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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Motivating staff - medal and mission feedback

When you think back to times when people have commented on work that you have done, and as you remember those comments, how often do they encourage you and help you to see how to develop further and how often have they been discouraging? I know I've experienced moments when comments have left me feeling devalued or angry. So this article is about how we can seek to give feedback which people find encouraging and motivating.

The One Minute Manager* is a good starting point. The authors recommend (unsurprisingly) One Minute Praisings: praise people, tell them what they have done well, why that is valued, and ask them to do more of the same. Alongside this is the One Minute Reprimand: be specific about what is wrong and how you feel about that; finish by reminding them that you value them as people even though the performance was not good. Both of these should be immediate.

There may be times when a task can be seen as good or bad, and the praising or reprimand can be used helpfully, powerfully, and authentically. However often there are aspects of work to be praised as well as aspects to be reprimanded. What seems to have evolved is the "Praise Sandwich" - of praise, feedback, and praise. This seeks to leave the recipient feeling encouraged even though they have received feedback which may have been expressed largely as criticism.

The idea underlying the One Minute Praising is that of "catching people doing something right," and telling them so to encourage them, which is a healthy idea. The danger with this approach, and with the Praise Sandwich, is that the person giving the feedback takes on the attitude of judge, rather than that of a companion helping the recipient to evaluate their own performance.

In contrast, a coaching approach puts the focus on the development of the person doing the work - and helps them to recognise good work while being clear about goals. The best model I've come across, and which I'd like to share with you, is "Medal and Mission feedback." The underlying idea is that people doing work should grow in their ability to assess their own work, and that this is nurtured by describing what they have done well and how they can do even better. It's about giving people a clear mission, always giving them a medal when they have finished, then continuing with the next mission - and so on.

For example, if someone is learning to build a brick wall, the person giving feedback would not say, "It's not vertical!" Instead they would help the learner to recognise whether the wall is vertical, comment on what they have done well, and help them to see how to do even better next time.

So, here's the overview of how to give Medal and Mission feedback.
1. Give clear goals (for the mission) so success can be recognised.

2. Ask the person doing the work to give you their own assessment of it. They need to learn to perceive what is good about it, not just judge whether it is "right."

3. Add your own non-judgmental feedback to support theirs and to help them to look forwards to see how to do the task even better next time.

SOME QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU APPLY THIS
How do you give feedback at the end of a task?
What do you believe is the best way to help others to develop skills?
How can you impove the way you give feedback?

Your replies and comments are welcome.

This is an extract from my monthly newsletter. If you'd like to receive this regularly, subscribe here.

* The One Minute Manager, by Drs Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson,
first published 1982 and still in print.


More on how to motivate staff from Finding True North web site.

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