"Good Job!" How People Respond to Positive Feedback

Published on: 16:01PM Dec 10, 2010

Praise motivates employees and builds confidence. What if you provided high-quality positive feedback at least once a day for the next 21 days?

Achieving superb farm performance requires excellence in both our technical and our people processes.
What people processes, then, do we utilize to ensure that our workforce performance is also outstanding? 
People are different from livestock and crops in three ways:
1.       Emotions -- They have emotions and make judgments, including their motivation level based on those emotions.
2.       Think -- They can learn, think and make decisions.
3.       Speak -- They can talk and ask questions.
You use information from the crop and livestock monitoring to make outstanding decisions. Workforce members (owners, family members and employees) can also use their attributes – emotions, thinking, speaking -- to enhance their current and future performance. To maximize their performance, they must :
a) know the level of their current performance, and
b) understand what they must do to improve performance. 
They require accurate and precise performance feedback.
Providing this feedback requires leaders and supervisors to be proactive – as we are in monitoring crop and livestock performance. It involves two steps:
1.       Just as with crops and livestock, we must observe and monitor the performance of workforce members.
2.       Very different from with crops and livestock, the people attributes – emotions, think, speak – provide the great opportunity to communicate our assessment to the workforce member and work with him or her to improve performance.
The challenge, of course, is to effectively communicate the assessment.
Recall how many times you have provided positive feedback in the last 24 hours. Research by the Gallop Foundation finds that less than one employee in three received positive feedback from their supervisor in the last week. 
I have no doubt that each of us understands the value of positive feedback – compliments, kudos! Why then do we provide so little positive feedback? 
There are two legitimate and solvable reasons:
1.       Most of you were trained to be outstanding crop and livestock problem solvers. Since livestock and crops have little or no response to positive feedback, your training focused on identifying and solving problems. It is only natural to take a similar approach to workforce productivity.
2.       Most adults do not show their true emotional response when provided positive feedback. The apparent neutral or even negative immediate response discourages us from providing additional positive feedback.
Research and my experience from coaching is that adults respond just as positively as children to positive feedback; they just do not show it. Many times managers in discussing their efforts to increase positive feedback have reported that they were not certain that their employees appreciated the positive feedback until they heard from the employees’ spouses.
Why then should we provide positive feedback?
·         Positive feedback is motivating. “Feelings of personal accomplishment” and “recognition for achievement” are two of Herzberg’s motivators.
·         Positive feedback focuses the recipient on success. To be effective in increasing performance, the feedback must be specific, timely and accurate.
·         Positive feedback builds confidence. Since many members of our workforce are young and often pretty insecure, this advantage is powerful.
·         Excellent, specific positive feedback engages the employee in their performance.
The following three-step process for providing positive feedback has proven to provide a level of comfort to the manager providing the feedback and reduced the reticence of the workforce member receiving the feedback:
Step 1: Observe good behavior.
Step 2: Compliment the employee on the positive behavior or performance you desire.
Step 3: State the specific current behavior or performance you are complimenting.
The following is an example for the three steps:
Step 1: You have been stressing the importance of attention to detail. You observe an example of attention to detail by Jack.
Step 2: “Jack, thank you for following through on our emphasis on attention to detail.”
Step 3: “I noticed you going out of your way to remove the leaves that had blown into the alleyways.”
These three steps provide specific feedback that reinforces the behavior or performance you desire and clearly identifies the action that is being rewarded.
I challenge you to provide high quality positive feedback at least once a day for the next 21 days. Use the three step process to enhance the quality of the feedback.
Please contact Bob MIlligan (651 647-0495; [email protected]) to share your positive feedback experiences.