Can I give you some feedback?

You're probably giving people feedback the wrong way.

In a work environment, it's tempting to point out minor grievances. After all, if you're the boss in a modern office you might think it's your job to provide constructive criticism. The sales presentation had too much detail. The status meeting went too long.

Sadly, this is all too common. I've worked in environments where the concepts of "incremental personal improvements" and "radical transparency" are the norm.

It's not the best way to lead, though.

According to recent research into how the brain works, constant nitpicking is not ideal. Brain scientists know that our neurons and synaptic connections actually grow and develop in the areas where we have the strongest brain activity. If someone is really smart about running data analytics on your social media accounts, and they have incredible tacit knowledge in that area, pointing out a total lack of people skills means you are giving feedback in the worst way possible. You are not helping that person to excel. In fact, you are inhibiting their growth by focusing on their negative attributes and pointing out flaws.

There's a better way, and it's a fairly simple and obvious trick.

In mentoring students at a college these last few years, I've learned that real growth happens when I point out their strengths and give them positive feedback. I'm well-known for telling people what they did right. "You did an awesome job on that marketing study" is a common refrain. "You cranked out that data analytics report perfectly" is a smart coda.

If you lead people, the trick is to tell people they're awesome in a real and genuine way--to point out the specific things they did right to help the team and how they accomplished important tasks with excellence.

I believe it's the secret to leading a successful team.

Here's an example.

I recently worked on a podcast with a few college students. I love their energy and enthusiasm for learning how to record the audio, edit out the fluff, and promote the final product. One member of the team has learned the balance between being too scripted and not following closely to a script. To be honest, this is a life lesson--how much should we explore new ideas and try radical things, and how much should we stick to the business playbook? It takes a lifetime, and college students are just at the starting gate.

During the recording process, I kept giving the host encouraging feedback. I said "you're awesome" a lot. I pointed out what worked. We kept improving. We found a balance between rabbit trailing too much and not adhering so closely to the topic at hand.

I'm amazed at how this helped us all get along and how the project turned out better.

I love doing this mentoring, and I've seen amazing growth.

I've noticed when I do start pointing out problems and flaws, it tends to drag everyone down. It's not that I never redirect their efforts, but I avoid having that take precedence or overshadow a constant flow of positive feedback.

Will you try giving radically positive feedback?

Forget radical transparency. Praise them like crazy instead.

Published on: Apr 29, 2019
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