One summer, with a particularly small group of participants, she decided to experiment by giving only positive feedback and the results were amazing! For the first time in many years of her certification training, all participants passed. No one ‘freaked out with an incompetency attack’, (her words).
It feels counter-intuitive. How will delegates or team members know what they need to improve if we don’t point it out! Her positive feedback formula reinforces successful behaviours and replaces criticism with a positive suggestion of what to do instead and the impact that will have.
Recently we started running our Presenting Skills training at DCS for our Sales and Commercial teams. It would be difficult to underestimate the sheer terror that many otherwise confident and hugely capable people feel when asked to present! So, we decided to test using only positive feedback.
In an initial exercise, we set out the characteristics of great presenters. Over the course of 4 individual presentations, each presenter and the other delegates provided only positive feedback based on these characteristics. ‘The emotion you evoked with your stories and voice tone was powerful’, ‘you had my attention right from the start with those amazing stats and your explanations kept me hooked throughout’, ‘you completely changed my perspective with the journey you took us on’, ‘I felt comfortable, then challenged, then reassured, all in one presentation’, ‘your message was crystal clear. I loved how you used 3 different ways to explain it’. You get the gist.
To provide feedback each delegate needed to focus on the person presenting and look for the good stuff. The subliminal effect was that the range of good characteristics was reinforced again and again. Individuals picked out for themselves elements that they wanted to build into their own presentations and this safe space made it appealing to try them out.
As a coach or manager, it certainly isn’t easy to focus purely on positive feedback but the results make it worth persevering to master the technique. This from one of our Presenting Skills delegates shows you why.
‘Thank you so much for such an amazing day yesterday, it was exhausting but so fantastic, I truly feel that I have learnt so much and my absolute terror of standing in front of an audience has decreased. I feel so differently towards it now, amazing how a day can change your whole perception of things, isn’t it? I went from tears to feeling quite happy at the end of it, all because of how you delivered the message, so a huge thank you.’
We’ll be keeping it positive at DCS!