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The Power of Immediate Feedback

When I took on my first people leadership role as Director of the Pharma Consulting Practice, I quickly learned the significance of constructive feedback in nurturing a high-performing team. A recommendation from my boss introduced me to "One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, which has turned out to be one of my favourite books for new managers. Its succinct insights on feedback reshaped my approach to leadership.

The book emphasized the significance of timely feedback, a principle I've since integrated into my leadership philosophy. Feedback isn't just about pointing out flaws or mistakes; it's about acknowledging strengths and fostering growth. As the book says – “People who feel good about themselves produce good results”. 

Picture of two women talking

Here are some compelling statistics as to why managers need to give more feedback:

  • Improves Performance - 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized and 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

  • Improves working relationships by opening up communication channels and prevents conflict, fostering healthier working relationships

  • Improves employee engagement – A staggering 4 in 10 workers become actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback

  • Reduces employee turnover - Employees who received strengths feedback had turnover rates that were 14.9% lower than employees who received no feedback

Despite these compelling statistics, many organizations still rely on annual or bi-annual performance reviews. Yet, research indicates that over 50% of office professionals desire more frequent performance check-ins, with 94% preferring real-time feedback on areas for improvement. 

In my experience, the most transformative change occurs when feedback (both positive or constructive) is immediate and ongoing, rather than confined to formal review processes. Waiting for scheduled meetings can hinder progress and limit growth opportunities. 

Giving Positive Feedback

When offering positive feedback, start by dedicating more time to observation. Don't just focus on identifying areas for improvement; actively seek out instances where someone excels. Positive feedback doesn't necessitate waiting for perfection. When giving positive feedback, provide it immediately. It does not need to be a formal meeting and can be quick. Be specific in highlighting what the person did well. A generic “Great job on your presentation!” - Does not cut it. Instead, try connecting what they did well to the positive outcomes they've generated for you, their colleagues, or the organization. And always motivate them to continue doing more of the same.

Giving Constructive Feedback

When delivering constructive feedback, the approach is similar to providing positive feedback, but with a few distinctions. It's essential to prepare your employees for constructive feedback as part of regular expectations, ensuring they aren't caught off guard the first time you provide it.  Like with positive feedback, deliver constructive feedback promptly and pinpoint specific areas for improvement. Clarify the potential impact of their actions, performance, or behaviours, helping them understand the context behind the feedback. Let the feedback set in with silence. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions and finally reaffirm that you value them, but not their performance in this instance. Be aware that the feedback is fair and is about the behaviour not the value of the person, those are not the same.

Reflecting on when I implemented this approach, it truly was impactful. Initially, my direct reports anticipated negative feedback when I called them to my office, leading to some discomfort. But then they came to appreciate receiving constructive feedback and would ask for it. They really appreciated the positive feedback as well, as they would continue to reinforce those behaviours. Feedback is crucial for nurturing high performing teams as it can spark change and fuel growth. It's crucial to prioritize dedicating more time to providing both positive and constructive feedback to foster a culture of development and excellence.



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