Encourage our staff to improve performance that is. We’ve been very busy over the last two weeks with communication training for corporate executives from two very different companies. And yet both were very interested in the concept of positive performance feedback as a tool for change.

Some were positively fans of the process, while others were a little sceptical of the methods, feeling that it indicated a rather unrealistic attitude. So I thought I might revisit the age old method of motivating people to want to change. And it really is quite an ancient practice. Johann von Goethe, the German poet wrote “Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t’were his own” So Goethe claims that if we recognise the strengths and values of others it makes us happier and better people.

Somehow, putting it that way may not make the point in today’s boardrooms! But the basis for Positive Performance Feedback is just that, having the ability to recognise the strengths of our staff and their value. All too often when we are faced with other people’s work we immediately look for the faults, and of course if we have particularly high standards we will never fail to find them.

Confronting staff members with what they have failed to achieve will not put them in the mood to improve their performance.

Nothing is more validating and affirming than feeling understood. And the moment a person begins feeling understood, that person becomes far more open to influence and change’ – Stephen Covey, Unit of One,” Fast Company, April 1999

If we really want improved performance then we need to tap into that openness to influence and change that Stephen Covey talks about. To do that, we just have to recognise what achievement has been made, understanding the effort expended and the work that has been done; before we can suggest the methods for improvement.

Trischel teaches that positive performance feedback is a real tool we can use to encourage improved performance from staff members. By recognising what has already been achieved, what work has been undertaken; by looking for the value in what has been done, we build a sense of recognition in the person that makes them open to suggestions for improvement.

If we tell them that we have noticed their interest in the project, and the time that they have dedicated to the outcome. If we recognise that there is much of merit in what has been achieved, the person will be willing to take your suggestion for enhancing their work.

While people resent being told to do it differently because it’s wrong, no-one usually gets upset by suggestions for work enhancement. “We are all capable of change and growth; we just need to know where to begin”. – Baine Lee

Perhaps we need to change our attitude from hectoring to mentoring. If we are all capable of change and growth, we need to recognise that fact and mentor our staff so they know where to begin.

It’s not a difficult process, but it does depend on a willingness on the supervisor’s part to really recognise what is already positive about the performance. Even if it is only “I know that you have given a lot of time to producing this document, and I appreciate your effort. I would like to make one or two suggestions on how we can expand the detail …..” we should be able to create an improved performance.

Unfortunately, and perhaps it is partly due to the frantic pace at which we live our lives, we sometimes engage in immediate negative feedback. “This document is a mess, there is nothing about …… and where’s the information on ….. If you think this is acceptable then you’re wrong. For heaven’s sake go back and do it again, and get it right this time.”

Practice a little empathy here, and see how you would feel if this was the response to one of your projects. How would you feel about redoing the document? How valued would you feel? How respected? And how willing to change and improve?

Recognising people’s worth is important in motivating and encouraging their continued growth. After all, there has to be some value in their efforts – or why did the company hire them?

Why not take the time to recognise the strengths of your staff and try to always begin feedback on a positive note. Remember –

There are high spots in all of our lives, and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous, or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.”- George Matthew Adams

So if we feed that hunger we should have people in our workplace that are motivated towards continuous improvement. And that’s a positive performance.

Michele @ Trischel

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