, it is we who become the prisoners of the description.” For a leader to approach an employee to give feedback in an effective way, calls for that leader to first see the employee and situation in an empowering way. When you own perceiving as a creative act, then you can tap into your capacity at any moment to see any employee or situation in an empowering way. Owning perceiving as a creative act involves disciplined practice. Leaders can then help team members to see themselves and their work environment in an empowering way.
Here are three assumptions you can utilize to help you effectively give and receive positive feedback. Assumptions are most powerful when they are not spoken. Rather interact with the person you are giving positive feedback to or receiving it from as if these three assumptions are true: 1) Feedback is an awesome gift, a contributions from one member to another. *2) Each person is interested in and capable of giving and receiving positive feedback in an effective way. 3) Positive feedback when effectively given and received is empowering to both parties.
One effective way leaders can elevate their skills to give and receive positive feedback is to utilize step by step processes. I call these step by step processes recipes to acknowledge that there are multiple ways in which a leader can effectively give or receive positive feedback. I invite you to utilize these recipes for as long as they are helpful to you in elevating these skills. Then like any master chef with a cookbook recipe, a leader can readily alter these recipes while ensuring that the feedback is still given or received in a comparable empowering way.
There are eight steps to our recipe for giving positive feedback: 1) Be proactive in giving positive feedback knowing it can be an empowering experience for all parties. 2) Frame your feedback first with what my mentor Eric Lofholm calls an interest creating remark. In other words, make sure you have their attention and they know that you are about to give them positive feedback. For example: “There is something I really want you to tell you.” 3) Speak directly to the person and in the first person. 4) Maintain eye contact as you provide the positive feedback (when culturally appropriate). 5) Communicate your positive feedback with honesty and sincerity. 6) Be attentive as to whether your feedback was heard, understood, and accepted. 7) be attentive to preliminary indicators that you have empowered them. 8) If in doubt as to whether your feedback was empowering, ask them to help you understand their response.
There are five steps to receiving positive feedback: 1) Maintain eye contact (when culturally appropriate). 2) Listen carefully to fully understand. 3) Ask questions only if needed for clarity. 4) Accept positive feedback graciously by your words in response and by allowing yourself to shine. 5) Sincerely thank them.
Leaders can have a profound positive impact upon how people you interact with perceive themselves and their situation. Positive feedback can be a tool for leaders to empower people. Hidden potential can be unleashed. Positive feedback can evoke people to be creative, step outside of their comfort zone, and learn new skills. Sincere, positive feedback can be a means to help someone accept constructive feedback and resolve a performance issue.
I want to share a quick story with you to illustrate the difference positive feedback can make. I led a training session to elevate a management team’s effectiveness in giving and receiving feedback. As an ice breaker, I asked the CEO to sit in a chair in the front of the room to receive positive feedback from each and every member of his leadership team. He squirmed with discomfort at the start. Then as each member of his management team gave him sincere, positive feedback, he began to shine. At the end of the training, the CEO approached me to thank me for the icebreaker. He shared that before this session, he had been questioning his effectiveness as a leader. Then after accepting sincere, positive feedback from all 15 members of his management team, he was back in touch with his effectiveness as a leader.
In conclusion, giving and receiving positive feedback is a learned skill. It is most effective in a culture where constructive feedback is effectively communicated. When both are generously and effectively given and received then passion and performance are unleashed.