Effective Positive Feedback: What to Say to Raise Your Team’s Standards

Your choice of words can create a lasting impact on your employees – for better or worse. If you’re looking for ways to improve your team’s productivity and output standards, positive reinforcement is the way to go.

Why positive reinforcement works

Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director says that at the Disney Institute, they are taught to proactively look for employees who demonstrate the organization’s desired behaviours. Since implementation, they found an increase in the likelihood that employees will repeat the desired behaviours and a boost in employees’ self-confidence. 

Science backs this up. According to a study by Robinson, positive recognition and praise result in increased dopamine which in turn leads to employee engagement. Other forms of positive reinforcement that have been shown to improve performance include incentive programs and employee benefit packages.

Effective positive feedback – the positive reinforcement you can start doing today 

Positive feedback can do wonders for your employee’s confidence and motivation. However, sharing your acknowledgement with the rest of your team can train them to celebrate each other’s achievements while boosting morale. It also helps you set the standards for expected achievement and outcomes as well as cultivate a supportive work culture.

Effective (and specific) feedback phrases you can use

When highlighting employee achievements

  • [Employee] implemented strategies that have shown outstanding results.
  • [Employee] exceeded the set target of [task] by X%.

When praising employee’s communication skills 

  • [Employee] actively participates and contributes ideas to team discussions.
  • [Employee] shows strong abilities in communicating expectations early.

When encouraging teamwork and collaboration

  • [Employee] is generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise in [core skill].
  • [Employee] offers solutions to [example obstacle] and contributes to the team’s productivity.

When acknowledging employee’s efforts to learn

  • [Employee] demonstrates the ability to pick up new skills within a short timeframe.
  • [Employee] shows commitment to continuous learning by being responsive to feedback.

When too much of a good thing goes bad

Although positive feedback has its fair share of benefits, it’s no denying that overdoing it can lead to the opposite effect

For example, empty praises without specificity can sound disingenuous while selective praise may lead other team members to assume you have a favourite thus creating a division in the team. So it’s essential to keep your positive reinforcement authentic and intentional to achieve the desired results.

5 things to keep in mind when giving positive feedback:

  1. Be genuine with your praises.
  2. Don’t play favourites. 
  3. Don’t delay the reinforcement. Encourage the desired behaviour by acknowledging it as soon as you see it.
  4. Be specific with your praise. It’s not enough to say “Good job!”. Make it known what they’re doing right.
  5. Be consistent with your feedback.

No matter where you are in your career, it takes no research to know for a fact that it feels great to have your hard work acknowledged.

While other forms of positive reinforcement such as robust employee benefits and performance incentives can be great additions to your company, verbal praise can go a long way in setting the tone for your company’s culture and employee relationship.

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