Developmental Feedback – Pointing Out the Positive

By: Andrew Day, August 28, 2014

When providing developmental feedback to employees, it is natural to focus on areas that require improvement. After all, by building competence in zones of weakness, an employee learns to perform more effectively in his or her job role. Still, people often reject criticism or get defensive in these situations. It’s not easy to listen to someone telling you what you are not good at—even if you know it’s true. In addition, development requires change and change is difficult for many people. It also takes effort and resources from leaders to ensure that the growth plans you implement for your employees are effective.

Developing employee weaknesses certainly provides valuable outcomes for organizations, but there are also good returns to be gained by focusing on employees’ strengths during feedback sessions.

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Showcase their talents

  • All too often, strengths are not discussed at all during developmental feedback. Or sometimes they are quickly reviewed only as a way to prepare the recipient for the upcoming “bad news.” This is unfortunate because focusing on strengths provides benefits for employee and employer alike. Most people are more open to positive feedback than negative. When discussing an employee’s strengths, there is no pushback, no need to persuade the recipient to take ownership of his or her competence level. Therefore, there are typically no hurdles to overcome in getting employee buy-in. This makes it easier for employees to create and follow action plans that leverage their innate talents.
  • Focusing on your employees’ strengths during feedback helps them to see where their natural abilities and inclinations lie. It inspires them to utilize and hone the skills that already come easily.
  • Pointing out clear links between an employee’s strengths and important organizational outcomes will motivate that person to put forth extra effort in those areas. This has a positive impact on the entire company.

Ah-ha Moments

You may wonder: aren’t we just telling them what they already know? Some people are more self-aware than others, but it is not uncommon for individuals to have blind spots regarding important strengths they already possess. Enlightening employees about untapped potential is a valuable method for seeing quick improvement in the effectiveness of their talent. Collaborate with your employees on ways to apply their unrealized strengths to their job, and watch how those strengths positively benefit the organization.

If you are not currently discussing employee strengths as part of your standard developmental feedback, take some time to incorporate it into your process. A more complete approach to feedback will allow your workers to make full use of their abilities and ultimately this will help you meet your organizational objectives and goals.