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© 2019 THE INCLUSION BLOG. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A brilliant way to improve the way you give feedback to your team

Some new information has come my way thanks to a post by Jeff Hayden on a simple way to frame feedback that will drastically improve its effectiveness. Jeff points us to some great work by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code.

Here’s Daniel:

What’s the secret of great feedback? We instinctively think that effective feedback is about the quality of the information–telling the learner to do this and not that. But is this true, or is there something else going on?

A team of researchers from Stanford, Yale, Columbia and elsewhere recently studied just that question through teacher feedback given to middle-school students on essay writing.

To their surprise, they discovered that there was one particular type of teacher feedback that improved student effort and performance so much that they deemed it “magical.” Students who received this feedback chose to revise their paper far more often than students who did not and improved their performance significantly. You can see the results here.

What was the magical feedback?

Just one phrase:

I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.

That’s it: just 19 words. But 19 words that create something more powerful: a sense of belonging and connection.

Looking closer, the phrase contains several distinct signals:

1)    You are part of this group.

2)    This group is special; we have higher standards here.

3)    I believe you can reach those standards.

The key is to understand that this feedback isn’t just feedback–it’s a vital cue about the relationship. The reason this approach works so well has to do with the way our brains are built. Evolution has built us to be cagey with our efforts; after all, engagement is expensive from a biological standpoint.

But when we receive an authentic, crystal-clear signal of social trust, belonging, and high expectations, the floodgates click open.

Anyone who has attended my Engage! Workshop knows about the Gallop research on the 12 most important factors in employee engagement. The challenge for all of us is to figure out how to engage our teams and get 5 out of 5 in all 12 areas.

Providing our team authentic feedback hits on many of the 12 factors, six of them in fact:

  • Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  • In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for my work?
  • Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who cares about my development?
  • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  • This last year, have I had opportunities to learn and grown?

With feedback being such an important part of engaging our team, anything we can do to improve our feedback technique has got to be worth the time to understand and put into action. I, for one, am going to frame my feedback a little differently from this point forward.

I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.


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