A recent paper by psychologist David Scott Yeager and eight other colleagues highlighted how students reacted to feedback.
Forty-four seventh-grade students were assigned to write an essay. Once complete, teachers provided written feedback on each essay. Then researchers collected each essay from the teachers and split the papers into two piles.
In the first pile, each essay had a note attached, in the teacher's handwriting, that read, "I'm giving you these comments so that you'll have feedback on your paper." Only 40 percent of students who got this note decided to revise and resubmit their papers for a better grade.
In the second pile, each essay had a note attached, in the teacher's handwriting, that read, "I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them." Almost, 80 percent of students who got this note decided to revise and resubmit their papers for a better grade, AND they made more than twice as many corrections as the other students.
Feedback with high standards ("I have very high expectations") and assurance ("I know you can reach them") changed how individuals processed criticism and doubled performance.
Injecting high standards and assurance into feedback stretches the individual and ultimately communicates, I believe you're capable of great things if you'll just put in the work. Feedback without high standards and assurance creates mistrust, defensiveness, and inaction among people.
"High standards + assurance is a powerful formula, but ultimately it's just a statement of expectations," says Chip and Dan Heath in the book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.
According to the Heath brothers, high standards and assurance must be supplemented with two more elements if managers are going to deliver effective employee feedback.
Employee Feedback Formula = high standards + assurance + direction + support
Effective employee feedback might sound something like this:
- High Standards: "I have high expectations for you."
- Assurance: "I know you can meet them."
- Direction: "So try this new challenge."
- Support: "And if you fail, I'll help you recover."
Executed authentically and this formula provides employees with enhanced self-insight. They'll discover what they are truly capable of and will perceive their skills in a new productive light.
Managers who wield this simple-but-not-easy formula instantly unlock the power to inspire belief, transform work ethic, and instill confidence in an entire workforce.