Motivation as a Result of Feedback

Updated: May 21, 2020

The common challenge leaders and managers face in today’s workplace is the question of; "How do I keep my team motivated?"

Over the past seventy years, motivation has been the topic of much research. From Maslow’s needs-hierarchy to Skinner’s reinforcement theory, the question has remained the same.  

"How do we as leaders create a feeling of interest, a reason for doing something or behaving in a certain way?"

Many factors have been taken into consideration when looking at motivation theory.  However, the general conclusion has been, motivating factors vary from one person to the other.  

Something that highly motivates one individual may be of no concern to another individual.  

None-the-less, we have chosen to discuss one motivating factor that seems to be fairly uniform in the workplace.  This factor is feedback.

In most facets of life, people seek to feel valued, and it should come as no surprise that the workplace is not an exception to this phenomenon.  

Thus, leaders must know how to properly bestow feelings of value in their employees through the use of feedback.

In order for feedback to be effective, the message must be relevant, specific, timely, valuable, and accurate.  

Motivation + Skills + Feedback = Effective Results 

Let’s now look at an example in the workplace.  Jane Smith is a valuable asset to your team.  She is always on time, exteriorly creative gives exceptional customer service, and has great employee relation skills.  

You, as Jane’s manager, recognize Jane’s exceptional work and determine she should receive a "pat on the back".  

How do you ensure that this "pat on the back" is indeed effective feedback?

First, identify exactly which area of Jane’s exceptional work you are going to comment.

A statement such as, "Jane, you are doing a great job" is not nearly as motivating as "Jane, you really set the bar with your customer service.  You received six compliments from customers this week!"

Next, provide the feedback soon after Jane has acted in a commendable manner.

Finally, provide the feedback in a genuine style that you have determined to be valuable specifically to Jane. Jane has now received relevant, specific, timely, valuable, and accurate feedback.

She can now return to work feeling appreciated, motivated, and prepared to continue working at a commendable level.

In short, feedback can be a very powerful motivator as long as it is administered effectively.

Although each industry is going to be different it is still beneficial for employees to know their work is noticed and appreciated.  

To be most effective, feedback should be customised to the individual, well thought out and delivered close to the event. Anything else will limit the motivational effect. 

Positive feedback

To give positive feedback, the easiest way to start is to see employees doing something right and you give feedback on it.

When praising employees, make sure that you:

1) Specify what you liked 2) Link their behaviour back to the organisational goals 

Negative feedback

Negative feedback is more difficult for most managers. Here are a few tips: 

First, don’t sandwich negative feedback in-between positive comments. We have found this to actually be more ineffective. 

Instead, the first time you have an issue with your employee’s performance, let him or her know. Your comments do not have to be harsh. Rather, they should be assertive and factual.

Begin with a neutral comment to reduce defensiveness.

Then, while using a pleasant but firm tone of voice, explain how the employee’s behaviour affects you, your team or the company and why it is a problem.

Next, ask for the behaviour/performance you expect.

Finish your feedback with a question. Example, "I would appreciate your being on time to future team meetings. Can you do this for me?"  The question obliges the employee to either answer in the affirmative or give you a reason for being unable to comply.

If you get a negative response, you can discuss the issue further and hopefully come to an understanding. 

We understand that giving employees negative feedback is uncomfortable for most managers. But, ignoring performance issues is unfair to both the employee and the organization.

Remember, employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team. In order to achieve such recognition, they need feedback. But, in our experience, many managers find giving frequent, meaningful feedback difficult.

To Motivate Your Employees, Give Honest Feedback

To get the conversation started, you can use these questions:

  • Do you have any heroes or roles models that inspire you here?

  • Do you have a compelling reason that you believe in?

  • Is there a way you can enjoy the process?

  • Is there a way you can link this to good feelings?

  • Do you know how to measure effectiveness?

  • Do you know the tests for success and what good looks like?

  • Are you getting timely, relevant, actionable feedback?

  • Is there anybody who can give you more effective feedback?

  • How important is this in your grand scheme of things?

If you have the skills but lack the motivation, you won’t accomplish much. If you have the motivation but lack the skills, you’ll spin your wheels.

Ultimately, you need the right blend of motivation, skills and feedback for effective results.  

The key here is that effective feedback is your ticket out of ineffective loops.

Looking to get your employees motivated through effective feedback?

If you are looking for team development, leadership development, team building or character growth activities for your teams, connect with us today.

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