Nurture Good Employee Habits and Squash Bad Ones

Quality and effective feedback is critical in team management. ( AgWeb )

The lawyer and U.S. Congressman Frank Clark once said, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth without destroying his roots.”

This quote perfectly encompasses a key point in management success: quality and effective feedback is critical. 

Not all feedback is helpful. When done improperly, it can have the opposite effect on your team. To make sure your comments are elevating your team, use these four critical feedback attributes, suggests Bob Milligan, senior consultant at Dairy Strategies and former Cornell University professor.

1. Specific.

Too often, Milligan says, positive feedback is "you are doing a great job" or "great work." 

“Unfortunately, the employee does not know what he or she did that is being complimented,” he says. “All feedback, including positive, must be specific.”

Here are a few examples: 

"I really appreciate your noticing and checking on the animal that was lying down too long." 

"Thank you for your continuing vigilance in checking that loads going into storage meet all of our quality criteria." 

2. Timely. 

As soon as you see a coaching moment, provide feedback—immediately. “Positive feedback does not store well; do not procrastinate,” Milligan says.

3. Genuine.

You must mean what you say and show that you genuinely appreciate the successful behavior or performance from the employee, Milligan says. 

“The employee must see that you value their contributions as a person not just as an employee,” he says.

4. Appropriate. 

Milligan likes to remember the mantra of football coach Don Shula about everyone being a coach.

"Good performance should always be treated differently that poor performance," Shula said.

“This sounds obvious but is not always followed,” Milligan adds. “Positive feedback should only be given for positive behaviors or performance. If the expectation was not met, redirection or negative feedback are needed.”

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