image of overstuffed club sandwich with cucumber, apricot and chickenIn her article posted in the Harvard Business Review on June 9, 2016 Christina Curtis gives us some excellent tips on how to “Teach Our Teams To Expect Success”. She follows the wisdom of being careful about inadvertently promoting the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure by getting stuck on what went wrong and not focusing on leveraging the lessons learned to improve performance and succeed. She puts the onus on leaders to take action to teach teams to expect success making that prophecy a positive one.  Her suggestion to reframe the narrative to a positive voice, shine a light on what is working and, giving teams more control is sage advice.

Set time aside to share individual and team contributions that are going well

 What stuck out for me was her call to avoid the “sandwich” approach to feedback. You know what she means, 1) Give positive feedback first, 2) hit them with what needs to be improved and then 3) close the conversation with more positive feedback.  She makes a good point about setting time aside to give reinforcing feedback without having to point out the areas that are weak.  Her point is that when we collapse both types of feedback into the same conversation it detracts from the power of appreciation.  I fully agree that it’s a essential to appreciate the efforts and successes of our teams and individuals in a timely way and on a regular basis without necessarily framing it within the context of constructive feedback to improve performance. We all need to hear that we are on the right track and are recognized for what we do well. In fact, as leaders giving timely and consistent positive feedback is among the most powerful tools we have to motivate and drive excellence.

Start a difficult feedback conversation with support and encouragement to set a positive tone

In my experience it is more effective when leaders point out to their teams what was done well within the context of a difficult conversation about what needs improvement or when highlighting mistakes and even failures. When we start a difficult conversation with support and encouragement we set a positive tone and recognize the individual for their accomplishment.  This goes a long way to make people feel appreciated and get a boost of confidence allowing them to make room for what needs to be changed. Whether given in a stand-alone conversation or as part of a discussion about what needs to be improved we need to keep in mind that positive feedback is most effective when authentic and specific so that the compliment does not lose its intent and trust is maintained.Creating a positive relationship that is grounded in authenticity and trust engenders a willingness to change and grow.