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Feedback: When things are going well

Giving feedback when things are going well is just as important as when they’re not so well. According to neuroscientists, brain circuits that wire together, fire together. So, if leaders want to reinforce behavior, it is logical to give positive feedback when things are going well.

I’ve found that it can be just as uncomfortable to give positive feedback as negative feedback. People will say, “Oh, thanks, but it’s just my job.” Or, “It was nothing … really.” The first key to positive feedback is to reflect on some questions for yourself, before you begin talking:

  • What do I want to communicate or what behavior do I want to reinforce?
  • What specifically was well done?
  • What challenges had to be overcome?
  • What was the impact on the organization? On the team?
  • What made a difference?
  • What words will best communicate this to the person?

In order to reduce the tendency of people to dismiss feedback, begin by setting the stage with a short statement, “I know you often brush off appreciation, but I’d like to share some feedback.” Or, if it’s a bit longer, “I have some feedback for you regarding the project. It’s all good. Is this a convenient time to talk for a few minutes?” Then give the feedback that you’ve planned. After you’ve shared your positive feedback, consider asking for reflection that reinforces critical thinking, learning, and builds self-awareness:

  • Tell me 2 or 3 things that you observed which worked well.
  • Tell me something you learned about yourself when you worked on this project.
  • What did you experience as the biggest obstacles or challenges to making this project as success?
  • What internal and/or external resources were used in this project?
  • What new skills or knowledge did you need to complete this project?

Finally, ask how you can support further development in this way of working or behavior.

All of this put together will not only reinforce what was learned, but can promote reflection, insight, and growth.

I encourage my readers to try planning, delivering, and engaging in learning as you deliver positive feedback with your team members or family members or whatever organization you find yourself in. Reflect on how it makes a difference for you and for the people around you.

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