Everything is Awesome! (Making Positive Feedback…Helpful)

Positive feedback is both developmental and meaningful, it also plays a vital role in building high-performance teams.

In her article ‘Give Your Team More-Effective Positive Feedback’ Christina Porath discusses research that suggests “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.”

While feedback can be positive, that does not always mean it is helpful.

When everything is “awesome!” what is actually awesome?

When a presentation is “amazing!”, what does that mean? Did the message resonate with you? Did you get the point? Were you entertained or did you like the content?

When completed work is “brilliant!“, how can a person maintain that standard consistently? What made the work brilliant? What made the work valuable?

The challenge is not just to deliver positive feedback, but to deliver it in a way that connects in a meaningful way and provides a pathway for sustained positive outcomes.

Here are two simple ideas to try for your next positive feedback experience:

1. Season lightly

Take it easy on the superlatives. Superlatives are an exaggerated or hyperbolic expression of praise. Just like ‘salt’, a little is ok, but season lightly. When everything is “Amazing“, “Awesome“, or “Brilliant“, these words quickly lose their impact.

Don’t dilute positive feedback with empty words. Thoughtful and intentional words carry heavy weight.

Expand your vocabulary and find other words to describe great work. Could this work also be described as “valuable“, “insightful“, “high quality“, “pioneering“, “thought-provoking“, “beneficial” or “engaging”?

2. Be as specific and articulate in your praise as you are in your criticism.

Too often we are detailed in our criticism and simplistic in our praise. Take recognition a step further and help the recipient to understand why. Think in terms of repetition. What would I like to see more of? What is rewarded is ultimately repeated.

For example, instead of “Your presentation was awesome, well done.

This could sound something like

“Your presentation was thought-provoking for me. It challenged me to think more deeply about my personal vision and values. You delivered it confidently and I felt engaged the whole time. I’d love to hear more about ____”. Thank you”.

Have you got your own suggestions? Let me know and let’s continue the conversation.

Each week I prepare content to help leaders become more effective in how they communicate. Join the tribe and receive content straight to your inbox here