It would seem that in order to improve the way we do feedback, we should be looking to positive psychology and this may mean reversing our inherent programming to seek out the negatives first. Don Clifton, who is known by the American Psychological Society as the ‘Grandfather of Positive Psychology’ stated:

“It isn’t until people know what makes them talented and unique that they know how to perform better in their job”.

This concept of looking to strengths first also resonates with the findings within the recent CIPD research report “Could do better – Assessing what works in performance management” where they looked at strengths based approaches to coaching and feedback during performance management conversations (Gifford, J, 2016). The conclusion was that managers who took on a coaching style i.e. more questioning and listening than ‘tell’ combined with strengths focused and forward looking performance conversation could have a significant increase on perceived performance.

A ‘feedforward’ technique like this should be about eliciting positive experiences or strengths and focusing on how these can be enhanced or built on moving forwards. So, following a work presentation a manager might sit down and help their staff member to reflect by focusing on what worked or what went particularly well during the presentation. They may ask the individual to consider what they would repeat if they were to do it again. This switch in emphasis can feel alien to many of us as we are all so used to focusing on what went wrong.

A more positive approach doesn’t mean ignoring things that can be improved but the emphasis should be more about focusing on what is working. It is easy to see how this technique could be used to good effect during 121’s or appraisal conversations and could well revolutionise their effectiveness.

Consider how you can put in place simple recognition schemes that can be used by all staff to notice and recognise high performance. If you have organisational values, this is a great way of bringing these to life as people can consider these definitions and recognise others against them.

Some organisations do this effectively through providing themed postcards or stickers where people can choose a specific postcard and recognise a colleague using these. Others are able to do this by colleague of the month type incentives which may be voted for by others or ‘Champion’ awards. The important point here is that these are little and often, creating a culture where people become more acclimatised to giving and receiving feedback and find it less threatening.

If you use performance management software like Actus you can encourage these more positive behaviours using the recognition module which encourages ongoing feedback and recognition between colleagues. It also makes this visible at appraisal or development time. Additionally, the automated reporting gives you greater visibility at an organisational level which creates a greater understanding of where the more engaging management behaviours are sitting.

For more information on the topic of how feedback can be a gamechanger for performance management, check out the Actus E-Book here:

By Lucinda Carney CPsychol