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How to Harness the Power of Positive Feedback

Posted by Louellen Essex on February 14, 2021 in Communication, Leadership, Performance Management, Team Development

Study after study tells us that people don’t feel they get enough praise and recognition at work. With more staff members working from home and feeling isolated, the need to be acknowledged is even more acute. It’s easy to feel disconnected and individually unnoticed, given the massive number of virtual meetings, often with cameras off, that many are experiencing. Yet, leaders typically believe they are giving adequate positive feedback and acknowledgement. While they may be giving praise, many times the result has low impact because it lacks the personalization staff members need.

Here is a template you can follow to give praise that feels great to the receiver and motivates high performance.

1. Begin by specifically describing exactly what the person did well.

I thought you handled the…

Your report is well-written…

I was impressed with the way you facilitated a difficult meeting today…

2. Make is personal. The power of praise comes with the examples you use to show you were attentive. Say why you thought the action you are praising was so effective. Examples should tell the other person what to keep doing, i.e., those things that matter most. Caution: Avoid piling up too many examples which can be overwhelming and sound a bit too gushy.

You were calm, responded with reflective statements, and demonstrated empathy about his emotions.

Your report was written concisely and accurately. I liked the way you used charts and graphs to clearly demonstrate the outcomes from each project. Your documentation was excellent, citing credible and well-known sources.

I was impressed with the way you facilitated a difficult meeting today. You stayed on
track and managed time well, while making sure all points of view got heard.

3. Identify the talent. You can boost the impact of your praise, by identifying the talent the behaviors you are praising represent. So often staff members do not have the label to describe what they are good at, so help them identify it. Give them a positive new way to think about themselves.

I think this demonstrates that you are a good communicator under pressure.

Clearly you are a good technical writer.

Group facilitation is one of your talents.

4. Talk about further development. Capture the opportunity to plant the idea that the staff person might consider further developing the talent. Make a note to follow-up later with a more in-depth discussion.

I am wondering if this a skill you would like to further develop…

 I think you should consider developing this talent…

 Don’t throw away the moment.  While it only takes a few minutes to give high impact praise, the return on the investment of your time can make a significant difference in your staff person’s self-esteem and motivation to keep doing praise-worthy work.  And, during these pandemic times, we can all use a little more encouragement.


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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex