In my work with organizations I have found that providing motivating feedback can be extraordinarily challenging for managers. Providing feedback in general takes a commitment and intentionality that many managers are not willing to give, but providing motivating feedback is a whole other story.

If you are going to give the time and energy to providing feedback to your people it’s worth it to learn what is motivating feedback.

  1. Separate the positive from the negative when possible. When you are deliberate about catching your people doing good work and praising them regularly it makes it easier when you need to provide corrective criticism without needing to preface with a positive. Additionally, especially after a big event or project. Give praise and wait for a planned debriefing meeting to talk through what could be done better in the future.
  2. Eliminate but, replace with and. Any time you give a positive and then follow that statement with a “but” and a negative you negate the positive. Use “and” to avoid this.
  3. Use “You” for positive, and “I” for negative. Using “you” for positive feedback is always appropriate. When you are giving negative feedback it is better to use “I” and the observations you have made or the desire you have for improvements in specific areas.
  4. Front-load your discussion by leveraging communication styles and motivators. This is a whole training in and of itself, but in a nutshell learn how to best communicate with each person and find out what motivates them. If you don’t know this it’s never too late to sit down with your people and ask them!
  5. Remember to utilize “levels” of addressing behavior. Only bring in the big guns for the big deals. If you address everything with the same amount of intensity your people will not know what is the bigger deal in terms of their performance, positive or negative.

Create a way to remember, track, and provide meaningful feedback. Everything you address directly needs to be documented. You can do this using online tools, excel spread sheets, or a simple notebook with a tabbed section for each of your people.