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Top employee motivators #21: performance feedback that is constructive

In our last video tip in our continuing series on persuasive and effective employee motivators, I talked about how offering timely performance feedback is a compelling and powerful leadership tool.  But there is one additional aspect of performance feedback, positive or negative, that can make it even more successful.  And that is: ensure that your performance feedback is constructive.

Ensure that your performance feedback is constructive

So what exactly does constructive mean?  It means that you need to be specific enough so that it is clear to your employee what actions or behaviours need to be changed.  It is critical that you focus on giving your employee information so that he or she understands what needs to be changed in order to fix the problem.  An easy way to do this is to focus on facts rather than opinions.  Let me explain.

Example #1

“I want you to be more positive in our team meetings” is a statement that is based on opinion.  While getting your employee to be more positive may be the outcome you want, the statement itself gives no information about what actions or behavior you want changed in order to fix the problem.  Consider this statement instead: “When other team members offer suggestions, I’d like you to hold back on expressing your reservations about their ideas until others have had a chance to contribute and discuss further.”  This statement is based on fact.  And it gives your employee specific and clear information on what you’d like changed in order to create a more positive environment in your team meetings.  See the difference?

Example #2

Okay, let’s try another one.  “You need to be more organized” is a statement based on an opinion, and it doesn’t offer any useful information to your employee about what you’d like done differently.  But “I’d like you to keep an updated real-time log of outstanding system issues that I can access whenever I need it” is based on fact, most likely that you have faced instances in the past when you have been unable to do so.  Now your employee has information that is specific enough so that he or she know what needs to be done to improve the current situation.  I think you get the idea.

When you offer constructive performance feedback, you are providing information that is specific enough for the employee to be clear on what needs to be changed in order to correct the present state of affairs.  Many people question how giving negative feedback can be motivating.  In fact, it’s this “constructive” aspect of performance feedback that puts it into the category of powerful employee motivators.

Well?  As always, I am interested to hear your perspectives.  Are most managers good at offering feedback that is constructive?  What do they do well?  And what don’t they?  Please share.

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