How to Give Positive Feedback

06th January 2014


‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions‘ Ken Blanchard

Do you like positive feedback? I do! 

I like to know I’ve done a great job. Met expectations. Served well.

I like specificity. Authenticity. Clarity. Detail.

I like giving it too.

As a leader I didn’t always do it effectively. Or, for the right reasons.

It could be haphazard. Wish washy. Clichéd. Unspecific. Sometimes I rushed too quickly to praise.

Like a coach saying, ‘great game guys,’ when his team have just lost 28 – 48!

This liberal, meaningless, form of positive feedback serves no one.

At best it does little to encourage high levels of engagement and performance. At worst it say’s yes to mediocre performance.

Nor, does it provide people the opportunity to further develop their strengths and talents, and performance.

On occasion I praised to please. Placate. Avoid potential confrontation. 

You can imagine in doing that my leadership credibility was cruelly crushed! 

When love at work is present praise is given, and received with love and grace.

It is given to recognise and appreciate work well done and in alignment with business’s values. Effort that serves and contributes to the well-being and success of a team, customers and business.

So how do you praise purposefully and powerfully?

  • Be specific. Describe the exact reasons for the praise
  • Do it as you see it. Don’t let it wait until the ‘formal’ appraisal
  • Say it like you mean it. From the heart
  • Chose your words carefully, so of meaning to the person
  • Ensure its legitimate, praise matching the evidence
  • Do it in private. Do it in public. Do it with respect
  • Don’t over do it. No gushing! Keep it simple. True.

It might go like this…’I’m really pleased John with work you did on the I.T. Project Your planning, attention to detail, your team leadership and ability to engage the customers made all the difference in us completing this project on time. Based on your and your team’s work we are confident we’ll be working with ABC again. Great work, thank you John.’

Some leaders struggle giving praise.

I once had one!

I felt…

that by acknowledging my strengths and achievements he was somehow diminishing his own power.

he considered I was just doing my job. Doing what I was paid me to do. Nothing more needed.

if he praised me for work well done I might take advantage, in some way.

None of this was true.

What was true… is I resigned!

Gallop research states that 70% of people leave their manager rather than the company.

When you feedback appropriately you’re saying, ‘I see you. I respect your strengths and gifts. I value and appreciating your contribution.

You’re saying thank you!


Your people feel encouraged, engaged and loved. Therein lies the key for discretionary effort and high performance.

Think back to a time when you were given specific feedback on what you’d done and achieved, the value of it and the difference it had made. And it was clear. True. Authentically given.

How did you feel?

Truly appreciated?  Seen for who you are? Respected? Special? Proud? Motivated? Loved?

Think of this when you catch a colleague, peer, report doing something well.

What a gift and contribution you can to give, to the well-being of a work place.

If it feels a little hard at first start with a simple genuine ‘thank you!’

Tomorrow: How to give Positive Admonishment