Have you ever played the hot and cold guessing game? “You’re freezing cold, you’re thawing out, you’re getting warmer, you’re on fire!”
The person in charge of the game hides an object and then gives you feedback based on how close (hot) or far (cold) you are from what they’ve hidden. Now imagine searching for their hidden object without receiving any feedback on how hot or cold you are. The best-case scenario would be accidentally stumbling on the hidden object. The worst-case scenario would be continuing to wander aimlessly, and likely throwing in the towel due to frustration or hopelessness.
The more feedback you’re given, the more your game performance improves. If the feedback stops, your progress stops with it. The same can be said for your team members. The most effective leaders provide consistent feedback to their people.
Consider this: According to Gallup, employees are 3.6 times more likely to strongly agree that they are motivated to do outstanding work when their manager provides daily feedback. Daily feedback can have a large impact on the motivation and productivity of your team. Yet, feedback is widely underrated and often overlooked.
One of the worst feelings that employees can have about their supervisor is that “He has no idea what I do every day” or “She doesn’t even seem to know I’m here!” Failing to give feedback is one of the deadliest sins of management, and if you don’t have a system in place for providing consistent feedback, it will fall by the wayside.
How consistent does your feedback need to be? To develop your people, keep your people, and beat your numbers, the answer is extremely consistent. Here are three tips to get started:
1. Make it a Habit
Consistency starts by creating a habit. Feedback isn’t something you can cross off your to-do list. It’s a recurring event on your calendar. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, the best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit. Think about your day and how many times you interact with your team.
Between your interactions, do you check your phone, scroll on LinkedIn, or respond to emails that could probably wait until later in the day? Instead of doing that, use those two minutes to provide meaningful feedback. Eventually, your habit will stick, and providing consistent feedback will become automatic. But it can take up to six months for a habit to stick, so don’t give up on it!
2. Notice Smaller Milestones
It’s easy to wait for someone to go above and beyond your expectations before providing feedback. Their performance catches your eye! While celebrating success is important, if this is the only type of feedback you’re providing, it’s not enough.
There is a big difference between celebrating and noticing. Celebrating happens, and should happen, occasionally. Noticing should happen constantly. People need consistent praise to know they are on the right track and that they are meeting expectations – not just exceeding them.
3. Don’t Let it Expire
When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator? Chances are, you found a couple of questionable items towards the back and had to double-check the expiration date. Feedback expires, too! Letting someone know you think they did a great job on their presentation last week doesn’t have a lot of value.
Odds are, the person doesn’t remember the presentation as well, and you don’t remember exactly what it was that you wanted to point out. Challenge yourself to “catch” your team members in the moment. The feedback will be more specific from you and more valuable to them.
People will work longer for a bad manager than they will for an inconsistent manager. If your praise and expectations are random, impulsive, and inconsistent, retaining top talent will be next to impossible. Providing consistent feedback is key to creating a lasting, effective team.
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2013 and has since been updated.