Develop Outstanding Employees Utilizing Effective Feedback

by Ben on May 18, 2009

When it comes to offering constructive feedback for a team’s or individual’s performance, I want you to remember this:

It’s better to reinforce good behavior, than react to bad.

So what exactly does this mean to you as a leader? Take at look at the two graphs below.

Each graph represents the development of an employee’s performance as he or she learns a new task or responsibility.

For simplicity’s sake we’ll assume that having no knowledge of the task represents -10 (the bottom of the graph), and being an expert at the task represents a +10. The green line will represent the “baseline” of meeting the minimum expectations of the task.


The first graph represents “Reactive Feedback” when a supervisor only offers feedback when an employee’s performance dips below the minimum expectations of the task.

The employee’s performance (the blue line) starts out strong, but as the weeks go by, he gets complacent and his performance begins to deteriorate. The red stars represent where the “reactive supervisor” encourages better performance only after the employee’s performance dips below his minimum expectations. The employee begins performing better for a little while but eventually dips back below the minimum expectations resulting in more reactive feedback from his supervisor.

The problem with reactive feedback is that it encourages “minimum” performance. As time goes on, the employee realizes that in order to keep his supervisor off his case, he need only meet the “minimum” expectation of the task. Often times when a supervisor rates an employee’s job performance as “inconsistent”, it’s most likely caused by that supervisor’s ineffective use of feedback.


The second graph represents “Proactive Feedback” where a supervisor offers reinforcement as the employee is continually improving in his ability to perform a task. In this case, the employee excelled at the task from the very beginning clearly exceeding the expectations of his supervisor.

The red stars represent when proactive feedback was given to the employee while he was improving in his ability and performing at an outstanding level Most employees want to do a good job, and they want to know where they stand with their supervisors.

Reinforcing good performance with positive feedback encourages employees to maintain a high level of performance.

Most people can manage the performance of a subordinate to meet the minimum expectations of the job, but it takes a proactive leader to bring about outstanding results from an individual or team and it all comes back to feedback.

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