Using feedback correctly can be a powerful tool in the manager’s toolbox leading to improved performance of both the manager and the team. Get it right and the rewards can be transformational, get it wrong and it can be a disaster leading to de-motivation, frustration, lack of commitment and damaging results.

Negative or positive feedback?

It still appears that where feedback is given it is predominantly focused around the negative, where managers feel that it is part of their role to correct and provide guidance on what should be changed and how things can be improved. This emphasis on the negative was highlighted in a survey of managers undertaken by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman published on Harvard Business Review. As part of the survey an assessment was undertaken on 7,808 managers with results which suggested that 63% gave negative feedback, whilst only 44% gave positive feedback. In addition, leaders expressed anxiety about providing negative feedback, and yet more of them avoided giving positive feedback (37%) than those who avoided giving negative feedback (21%).

Where negative feedback is provided with the intention of being corrective then managers would be well advised to use a form of questions where the person receiving the feedback is required to engage their thinking, evaluating their approach, and exploring alternative ways which could have been taken, and what the outcome may have been.

On the other hand, positive feedback can be a real key factor in confirming what is working, and which behaviours and actions are encouraged and we want more of. When delivered well positive feedback and praise can lead to improvements in confidence, motivation, loyalty, future commitment and consistency of results.

Welcoming feedback

For feedback to be effective it should not be all one way. When leaders and managers truly embrace the power of feedback then they will nurture a culture where feedback is encouraged from their colleagues and direct reports. Here again is another area where managers may be filled with anxiety that this may undermine their authority and leadership, when the truth is by inviting and being open to feedback this can lead to an improvement in their own management skills and effectiveness.

The challenge in all cases is how the feedback process is handled and will require some coaching of both leaders and employees alike. The use of an experienced coach can help in developing a more effective approach to using feedback as the powerful tool that it is in creating awareness, responsibility and ownership in reaching your full potential.