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The Value of Positive Feedback | Video

The Value of Positive Feedback | Video

Feedback is a vital part of any manager or supervisor’s role. And that’s as true for Project Managers as for any other form of manager or leader. There are different types, but the one that gets the most people confused – or even angry – is purely positive feedback.

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Positive Feedback is One of a Number of Different Types of Feedback.

  • Critical (or negative) judgemental feedback
  • Balanced feedback
  • Wholly Positive feedback

But, people always struggled with wholly positive feedback.

‘What do you do if someone gets something wrong? Do you tell them it’s okay and praise them for it? That’s stupid.’

No, you don’t praise people for getting things wrong.

But do you think they don’t know?

If they really don’t know, then they are not yet at a level where wholly positive feedback is an appropriate developmental tool.

But if they are…

Have you ever made a mistake? Of course you have. And did you know it was a mistake? Of course you did… you were kicking yourself.

So, how much did it help when someone pointed it out for you?

‘You shouldn’t have done it like that.’

At best, it just annoyed you or left you feeling even more embarrassed. A worst, it enraged you and took all your focus off fixing things.

A Story about Ernest Shackleton and the Value of Positive Feedback

It was related by the Surgeon on the Endurance, Alexander Macklin.

Two of the men on watch had got a wire rope tangled on the shop’s propellor, which Macklin described as ‘a very nasty accident’.

Macklin went on to say:

‘but there was no recrimination at all. The thing was done and the thing was to get it undone.’

Any time Shackleton felt he had come down too hard on someone he would undo the effect with a personal talk. He knew that the men would feel worse if they knew they had let him down, but that he didn’t say anything.

Positive Feedback and Transactional Analysis (TA)

We need human interaction to feel emotionally and psychologically secure. But some people never got compliments as a child. So, to get that human interaction, they resort to seeking out criticism and punishment. If people are stuck in that mode, no amount of chastisement will stop them doing things wrong. The chastisement is the reward they crave.

TA calls a Unit of Human Recognition a Stroke

When we give strokes, we can give:

  • 👍 Positive strokes
    (supportive)
  • 👎 Negative strokes
    (disparaging)
  • 🙃 Conditional strokes
    (positive or negative – but linked to a behavior or event)
  • 😉 Unconditional strokes
    (positive or negative – but not linked to any behavior or event – just for being you)

Instead, withhold it. Don’t give them that reward for doing the wrong thing. Instead, retrain their unconscious. Give them a positive reward for tiny successes. That way, they will come to associate interaction with doing the right things. Because, for them, at the start, criticism has no effect on their behavior save to entrench it.

The giving and receiving of strokes is often known as a ‘stroke economy’.

There is more about Transactional Analysis in general, and Strokes in particular, in our big-read article, ‘9 Transactional Analysis Tools that All Project Managers Must Know’.

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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own. 

Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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