Noticing – Not Feedback – Enhances Performance and Elevates Satisfaction
“People don’t want feedback, they want attention.” (Nine Lies About Work)
Feedback is valid when assessment is accurate, and numbers are involved.
Feedback about traits is arrogant because we don’t know people. Tell people how they occur to you. Don’t say, “You’re a curious person.” Say, “I notice you ask questions that make people think.”
“We need to deliver 100 widgets by the end of the week,” can be measured and is a candidate for accurate feedback. But, “You need more initiative,” is frustrating, ambiguous, and ineffective.
Managers might be able to measure the results of initiative, but managers can’t measure or give feedback on initiative.
When you say someone has initiative, you are reflecting on behaviors and making assumptions about motivations. But your assumptions are probably wrong.
Choose noticing over traditional feedback:
Telling people what we think of their performance doesn’t help them thrive and excel, and telling people how we think they should improve actually hinders learning. (HBR)
Elevate job satisfaction and enhance job performance by noticing.
5 things to notice:
- “I notice your energy goes up when ….”
- “I notice that people always want you on their team.”
- “I notice that you always follow-up.”
- “I notice that your projects always come in on time.”
- “I notice that your team loves taking on challenges.”
2 rules for noticing:
- Notice behaviors that express values.
- Notice strengths that produce results.
The pronouns of noticing:
The pronouns of noticing are “I” and “me”. Tell people how they occur to YOU.
Say, “When you encouraged Wilma, I thought, ‘That’s the stuff that helps us become a great place to work.’”
Say, “The questions you asked during our meeting make me want you in our meetings.”
Today’s challenge: Schedule a noticing walk-about today.
What gets noticed gets repeated.
What’s on your noticing list?
My wife would encourage me to “catch our kids being good” instead of pointing out where they weren’t acting to my standards. Taking that concept to the workplace where we notice good behaviors, good results, and good interaction, then reinforce that behavior by saying something positive and encouraging, can very well change a work culture. Thanks for this post Dan!
Thanks Duane. It might surprise you that the first time I heard the expression, “Catch people doing good,” was when I heard Jack Welch say it. He’s not noted for his warm fuzzy approach.
He added… “and go nuts.” 🙂
I notice that there is an assumption shared between the notice v. feedback distinctions here … that the virtues that make up “excellence” as a result are presumably already shared (that everyone agrees). They rarely are, they are highly individual … “idiosyncratic” (per the HBR article you cite).
Excellence is organizationally circumstantial in that it is a measure of a person’s contribution IN THE PART THEY PLAY at the moment, which is always relative and often changing.
Noticing is effective in the moment, feedback is effective in the long run. You can pump someone up, but can they sustain it while learning to do what they are not already good at?
We need to “work” at that which we are NOT good at (to raise our own standards of excellence) … we are going to do what we are already good at in any case, by default.
“Noticing” can’t always be affirming, or we inure others to their own deficiencies, or worse, allow them to believe that their deficiencies are actually strengths.
(Good) Leaders don’t enable so much as empower. Let’s be careful out there.
Thanks Rurbane. YOur question about pumping someone up is relevant. Affirming a strength definitely “pumps people up.” That’s awesome.
I think it has long-term impact as well.
There are times to bring up deficiencies. But if we hire someone who can’t do the job, that’s not their problem.
Also, the idea of empowering fits nicely with noticing.
I’ll be ‘care’ful out there.
Speakin’ t’allufus, as it were.
I’ve become fascinated by that thin bright line b/t enabling and empowerment …
These are all good for those that have passion and are making the effort: 5 things to notice:
“I notice your energy goes up when ….”
“I notice that people always want you on their team.”
“I notice that you always follow-up.”
“I notice that your projects always come in on time.”
“I notice that your team loves taking on challenges.”
The challenge is when the real focus is:
“I notice that you have very little passion for your work”
“I notice that people shy away from you on their teams”
“I notice that you are slow and sloppy on follow-up”
“I notice that your projects come in way behind and not complete”
“I notice that your team works around you”
Thanks Roger. Hire people who want to grow and noticing areas that aren’t working isn’t as difficult or painful. However, tough conversations are still tough for many leaders.
One thing that makes this type of feedback ineffective is speaking for someone else. Don’t speak for the team. Speak for yourself. “I notice people working around you…” Pow!!
I think the tough part isn’t in the hiring, it’s in the “inheriting”… coming in as a new supervisor/team lead is hard because you need to learn the team dynamics while learning the job.
Wow, thanks for bringing up inheriting people. It takes humility on both the leaders part and the followers part to make the inheriting dynamic work well.
Notice behaviors that express values✔️
I think one odd con about feedback is stretching the negative response on the positive resultant effect.
You can’t challenge someone to thrive with a known principle if you fail to cite the differences in progress. I always notice the get-it-done attitude in someone when he/she is aiming to make a difference for the lapses.
Notice strengths that produce results is a boiling point while encourage one to get the statistics straight.
Thanks Godwin. One reason to focus on positives is focusing on negatives is more natural and more frequent. YOu have to intentionally look for good. And the truth is, there is lots of good. If there isn’t lots of good then there’s a big problem.
What is bad is written in stone, what is good is written in water.
I often want to flip that way of thinking… it feels antiquated. I have worked in places that only want to provide feedback or even “notice” when sh*t has hit the fan. It is toxic and none productive.
If the fear is between “enabling” vs “empowering” I would assume my “noticing” is “empowering” before thinking it “enabling”.
Thanks Frank. I often remember the research paper, “Bad is Stronger than Good.” It says a lot about why we focus on negative stuff.
Like many would say, “You can’t ignore the bad.” But lets hope there is lots of good to be noticed. 🙂
Again, great post. I’m going to immediately start using the “I notice…” right away. Love the advice.
Thanks Katie. Best wishes!
This is a great post. I love the practical takeaways. I accepted your challenge and walked around the office looking for “I notice…” I didn’t want to notice too many people, as to not make it cheesy, but you could tell their energy level went up right away after I said something. Thanks again.
Thanks Jeremy. It’s surprising how small things can make a difference. It’s great to read your experience.
I believe people trust you. If they didn’t trust you, your noticing wouldn’t matter. Or, worse yet, your noticing would have negative effect.
I’m afraid we might be conflating feedback with judgment. Feedback is information regarding progress towards a goal. If I say “You fell short of your goal this month” that is feedback. If I say you need to work harder that is judgement. Feedback is very powerful as long as we understand what it is and more importantly what it isn’t.
Thanks Jody. Great seeing you here today. I like to say, Describe it. Don’t judge it. And, as you indicate, feedback isn’t telling people what to do. It’s telling them what they did and the impact it has.