7 ways to give uplifting feedback

Employees want to know how they’re doing and how they can improve. Here’s how to offer guidance without crushing their spirits.

The more autonomy and ownership employees have, the more motivated they’ll be.

However, how can exactly managers achieve this?

Managers must give advice that fuels motivation, rather than draining it. Keep these seven tips in mind:

1. Are you looking at feedback with a growth mindset?

Sometimes the biggest hesitation comes from the feedback giver, rather than from the recipient. Dr. Carla Jeffries found that a person’s desire to be accepted can hinder their providing constructive feedback.

In a recent report, Gallup highlighted that millennials want more feedback, though only 15 percent routinely ask for it. Only 19 percent get it regularly.

It’s not just praise they’re seeking. A study by Zenger/Folkman found that 57 percent of people would prefer constructive over positive feedback. Ninety-two percent said that, if given appropriately, constructive feedback helps improve performance.

If you’re hesitant to offer feedback, remember that each piece of advice is a building block for that person’s career development.

2. Consider the personality of each individual.

Get to know your teammates, and adjust your approach to fit their personality. For example, some people like getting feedback in person so they can talk it through immediately. Others prefer having time to reflect before discussing it.

To figure out people’s preferences, check out this guide on dealing with different personality types in the workplace.

3. Focus on improvement, not mistakes.

Frame your feedback in an uplifting manner. Think about the future, not the past.

Rather than saying, “This and this didn’t go well,” offer, “Next time, if we change this we can improve performance.” This signals that your employee shouldn’t stop trying new things.

Failures are how we learn, improve and succeed. Eliminating fear of failure is an important step in creating a positive company culture.

4. Fuel their motivation.

Help people harness their strengths to overcome obstacles. Gallup found that employees who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8 percent more productive and 15 percent less likely to quit.

Reminding employees of their top skills will help them conjure creative solutions.

5. Avoid killing projects outright.

In his TED talk, Dan Ariely describes a demoralizing situation at a large corporation in Seattle. Its tech team had been assigned to create a product and worked diligently to bring it to fruition. As the launch date approached, the company said it had decided to go in a different direction and that the project was being shelved. Ariely describes the profound damage that did to staff engagement and motivation.

The excitement of a new project can be a great motivator for employees. However, if their hard work never sees the light of day, it can bring employees crashing down.

If you must cancel a work-intensive project, don’t give up on it altogether. Consider other ways it could be used or repurposed. Maybe it can become an independent project or a stretch assignment for the next quarter.

Companies such as Atlassian and Google are known for giving employees 20 percent of their time to work on independent, creative ideas. You never know which projects might yield unexpectedly profitable concepts and results.

6. Allow for creativity.

Not everyone will approach a problem in the same way. Leaving space for trying new things (while eliminating the fear of failure) is the best way to spur innovation.

If you find yourself saying, “We always do things this way,” or, “Let’s not rock the boat,” it could signal that you ought to take more risks.

7. Learn by doing.

If it’s a small decision that could be a learning opportunity, let your colleague make it, and be ready to give advice on how to improve next time. Getting the chance to decide and then see the results will make them much more receptive for feedback down the road.

Steffen Maier is the co-founder of impraise. A version of this post first appeared on TLNT.

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