January 4, 2022

Feedback: Your Low-Energy & High-Yield Investment

The most important part of the story is the piece of it you don’t know. 
~ Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna.   


It’s true. There’s so much we don’t know about one another, especially right now as we juggle significant personal and professional challenges. There is so much simmering right below the surface, wherever and however we’re having our conversations.

But there is something you can do right here and right now. You can acknowledge what you do know and do see.

Feedback: Your Gift of Data  

It seems ridiculously simple, and yet, feedback is the most under-valued and under-utilized EQ skill. Positive, specific and consistent feedback to the people in your life will move mountains. 

It’s your gift of data to your team and individuals.

We all thrive on feedback. Why? Well, have you ever lost a really great employee and not known why? Or, how about a time when you were repeatedly denied positive feedback. What happened?

Probably the same thing that happened to that fantastic employee. You drifted away and eventually left – the job or relationship.

Withholding feedback is actually a form of psychological punishment (or torture, as some of my clients call it). People will actually accept negative feedback to fill the void of no feedback. (To learn lots more, get the easy-read book, Tell Me How I’m Doing by Richard L. Williams.)

Positive Feedback: For High-Performing Teams

If you think this stuff is fluff, consider this from the Harvard Business Review (HBR):

High performers offer more positive feedback to peers; in fact, high-performing teams share nearly six times more positive feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, low-performing teams share nearly twice as much negative feedback than average teams. (October 25, 2016)

And this from a separate HBR article:

Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity…..(W)ith the vast majority of the leaders in our database who have no outstanding weaknesses, positive feedback is what motivates them to continue improvement. (March 13, 2013)

No One is a Superstar Without Positive Feedback! 

Positive feedback tells your employee, colleague or family member: I see you. I value you. I need you. You make a difference here. We are neurologically #inthistogether. And we’re wired to connect (read more here.)

Personality Type tells us we have two different preferences in receiving feedback (statistically it’s a 50/50 split). Some of us like it warm, thoughtful and caring. Others of us like it direct and competence-based.

The Tried and True Positive Feedback Formula

  1. Be specific and meaningful
  2. Be timely
  3. Describe how you FEEL and the positive impact on you or the team

Yup, it’s really important to describe how you feel and the impact on you. This is the part that almost everyone leaves out. We need to know the impact of our behavior on others.

Instead of: You’re a great presenter online. Try: I really appreciate the job you did presenting today. It clarified the challenges for our team and helped us move the process forward.

Instead of: Wow, you’re good with angry clients. Try:  You were amazing in de-escalating that client. He raised his voice, you lowered yours. He went on the attack, you acknowledged he seemed frustrated and you wanted to help. You’re lowering the stress level for all of us.   

Instead of: Appreciate that you’ve been working overtime. Try: Thanks so much for stepping in when we’re so lean. I know it’s not easy and it’s a great relief for me.  You’re really helping us ensure things run as smoothly as possible. 

Still on the Fence?

Still on the fence regarding the impact of feedback? Consider this interesting fact about married couples from the HBR:

The single biggest determinant is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another. The optimal ratio is …five positive comments for every negative one. For those who ended up divorced, the ratio was 0.77 to 1 — or something like three positive comments for every four negative ones.(March 13, 2013)

The Feedback Wrap

  • 5:1 Positive to Negative Feedback to create and sustain high-performing teams
  • 3:4 Positive to Negative Feedback for divorce (and I’d apply that to any personal or professional relationship).  

Get an idea of the impact we can have on one another?

Whether online or onsite, feedback is a core ingredient to keep us connected and #inthistogether.

Feedback, Leadership , , ,
About Deene Morris
Engaging Emotional Intelligence | Team Think Generator | Psychological Safety & Inclusion | Moving Positive Change Forward