Three reasons positive feedback matters

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What’s all the fuss around giving people praise, especially if they are only doing what’s expected of them?  

Sometimes we managers can get ourselves into a really unhelpful way of thinking.  Perhaps it’s because we feel we mustn’t ‘over-do’ the praise of our staff.  “Surely” we tell ourselves, “it becomes worthless when we give it too much”.  Perhaps it’s like asking how much we should tell out partners we love them?  We wouldn’t want to say it so much that it becomes worthless, would we?  

Well, here’s my view, you can’t tell them enough!  

I just read a tweet by Sajid Javid praising Theresa May and showering her with gratitude; sorry Sajid the horse has bolted, what’s the point of saying #nowyou’regoneweloveyou ?  

We badly need to recalibrate our appreciation filters (perhaps especially in the UK).  Here are three good reasons why…


1. All the studies show it’s motivating.  

The carrot, far outweighs the stick!  All the studies affirm this.  I’m a big fan of the work by Tom Rath on this (see his book ‘How full is your bucket’).  In one of his experiments he shows how praise can double the performance of someone compared to receiving no input at all.  That’s bonkers, double the performance – yes double it!  Praise is massively motivational, and we managers need to get this implanted into our brains.  

Motivation is such a moving feast, one day I feel like going to the gym, another day I don’t.  Nobody has done anything, it’s just my own motivation doing its usual thing and going up and down like a yoyo.  So often all I need is for someone to help me find that motivation.  A word of praise or thanks can provide just that inspiration.

2.  It’s how they know what you like.

I’ve probably said this somewhere before; managers are the custodians of the standard.  You are the ones that need to communicate what his acceptable in performance, delivery and behaviour.  Telling people when they’ve done something you like is the absolute best way you can do this.  

It helps them to understand what good looks like, what pleases you, and therefore what they need to do next time in order to do a great job.  

Don’t leave it to chance or guess work, tell your people when they’ve done well so that they know exactly what to replicate in the future. 

3.  They’ll need to uphold your view of them.  

Here’s a strange but true story.  I’ve worked with a lovely lady for maybe 15 or more years.  She’s changed employer three times during that period, but sooner or later the phone has rung and I’m suddenly working with a new client.  

She knows what she likes, and thankfully she likes what we do at iManage.  The strange thing is this, she commented once (just once) on my shoes ‘that I always wore nice shoes’ kinda comment.  Now we might think this was a throw away thing to say, from someone I knew well and had worked with for many years, but it wasn’t!  Oh no, it was an enormous thing to tell me, because from that point onwards I’ve always had to check what shoes I’m wearing before I meet her!  I can’t help myself, it’s now become so ingrained that I might even need to buy new shoes next time I see her, just in case the old ones are looking slightly tatty!  

Here’s the thing, when we tell people what we like about them, they are highly likely to need to uphold the positive view we have expressed and so, will try even harder to keep that standard.  It’s absolutely true, tell John that you like the way he’s always on time for meetings and the chances are he’ll strive even more to make sure he’s never late for you.  So giving positive feedback will very often strengthen the individuals resolve to maintain that standard.  

Giving positive feedback is literally a win / win / win scenario.  There’s virtually nothing to lose and so much to gain through expressing your appreciation of the individuals in your team.  So don’t do a Sajid Javid and leave it until it’s too late, instead master this as a management foundation and show your team sone individual appreciation while it still has value.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain