Organizational success is directly linked to becoming a feedback culture. That was a key takeaway from Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, during this year's TalentSpace Live Conference. McCord shared the story of the famous Netflix "culture deck" with attendees and how its success was grounded in the organization's ability to deliver good feedback.
The only way organizations can create a feedback culture is by employees becoming good at delivering feedback.
This is the first blog in a two-part series on delivering feedback, for part one I'm going to focus on positive feedback.
Positive feedback can be more difficult to deliver than negative feedback. Why? Because people know they must address negative feedback and positive feedback can sometimes be dismissed under the heading of "no news is good news." In other words, if you aren't getting negative feedback, everything must be good.
To ensure positive feedback is given proper importance, organizations should train managers and employees how to deliver good news.
Onboarding is a logical place to start a feedback conversation. During onboarding we ask employees to provide feedback about their candidate experience, their new job, and first impressions of the company. Give employees the feedback skills they need to succeed on day one. When conducting feedback skills training, reinforce that effective feedback contains three key elements.
Feedback should be specific
Simply saying "good job" isn't good enough. Feedback must tell the other person what they did that was awesome. For example, "Thank you for turning in the TPS reports a day early. I wanted to finalize these before I left for vacation."
Timeliness is necessary
Telling someone that they did a good job six months after the fact doesn't resonate. If it wasn't important enough to say back when it happened, then it must not have been really special. Carve out time to express gratitude and appreciation in the moment.
Behavior-based is best
Feedback should be based on behaviors (versus attitudes). Behaviors can be easier to define because they are an outward expression. Attitudes are a way of thinking, so it is best to give feedback about the aspects of attitude that are reflected in a person's behavior.
Five steps to delivering positive feedback
There's a fine line when delivering positive feedback. You want it to be authentic without crossing the line into fake and phony. Here are five things to keep in mind when getting ready to share positive feedback.
1. Schedule the conversation
Like timeliness, if positive feedback is delivered in the hallway, it doesn't have the feeling of being important or intentional and can lose its meaning. An ideal time to deliver feedback is during regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings.
2. Describe the positive behavior and why it's important
To create engagement, employees need to understand how their behaviors align with the goals of the organization and ultimately the bottom-line. So, in addition to describing the behavior, explain the reason the behavior brings value.
3. Ask the person to share their reason for success
If the behavior is a quality that the employee does well all the time, such as their accuracy on reports or the way they solve customer problems, it makes sense to ask the employee how they do it. Then, the company knows a proven strategy that might help someone else.
This applies to everyone involved in the conversation. We might think because it's positive feedback that we can quickly say something and move on. Or, reply with a thank you and that's it. There's an opportunity to learn from each other. Take advantage of it.
5. Thank the person
Whether you're giving or receiving the feedback, take a moment to thank the other person for their time and honesty. This is how positive working relationships are built.
Feedback cultures are built on positive feedback
Don't hesitate to give others positive feedback. It's worth the time investment. Plan the conversation. Be specific and timely. Focus on behaviors and their connection to the goals of the organization.
Organizations want high performers. Feedback creates high performance. Do feedback training and encourage feedback among peers, managers, and employees when good things happen. People like to hear they are doing well, it motivates them to continue to perform at a high level.