Every leader, supervisor, coach, team member and parent has been told of the value of giving positive feedback. We’ve heard reasons why. We’ve heard we don’t do it enough. We’ve learned all of the basics about giving positive feedback successfully: make it timely, make it specific, and when giving positive feedback consider sharing it publicly.
All of this is good advice, but it falls short of the mark if we want to make a long-term lasting difference in the self-image, confidence, and performance of others. In short, if you want to give positive feedback, consider doing more than telling people what you have noticed, what their results have been and how you feel, consider writing all those things down.
Why Write it Down
Here are four reasons why written feedback is so valuable.
- It is unusual. While most of us give (and receive) far too little positive feedback to start with, receiving it in writing is even more rare. When was the last time someone gave you positive feedback, encouragement or a specific “thank you” in writing?
- It implies importance. The time taken to form our thoughts and write them down demonstrates to the receiver how valuable and important the feedback is – especially when it is hand written – shows a level of significance even beyond an email (though there is nothing wrong with sending these thoughts in email either).
- It can be preserved. Verbal feedback can be preserved, but only in the mind of the receiver. I know that I have had people tell me very nice things that I remember, and in some cases I can even take you to the exact location that they told me. But our memories can fail, the details deteriorate and those events and words can just be lost among the millions of moments in our lives. Not so with something in writing. Not only can the thoughts and comments be preserved, but you can bet that in many cases they will be saved… for a very long time.
- It will be re-read and therefore reinforced. Verbal praise is shared and can be savored by the receiver, but I don’t think many people will stop the person giving the feedback and say, “Will you tell me that again please?” Quite the opposite for the hand written note. It will be read at least twice initially, and if the feedback is especially meaningful, perhaps several more times in the coming days – and often far beyond.
We want to give feedback so that it will have an impact on the receiver, so it will influence them in deciding their future behaviors and to reinforce what they are doing well. When you review this list you can see how each of these can make a profound difference in the effectiveness of your feedback.
Here are two questions to close:
When was the last time you gave someone positive feedback in writing?
What could you share in writing today (right now?)
Note: If you are looking for tools to help you start or reinforce this habit, check out one of our newest sets of products at YouareRemarkable.com.