The Difference Between Praise And Feedback: Why they are both important
Feedback and praise can be same thing; praise is feedback but feedback isn’t always about giving praise. Praise is a useful tool for improving performance. Feedback can also be used to improve performance.
Good quality feedback can help:
- Develop new skills
- Develop understanding
- Improve performance
- Improve motivation
- Boost confidence levels
- Show people you value them
- Determine how to change and improve performance
Praise helps to:
- Motivate when people are performing well
- Increase confidence levels
- Encourage employees to continue to perform at optimum levels
Praise is often underused and undervalued as a way of giving feedback, yet it has considerable potential to improve performance. Managers and leaders get so caught up with being busy or looking to catch people doing the wrong thing, they forget to catch people doing the right thing. It’s just as easy to catch your people doing the right thing as the wrong thing. Recognizing the strength in others and giving praise requires a conscious effort.
Be careful not to confuse praise and feedback, for feedback can be positive or negative. When given with one another, employees will remember the negative feedback, not the positive.
Giving praise and recognition
For praise and recognition to have any meaning, it must be genuine and based on evidence; otherwise, it becomes flattery.
There’s a difference between things and achievement. “Things” refer to items that people own or possess, for example, a nice car, a large house, a beautiful watch or ring, or nice clothes. Giving recognition for these things may mean something to some people, but this is superficial. Giving praise for achievement or a job well done is more meaningful and genuine. However, it must also be backed up by evidence.
Consider the following.
“I like what you are wearing today; it suits you.”
“You did amazing job on that project last week. The report was well-presented and professional.”
Which comment do you think would have a more lasting impact on the person receiving the feedback?
The first comment is giving feedback about a thing (their clothing). There’s nothing wrong with that. Telling someone they look good might help build their self-esteem, but it doesn’t help build performance levels.
The second comment is specific. It refers to the project and report (evidence) and the feedback is ‘they did an amazing job.’ A comment like this is far more likely to improve performance, as the employee receiving the comment is more likely to reach the same standard next time. It reinforces what they did well and that they should do more of it. Praising your people for a job well done is far more powerful than criticizing them for something they didn’t do well.
Give praise and positive feedback openly and in public to encourage others to want to receive positive feedback as well. Make this a habit by catching people doing what you want to continue to see happen. Be quick to praise and slow to blame.
Points to remember when giving recognition
- Be specific about what the employee did or said that is worthy of recognition.
- Tell them what they said or did was so good and how it contributed to the overall success of your organization.
- Don’t end with a “but” that turns into a negative; keep the sting out of the tail.
- Put it on record by following up with verbal recognition in an email, letter, or certificate.
- Let others know by going public.
- If someone else recognizes a team member, let them know you know by congratulating them.
- Look for opportunities to praise and give recognition; remember to catch people doing the “right” thing.
Feedback differs from praise and criticism. Praise and criticism are focused on a person and considered a one-way dialogue, which doesn’t encourage discussion. Feedback is used to correct or improve performance. It is based on two-way communication and usually leads to an action plan or follow up of some description.
There are two types of feedback, redirection and reinforcement.
Redirection feedback corrects poor performance, highlight areas for improvement that add value to the individual or your business unit.
Reinforcement feedback reinforces good practices and behaviors that also add value to an individual or your business unit.
Giving effective feedback
Most people’s experience with feedback is being told off or what they said or did was wrong, which causes anxiety in employees. The most important feedback you can give to someone is positive feedback, as it reinforces the behaviors you want to continue to see.
Effective feedback should:
- Be supported by evidence and not based solely on opinion.
- Focus on a tangible act, not a poor attitude. Attitude is an opinion and should be handled through the coaching process.
- Be specific; don’t use phrases like “you never…” or “you always…”
- Be goal-oriented and future-based.
- Feedback should take place as soon as possible after you have observed the behavior that needs correcting.
- Not be done in front of others, unless they too are learning a new skill.
- Be supported by a follow-up action plan.
- A two-way conversation.
- Be a positive experience.
Sometimes, you must give feedback that will not be positive, especially when it relates to an employee’s performance. Here are a few tips on how to give feedback about performance.
- Outline the performance that needs attention.
- Explain how the existing level of performance is causing concern and how it impacts the business.
- Ask questions to find out if there are any mitigating circumstances for the current performance (there may be personal issues you are unaware of).
- Ask them if they have any suggestions how they could improve performance.
- Ask if they need help, training, or resources.
- Ask what else you can do to help.
- Agree on an action plan with a date to follow up.
A simple acronym for giving effective feedback is BEER.
|B||Behavior||Focus on the behavior you are trying to reinforce or correct. Be specific and don’t use sweeping statements like “You always….|
|E||Effect||Explain the effect their performance or actions had on executing the task or the goals and objectives of your organization.|
|E||Expectations||Explain what your expectations are and have them reinforce their understanding of your expectations.|
|R||Result||Explain what results you expect. You may have to revisit their position description outlining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).|
Most people find criticism hard to take, so it makes you nervous about giving it in your management and leadership role. You might even avoid it altogether. You might try to be nice about it, but the risk is the message gets watered down. Alternatively, the criticism is so harsh and confronting, the other person feels attacked, which causes the relationship to break down.
There is balance between giving criticism assertively, so it is taken seriously, and making the message strong enough without putting employees on the defensive. You want to be soft on the person but tough on the issue.
Giving constructive feedback or criticism
Put them at ease
When you must meet with an employee who has made a mistake, put them at ease immediately to reduce the anxiety. The best way to do this is to begin with praise supported by evidence. Choose something the employee has done or said that you have observed that is specific. Give them feedback using the following formula.
- The fact you feel good about their behavior
- What you felt good about
- Why you feel good about it
I am (pleased, satisfied, impressed) that you ………. which makes me feel (a lack of confidence, full of admiration, have trust in your ability to…)
Allow the praise to sink in. Good will and trust in an employee is built up over time. By beginning with praise, you are far more likely to preserve the relationship if it’s a relationship you wish to preserve.
Relate to the situation
The second step in giving feedback or criticism is to focus on the problem, not the person. Once the employee has been put at ease, you can now relate back to the situation you are not happy about. Give them feedback using a similar formula.
- The fact you feel bad
- What you feel bad about
- Why you feel bad about it
“I am (concerned, frustrated, alarmed) that you ………. which makes me feel (uneasy, worried, stressed).”
Notice that the focus is on the behavior, not the person.
Allow them to respond
The next step is to give the employee a chance to respond. The goal is to gather the facts and get their perspective. There may be extenuating circumstances you are unaware of. It may be a lack of training or the employee wasn’t inducted properly. There may be personal problems you were unaware of.
“Would you please give me some insight what led to this (situation, behavior)?”
Listen to understand if the employee is looking to blame someone or something else or is taking responsibility for their actions.
Restore the performance
Your objective is to remedy the problem, restore satisfactory performance, and stop the situation from happening again. If the employee is looking to blame and avoid responsibility, this may indicate an attitude problem, in which case you would handle this differently. This may involve coaching, mentoring, or even formal performance management. The important thing is to make sure the employee understands the expectations of the role and the standards that must be met.
If the employee accepts responsibility, then you can plan the next steps accordingly. They may need further training, or you may coach the employee, depending on what stage they are at. If they are at the beginning of the coaching cycle, you may need to tell them how to remedy the situation. If they are towards the end of the coaching cycle, you would ask them how they would remedy the situation.
Reassure the employee
At this stage, focus on reassuring the employee of their value and importance to the business. If you put yourself in the employee’s shoes, criticism might knock their confidence, and they may feel like they failed. If the employee takes responsibility for their behavior, you want them to leave the meeting reassured that the problem is easy to remedy. If the employee avoids the issue and blames others, you want them to leave with clear performance expectations.
Throughout the process, pay careful attention to how the employee is responding to both the praise and the criticism. If your praise is genuine, honest, and specific, the employee is more likely to receive the criticism in the same manner.
- Don’t reprimand an employee in front of others.
- Don’t take sides too quickly in a conflict. Your job is to remain objective and independent at all times.
- Create a culture of us and we as opposed to an I environment.
- Don’t assume you have all the answers. Listen to the opinions of your employees and ask for feedback
- Not all employees are motivated by the same things. Get to know them to understand what makes them tick.
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