Provide Feedback Like A Champ

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By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Giving feedback — it’s something everyone who supervises staff  has to do.  Some are good at it, while others…not so good.  The ability to provide good feedback is regarded by many as something that separates “leaders” from “bosses.”  Your style of feedback can potentially transform a hostile work environment into an inspirational work space, or vice versa.

Bryan Shelton, M.S., recently wrote an article for Aubrey Daniels International, a leading consulting firm specializing in Organizational Behavior Management, in which he provides three tips for effective feedback.

1) Separate positive and constructive feedback.  Bryan regards “positive” feedback as roughly analogous to praise and “confirms to the performer that he/she is doing the right thing.”  A simple “good job” following a specific behavior is an example.  Constructive feedback, on the other hand, has a corrective component — you provide this feedback when you want less of a particular behavior and more of another.  For example, “next time try X instead” is clearly meant to steer performance in a new direction.

The two types of feedback are often combined with a “but” — as in “I really liked how you handled that sales call today, but…”.  However, Bryan recommends providing both types of feedback at separate times.  Otherwise, you risk “erasing” the benefits of the positive feedback by immediately following it with the constructive type.

2) Constructive First, Positive Later.  Ok, we know to separate both types of feedback, but which comes first?  Bryan recommends leading with constructive feedback and following up with positive feedback on a later occasion.  The idea here is to ensure the employee is clear on what they need to change and why, then catch him/her in the act of improved performance later with positive feedback.  This way, you end on a high note without the “eraser” effects we mentioned before.

3) Combining Positive and Constructive Feedback.  Wait, what?  Didn’t we say separate both types of feedback?  Yes we did.  But rules are meant to be broken…sort of.  Bryan notes that sometimes it just isn’t practical to separate out your feedback over long periods of time.  So, for less serious performance issues, he recommends starting with positive feedback and following up with corrective feedback after a few minutes, with the idea of making minor tweaks to your employee’s performance.  In these situations, Bryan also recommends softening the delivery of the corrective feedback to something like “You might also try this…”

What do you think of Bryan’s advice?  Be sure to read the full article here.

Please share your experiences of providing feedback to your staff in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org.

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