Building Up vs Breaking Down: Adopting a Strengths-Based Approach to Feedback

Feedback is so important for employee motivation and engagement, but the key to successful feedback lies in your approach and delivery.

What is your approach to feedback?

Often giving feedback focuses on an employee’s weaknesses, and where they could do better. Feedback does need to be constructive, but if an employee only hears you talking about the areas in which they don’t quite meet expectations, it can affect their morale and performance.

On the other hand, if you focus on identifying their strengths and giving positive feedback on how they are using their strengths to perform well, this can increase motivation, engagement, and performance.

So how can you adopt a strengths-based approach to feedback?

Know your team members’ strengths and weaknesses

To be able to give the most useful and credible feedback, leaders have to know their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the requirements of their job role.

Focus on turning weaknesses into strengths

When giving feedback, examine how an employee’s perceived weakness can be turned into a strength. For example, if you have a team member who can’t seem to make a decision, maybe they’re just a very analytical thinker who always wants as much information as possible. An analytical mind can be a great strength, just discuss with the team member how they can use it without it having a negative impact on their work.

Strengths can become weaknesses if they are used in the wrong way.

Identify any training or learning needs an employee might have when it comes to being able to use their strengths in the best possible way.

Deliver feedback in the right way

Ideally, give feedback in a 1:1 situation where you won’t be interrupted and once the meeting begins, be sure to include the employee in the process. Ask them what they think is going well, what strengths they think they have, and how they can use them to the best of their ability in the workplace.

Another important point is to focus on facts, not an opinion when giving feedback. What strength did you witness the employee using and in what work situation? Be specific. This is more likely to result in the employee continuing the desirable behaviour.

It’s also a good idea to link their behaviours and performance to the impact on the team and the business as a whole. Whether you want to discuss something positive or negative, you can approach it from a positive angle so you don’t encourage defensiveness or disengagement.

For example, if you wanted to praise some positive behaviour in a strengths-based way, you could say something like;

“ Thank you for your extra effort on this project. Your efficiency and tenacity have helped us push things past the finish line on time when it looked like we wouldn’t manage it.”

If you wanted to point out some undesirable behaviour, you could also still do this from a strengths perspective, acknowledging their strength but demonstrating how to avoid it becoming a weakness. You could say something like;

“ When you don’t engage in team discussions, this can affect trust and morale in the team. I know you have strong analytical skills and you like to weigh everything up before you put yourself out there, but when you don’t contribute, it can seem like you don’t care. In future, would giving you information or an agenda before team discussions help you feel more able to contribute? I think we make better decisions when we all work together.”

Notice how much better this is than just saying “ You don’t contribute to team discussions, do you just not care?”

Make an action plan and follow up

Once you’ve given the feedback, you should have a clear agreed-upon action plan which should help the employee use and develop their strengths for the good of the team and the business. Follow this up at regular intervals and see what’s working or not.

An employee who is using their strengths to the best of their ability in their job role will be a happier and much more engaged employee.

Feedback is so important when it comes to employee performance as well as the performance of teams and the business as a whole. Strengths-based feedback can improve employee engagement and motivation, but it doesn’t mean that you should avoid any discussion of weaknesses. Think about how weaknesses can be turned into strengths with the right training, encouragement, and support. But also appreciate that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much time you put into changing the weakness, it may never improve substantially.

Want help with building your team’s engagement and morale?

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My bespoke packages of training, workshops, and support will help you build and develop the well supported, engaged, and energised teams that will supercharge your business performance and profitability.

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