Feedback on Feedback

Generally, feedback is considered a good thing, and in most cases it is – depending on how, when and where it’s given, and by whom. Contrary to popular belief, there are two kinds of feedback, and they are not positive and negative.

The two types of feedback are confirming and corrective.

As the term suggests, confirming feedback tells the person receiving the feedback that what they’ve been doing is good, and to keep it up. Ideally, it’s much more specific than just that – much more than just a slap on the back and an “Atta boy!” In fact, what makes confirming feedback effective is its specificity – the more specific and the more focused it is on the exact action or behavior, the more effective it is. A simple “Atta boy!” does not tell a person much about his or her actions or behavior.

If you want someone to do more of what they’ve been doing – to perform well – then give them positive reinforcement of it. Give them confirming feedback. And make it specific and focused on the action or behavior. Do not focus it on the person. Telling someone, “You’re smart,” for example does little towards ensuring the person will do the same action or behavior again. But telling the person, “You must have thought long and hard about that. To analyze all that information and come to the conclusion you did took great insight and thinking,” will lead to the person doing more of what you want in the future. Notice the difference between the two pieces of feedback: the first was focused on the person, and the second on his or her actions and behaviors.

Corrective feedback is just what it sounds like: feedback with the intentions of correcting some action or behavior. And once again, keeping it specific and focused on the action or behavior, and not the person, is important. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that calling someone a “dummy” is not productive feedback!

Not long ago I was talking with a senior level executive about feedback. We were discussing how so many managers provide their direct reports with so little confirming feedback, and yet so much corrective feedback. We agreed that is seems to be easier to point out what someone is doing wrong, since it stands out from what we expect and want.

This executive then commented that in training dogs, it’s all about providing confirming feedback. If a dog does something right, we give them a treat. Eventually, our “Pavlov’s dog” does the desired action or behavior without the treat, and we’ve train it. And yet, when it comes to people, we seem to provide much less confirming feedback. But we’re quick to “scold the dog” when someone does something wrong!

I’ve always felt that managers should provide at least three to four times as much confirming feedback as corrective feedback, but the timing of it needs to be just right, too. The old “sandwich” rule, whereby you sandwich one piece of corrective feedback with two pieces of confirming feedback can backfire. Often, the person does not hear what you really want them to hear when using this method. If you need to give corrective feedback, do so in isolation so the person hears it; the same can be applied to confirming feedback.

Always give corrective feedback in private, unless there is an opportunity for others to learn from it. But even then, be very careful not to embarrass the person you’re giving it to. This can be a very delicate thing. It’s okay to give confirming feedback in both private and public settings.

Finally, ask yourself this: What percentage of a person’s job does he or she do well? If it’s over 90 percent, perhaps less than 10 percent of the feedback you give should be corrective. At least, if a goal of yours is to see these people perform better.

oxford limo

The Silver Era of Bodybuilding 1940s thru 1960s play sports

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.