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Feedback: The Fuel of Great Performance
By Vicki Anderson
Oct 30, 2002 - 4:02:00 PM

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Why bother to give people regular feedback? Feedback is useful information given for the purpose of continuing positive performance or for improving performance to a positive state.

For people to give good performance they must know what is expected of them and then receive feedback confirming or denying they are actually meeting those expectations. If people do not receive feedback confirming that their performance meets the expectations set, they may either give up or try something different to elicit a response from management.

Recognize Good Performance

When people are doing what you want them to do, you want to make sure they continue doing it. Too often, people don’t take the time to recognize good solid performance. They wait until spectacular performance happens. Unfortunately, that happens too infrequently for the reward to be effective. Everyday appreciation and feedback about what a person is doing right gives them information they can use about how to do their job well.

Rewards don’t have to be about money. The method of recognition should be appropriate to action taken. It should also be something that would be valued by the receiver. It might be a simple thank you, a handwritten note, a meeting announcement, a note on the bulletin board, a gold star, or any number of no-cost methods. Some people like public recognition, while others want it privately. One of the most positive motivators is simply showing people how their work makes a difference. Tune in to what motivates individuals and capitalize on it.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot recognize good performance enough as long as it is sincere. People love to hear what they are doing right so they can continue doing it and getting rewarded for it.

Correct Unacceptable Performance Immediately

If performance does not meet expectations, feedback in the form of useful information to correct behavior must be given at the earliest sign of unacceptable performance. The earlier the information is given, the sooner the person is able to meet expectations. When corrective feedback can be given early, there is little emotion tied to the information. It is simply a matter of sharing information about what is wrong that needs to be corrected. Most people want to do their work correctly and would welcome this information.

When a manager fails to give corrective feedback early, the employee believes no news is good news and continues that behavior. By the time employees receive feedback that performance is unacceptable, it is embarrassing to them to find that what was considered good performance is actually unacceptable. The result is usually defensiveness on the part of the employee and frustration on the part of the manager. When feedback is given under the latter scenario, it is rarely in the form of useful information for the employee. It is usually in the form of a “chewing out.” When that happens, high emotion is attached to both sides and feelings become a barrier for the exchange of useful information.

Since most people think of feedback as negative, both givers and receivers resist it. Managers avoid giving negative feedback because they don’t want to engage in the conflict that often follows. However, this can be minimized by dealing with performance issues early and by focusing on the facts and the behavior, not the person. The “who” did it is only material to “what happened.” When you are able to discuss the facts at the earliest sign of negative performance, it is easier to keep the “who” finger pointing out of the discussion.

Conveying Positive Intent

When giving feedback you must convey positive intent if you want others to accept it as useful information. Think about how to convey your message in a way that the receiver would welcome it.

Whether positive or negative, feedback should meet the following criteria:
· Specific and concise – get to the point quickly
· Timely – give feedback soon after the action that triggered it
· Focused on facts and results – focus on “what happened” not “who did it”
· Positive focus – keep the discussion about useful information for both parties

Useful feedback is the fuel for building and maintaining great performance in an organization. It can help your organization run smoothly or it can make it knock around like a badly tuned engine. What does your engine sound like?


Vicki Anderson developed and directed a corporate university for The NORDAM Group. She works with organizations to develop top-notch leadership and communication skills for increased performance and profitability. 918-252-1027, www.andersonresources.net

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