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Six successful ways to give positive feedback

When it comes to keeping employees motivated — providing positive reinforcement really does work. Pausing to acknowledge a “job well done” or a specific action can energize employees and reinforce positive performance. And, although this might seem obvious and easy, it isn’t. Saying “Great job!” or a simple “You rock!” won’t be enough to influence an employee’s attitude, morale, and more importantly increase your retention rates. So, while these phrases are fun to say and hear, the key to employee recognition is to take it seriously enough to be prepared. The following are a few ways you can recognize your employees and reinforce performance through positive feedback:

1) Timing counts. Don’t delay because feedback is most helpful when given immediately. Speed creates a stronger link between the praise and the specific behavior. Also, when the action or event is fresh, you can capitalize on the positive feelings the employee has about their own good work.

2) Be specific. Describe the situation and the behavior you observed. When details are provided, the achievement is outlined and the individuals are named, the praise is more credible. Acknowledging the behavior in specific terms provides the brain with what it needs to more easily repeat the behavior.

3) Share the big picture. Communicate all the ways their action or behavior positively affected you, the organization, others, and/or their own growth. Explain why their contribution is important and then share what impact the activity has on you/the team/the business. Remember to include specific details on what was learned or gained.

4) Be sincere. The message you share must be authentic. Show genuine enthusiasm and appreciation but for it to be meaningful, don’t overdo it. Employees will pick up on insincerity or false enthusiasm and that will diminish the feedback you are providing.

5) Match non-verbal behavior with verbal statements. The body language you use should be consistent with the positive verbal message you are giving. When communicating face-to-face, over 90 percent of the message conveyed is nonverbal (Mehrabian, 1972). Be sure to use eye contact, vocal expressions, gestures, and movements that support the words of praise you are verbalizing.

6) Be serious to be successful. Resist the urge to make jokes, elaborate on your own success or offer points of improvement (as this conflicts with the praise). Keep in mind that positive reinforcement is more of a marathon than a race. The changes you see might be gradual, but know that incremental progress will lead to large improvements. Offering timely and effective feedback will help your people feel valued and appreciated, and performance will follow.

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