The Power of Positive Feedback

I was talking to a group of managers about using a powerful feedback process – referred to as EEC – standing for EXAMPLE, EFFECT and CHANGE. It is powerful because it is simple and quick but it does focus on the negative or critical side of feedback ….so now I add another C (EECc) since the praising message should include a statement of what to CONTINUE to do. And this is where my story begins.

Many many years ago I had a boss who was quite ‘prickly’, somewhat aggressive and also defensive. He wasn’t easy to give feedback to and so I often avoided the issue and just ‘sucked it up’ as they say. This didn’t help him or me, but it did avoid a deterioration in our relationship.

One day I observed him being really skillfull and I happened to comment, saying that what he had done (Example) really impressed me and I would like to learn from him (Effect) and (Continue). He was embarrassed by the compliment and said ‘I haven’t had praise like that for years’.

This set me thinking about his usual style and that perhaps his self esteem wasn’t as robust as he made out, thus criticism was seen as an attack to defend, whereas praise would raise his self esteem.

For some weeks after this I was careful to find things to praise and in turn I found I was receiving his praise in return ……but it wasn’t fixing some of the problem behaviours I was experiencing. What to do I wondered?

Well I was amazed and delighted when one day he commented on how we were working together and asked me if I had any criticism to offer!

It was as if he was finally ready and robust enough and so I told him just one thing to change (baby steps are often best). He understood what I had said and never again behaved in that way.

This working relationship was a foundation stone for me and not only gave me the courage to tackle difficult issues in the future, I also realised that feedback can be used in a number of ways.

Could it be that someone near you might benefit from EECONTINUE feedback in order to reinforce something great about them, which might also lead to a reduction in less welcome behaviours or at least the opportunity to discuss things?