Two employees talking, one receiving constructive feedback from another

Receiving positive feedback is transformative. It builds confidence, reduces anxiety, and helps individuals improve. Listen now as Dr. Janet Pilcher, author of Hardwiring Excellence in Education, emphasizes the importance of praising what’s right and sets the stage for future episodes on tactics you can use to give constructive feedback to the employees in your organization.

This episode addresses questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of giving feedback to employees?
  • How does the shift in mindset from evaluation to recognition contribute to high-performance outcomes?

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Episode Transcript

[Intro music plays in the background.]

Janet Pilcher: Hello everyone, welcome to today’s Accelerate Your Performance podcast. I’m your host, Janet Pilcher. It’s great to welcome you to 2024. I want to thank all of you who tune in every week.

As you know, in 2023 I had the honor of publishing my new book, Hardwiring Excellence in Education. On Accelerate Your Performance, I spent much of last year talking about the topics aligned to the Nine Principles framework that are outlined in the book, and I interviewed model leaders across the country that I also highlighted in the book. I hope you enjoyed those episodes.

Over the next several months, I’m going to dig a little deeper on the tactics to help us hardwire high-performing leadership behaviors. So important in today’s time. And I’ll focus on a specific tactic and then interview an educational leader who does that tactic especially well. Many of you know that the Nine Principles tactics focused on key educational results in three pillars: the student success pillar, the people pillar, and service pillar. Each of those pillars has some specific outcomes that we focus on with our leaders and our partner organizations. In student success, we focus on achievement, student attendance, and student behavior. In the people pillar, we focus on workplace engagement and experience and workplace attendance, employee attendance, and employee retention. Are those tactics really help us drive to those outcomes?

And in the service pillar, we focus on family and parent satisfaction, our internal support services, the ability of us to really provide great service to the people who are inside our organization. Student engagement, we focus on how we serve our students and how they perceive us as they’re learning in their classrooms. And we also focus on how well our community is perceiving us with community engagement.

So all of the tactics and the work that we do and the conversations that we have in our podcast really focus on those leadership applications and tactics that really help us drive to those outcomes. And we’ve seen some unbelievably great results with our partner organizations. So today we’ll focus on leaders who are driving to achieve high performance in workplace experience and engagement, employee retention, and employee attendance.

So I want to start with the value of positive feedback. You know, it makes me think about a professor who I had when I was in the doctoral program at FSU. Her name was Dr. Catherine Emihovich, and she had, we had assigned a paper, and we were writing a paper, and on top of the paper, she just asked me to come see her, that she wanted to talk about my paper. Well, that gave me a little anxiety. So she could probably could have helped me with there with a little bit of reduction of anxiety. But what she wanted to do is sit with me and talk with me in her office.

And what she did at that time was to, first of all, tell me how she thought that I was a good writer. Now, no one, I’m a math person, so [laughs] no one hardly in my life had ever provided me with that feedback in that open way. And she said, “let me show you very specifically how,” and she said, “you use the compare and contrast approach really well, but I want to take you through your paper and show you how.” She gave me very specific information, positive information, many positives there. And then she said, “let me give you a couple tips on how you can get better because you can even be a better writer.” And Dr. Emihovich at that time really changed me from thinking that I really didn’t have that great ability in writing and expressing myself in narrative thought to really working on what I could do to help improve so that I would get better at that and that I could even possibly achieve in that area in ways that I never thought I could.

I’m so grateful to Dr. Catherine Emihovich who is no longer with us. She unfortunately passed away several years ago, and I will always have great memories of the contributions that she made in my life and that was at the doctoral level in my late 20s. So it’s never too late in that educational process to truly make a difference in your students’ lives. As educators we’re accustomed to look for the things that are wrong than look for the things that are right. I appreciate what Dr. Emihovich did by really looking at those things that were right.

We’ve experienced what that feels like as students when people are talking about what’s wrong constantly or helping us giving us feedback on how we can improve. We felt that as students, we felt that at work. Most of us have been teachers, and we’ve spent a lifetime giving student feedback that helps them improve. After all, that’s a big part of our job as teachers. We do so not because we’re trying to hurt our students, but we want them to get better, and we know if we can provide them with good constructive feedback that we think that that will be the feedback that helps them get better. And it usually is, but unfortunately, we’ve done that without letting students know what they’re doing right. And so if we can transfer that into how we live and function in our workplace.

You know, I remember years ago when I was a tennis coach a long time ago and I had a tennis player Scott, who was unbelievably had potential to be a great tennis player. Beautiful, beautiful stroke and just had such ability, but when he would get on the court and he would mess up he’d get so frustrated with himself and -and so I had to figure out what am I going to do to help Scott move through where he is to get him to a better place.

Well, if I would have gone in with constructive feedback for improvement, I don’t think that would have helped Scott, so I just intuitively I think at that time knew that I really needed to look at the things that Scott did well and provide that positive feedback and show him and call it out. When he hit a stroke that was a beautiful stroke and placed really well, I talked to him about that stroke, and I asked him why that was working what that felt like.

And so we just worked through multiple ways that he was doing good things. And my goal there was to help build his confidence and -and also to help him manage his anxiety, and I’m proud to say that he did do that in a particular way that was that I got him to a better place, so we still probably had to work on it, but he was making -making progress.

Let’s transfer the idea of providing positive feedback to developing leaders, and when we develop leaders, we engage with employees or peers, and we’re engaging with other peers. We build confidence, we reduce anxiety, and we help them improve. That’s the value of providing positive feedback.

So let’s shift our thinking when we see people doing things right, let’s call it out. Let’s focus less on evaluating and judging people and more on seeing what’s right. If we open ourselves to intentionally looking for what’s right, in most cases, we’ll see more right than wrong in people’s performance and behavior. When we see something being done right, let’s praise people for what they’re doing. We communicate this praise by being specific with what we see, timely when it’s occurring, and genuine in our approach. That’s really important. When we do, we have a better chance of achieving positive organizational results.

So let’s hardwire positive feedback as part of our leadership practice. It’s a- it’s a simple yet powerful way to look for what’s right as a first step to traveling down our organizational path. We can do that to give success for us, for our students, and our families.

Next week I’m going to connect with Dr. K. K Owen on our podcast, one of our coach leaders, and we’ll deep dive into this topic by focusing on building an emotional bank account using positive feedback and applying an approach to give feedback using three positive interactions to one improvement action. We’ll talk specifically about what that looks like and how we can do that and- and role play an example for you.

The following week I’ll interview Jon Malone an executive director of a regional service provider, who is exceptional in applying positive feedback with his team and achieving high performing results in that people pillar. So I hope you enjoy the conversations and the deep dives we’ll take to be our best as leaders.

You know remember, everyone is a leader and developing leadership skills that help us be at our best is a journey that is worth taking. Travel with me through our episodes and accelerate your performance this year as we learn together and continue to be our best as leaders of our organizations and leaders of the work that we do each and every day.

[Outro music plays in the background.]

And as always, I thank you for tuning into this episode of Accelerate Your Performance. Feel free to share this episode with a friend or colleague you think that will enjoy the topic. I look forward to connecting with you next time as we continue to focus on our Nine Principles framework and take deep dives into Hardwiring Excellence in Education. Have a great week everyone.

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If you enjoy the podcast, explore Janet’s latest book, Hardwiring Excellence in Education. Each chapter focuses on the Nine Principles® Framework offering tools and tactics to enhance leadership skills and elevate organizational performance.

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