Praise or Punish?

leadership developmentToday’s Wall Street Journal has a piece about several companies, including Yahoo, moving away from the “negative feedback” given during performance reviews. Rather, they are focusing on what employees do well and how they can do more of whatever their successful skills and traits are. I am very happy to see that large companies are finally realizing that negative performance reviews do nothing to improve the company’s bottom line, let alone the development of their employees.

Most supervisors have been taught that when giving negative feedback, you should sandwich it between two good pieces of feedback and the person will likely be more receptive. The reality is, the only thing a person hears is what they have done wrong or their perceived faults. Next, the person focuses on this and the result is they are discouraged and often leave the organization. Turnover in an organization is very costly. Several sources say that a mis-hire can cost an organization from 3-5 times the annual salary of that employee. This cost is even higher when it’s a good employee who is discouraged by negative feedback.

This doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t enforce the company’s behavioral standards, goals, work ethics, metrics, and values. It means people need to be hired and evaluated based on their strengths, not their weaknesses. Gallup’s Strengthsfinder has been leading this charge for over 20 years with enormous amounts of research and millions of people who have taken the profile. They have identified 34 basic strengths that can be built into talents with practice.

I don’t believe in turning the workplace into a first-grade T-Ball game where everyone gets a trophy, but I strongly believe in putting people in positions that leverage their strengths. When you have a person who is not performing, and proper instruction, training, or coaching has been provided, (and you have ruled out a personal issue as the root cause), it’s likely a bad fit for that person’s strengths. Our job as leaders is to recognize this and move them to a position where they have a likelihood of success.

When people are praised for what they do well, they want to do more. They will report a more “fair” workplace and take more pride in their job. Think about all the times you’ve exceeded or succeeded in your current role. Did you have someone coaching, praising or giving you encouraging feedback? My guess is you did.

So next time you get ready to give feedback or performance reviews, really think twice about negative feedback. Is the person really suited for their role and tasks? Is there another way of getting the job done? What do you really admire or appreciate about the work this employee does? A carrot is almost always more effective than a stick.

At CEO Global Network, our Senior Executive program is designed to help the second in command folks become better at what they do best and help them become better leaders. Coaching and feedback from peers is viewed as a reward for high potential talent. See what you can do in your organization to enhance your team’s skills through praise, recognition and coaching instead of criticism and negativity.