Invest Time in Positive Feedback

There is so much advice available on how to deliver tough feedback. How to have a challenging conversation. How to support a struggling employee (or friend, or peer). How to explain when someone is falling short of expectations.

And for good reason. Chances are you have agonized over some version of the tough conversation you know you need to have with an employee, peer, boss, friend, or significant other. You have over-analyzed how it will go. You have expected and planned for the worst. I certainly have.

But how much time do you spend considering how to congratulate someone? How to elevate them? How to recognize them? How to thank them? How to express your gratitude to them?

When your direct report (or friend, or peer) completely crushed that huge presentation, which was the culmination of several months of work, did you send them a quick message on Teams or Slack like this “WOW. EXCELLENT JOB!!”, after ruminating on it for 30 seconds? I’ve certainly been guilty of that.

There’s an odd mismatch where we invest considerable time, energy, and focus on providing challenging feedback and far less (and far too little) on providing positive feedback. We seem to default to more generic feedback when it’s positive.

Consider receiving the following two messages – which feels better as the recipient?

“Amazing job, Ashley. You crushed that presentation!”

“Amazing job, Ashley. You crushed that! Wow. There were a few things that really stuck out to me when you delivered your presentation. First, it’s clear how much care you took with every aspect of the content, including the small details, like the icons you used to visually aid your story. The pride you take in your work is evident. Second, I can’t believe you were able to distill so much client feedback and data into a clear and concise story – it’s hard to communicate powerful takeaways in only a few words and you did just that. I’m certain you built immense client empathy among the audience, and we will see the downstream impact on our client satisfaction scores, one of our key functional objectives. Would you be open to me asking you a few questions during our next team meeting on how you prepared? I know everyone (myself included) would stand to benefit!”

If you can reference a few specific examples that really stood out in the person’s work, describe the expected positive impact, and find an opportunity to celebrate it, your ‘thank you’ will feel much more meaningful than a generic ‘great job’.

It doesn’t require a huge amount of time. It takes a bit of self-awareness, patience, and consideration. And I believe it pays off in a big way.