The Olympic games always remind me of the importance of working together as a team to reach a mutual goal and the integral role leadership plays in the success of a team. As my wife and I were watching the women’s gymnastics competition, it struck me how many coaches were there to support the team. It also struck me how positive and encouraging they were. I began to pay attention to this as I watched other events. I saw throughout the competition coaches who were continually providing positive reinforcement and encouragement as the athletes did their level best. Positive feedback increases performance!
The more I focused on this, something hit me. These athletes dedicate their lives to this one purpose. This is all they do…all they train for. As a result, they are the “best of the best. High performing athletes reach the top of their game because of the encouragement and feedback they receive from their coach. Without a coach to provide positive feedback and correct undesirable behavior, athletes would not perform optimally.
If professional athletes need coaches to improve their performance, isn’t it true that all of us could use a coach? Someone to guide us on our journey? Someone who would be positive and encouraging? Of course it is true! MBA programs, books, and training courses that focus on managing all emphasize the importance of coaching.
Let’s go back to the point I made about the Olympics coaches. It was the positive feedback I noticed. I realize that away from the event, and out of the spotlight, the coach will provide constructive criticism. There is a time and place for that. But when the athlete is at the event: focused, tense, stressed — the coach is there to reassure with positive feedback.
Employees Who Receive Positive Feedback Perform Better
When positive feedback is not given frequently enough, it loses its benefit. A quote from Ken Blanchard states you have to provide four positive comments for each negative comment in order to be perceived as a positive manager. Four to one! Of course there are times when you have to correct, step in, or focus on bad behavior. But overall, positive feedback will get you results– faster! Reinforce the behavior you want to increase: that is how you get results.
So why don’t we provide more positive feedback? Well, first of all, as managers, we tend to be problem solvers. So much of our time is focused is on correcting and fixing the problem. The bigger reason is coaching in general. It is not done nearly often enough. Two of the biggest reasons?
1. “I don’t have time to coach”
You are busy. Between meetings, reports, new priorities and putting out fires…when do you have time to coach? But if your job involves getting others to do work so that a goal is achieved…you have to coach. It has to be a priority. The good news is positive feedback can be quick.
2. “I don’t know how to coach”
Let’s fix that right now, especially as it relates to positive feedback. It’s easy and fun! In Impact Learning’s coaching program Making it Happen™, and in the book “Managing and Motivating Contact Center Employees”, shows you how. The process is called placing a B.E.T.:
B: Describe the Behavior
Example: ”Mark, you did an excellent job applying listening skills by confirming your understanding. You paraphrased the customer really well.”
E: Describe the Effect
(Continue example): “Because you did this, the customer relaxed was confident you understood the problem and felt more relaxed. He felt listened to. You were then able to jump in and answer his question. He expressed how thankful he was that you understood! Well done!”
T: Thank the employee
(Continue example): “Thank you! Keep up the outstanding work!”
It is just that easy. It is just that fast.
Positive Feedback Makes Employees More Receptive to all Types of Feedback
One of our consultants had completed a training program on customer service skills and was back to monitor calls and provide feedback. When he arrived, the representatives were nervous and a little defensive. He could feel the tension. So he purposefully started with nothing but positive feedback. Soon everyone relaxed, really focused on their jobs and actually started asking “Hey Tom, when are you going to listen to me again?” Then he was able to provide both positive and constructive feedback.
Feedback works. And positive feedback is powerful. Try it. It takes no time, it’s easy to do and fun! Who knows, maybe you too will achieve Olympic size results!