You Might Be Failing at Positive Feedback!

You Might Be Failing at Positive Feedback!

It’s no secret that I am a super big fan of Positively Focused Leadership. I love building and developing teams, coaching and mentoring individuals, and growing my business through a positive focus on balancing and utilizing my team’s strengths. Of course, some unconvinced and skeptical managers out there may not immediately see the benefits of this kind of leadership.

To those managers, I beg: give your teams some positive feedback or find yourself failing.

Recently, I read a great article from HBR on “Why… So Many Managers Avoid Giving Praise?” ( I have to admit that I was shocked by the data. I have known for some time now by personal observation that a lot of managers either do not give any feedback or what is given is criticism. I am surprised to see the number of managers that (either actively or passively) avoid giving positive reinforcement to their direct reports! Thirty-seven percent of the respondents in HBR’s self-assessment admitted to the deficiency.

What is an Effective Leader?

If we are doing our job effectively as team leaders, we are guiding our teams to perform by supporting each individual in their personal path.

That means for high performers, we guide them to maintain productivity and encourage skill growth for their next level in the organization.

For mid-level performers, we are helping them grow their level of productivity to achieve expert skill levels.

For underperformers, we help introduce them to — and gain an understanding of — the position’s tasks to enable growth into competent team members.

The word consistently used among all three types is “grow.” In this sense, growing is learning, improving, and mastering one’s skills, and the important step in all of these processes is feedback.

Negative feedback is important, by all means. It is an informative process that helps the feedback receiver understand where they need to spend their efforts and offers insights into how they could improve performance, efficiency, or accuracy. Negative feedback, like most things, has its own time and place… and audience. 

As a managing supervisor, it is our job to balance the equation to apply this tool where appropriate. For example, a high performer or an expert will respond much better to negative feedback as a tool for honing their craft and performance. Conversely, a novice will be demotivated and disengaged following only-negative feedback. They are less likely to act on negative feedback when faced with new and unfamiliar projects or skill-building challenges.

In contrast, positive feedback will serve as a motivator across all skill levels in your organization. Again, this kind of response to your team members has its time, place, and audience for maximum effectiveness. The positive component will increase the impact even when combined with negative feedback. It shows your team that you “have their back,” and that you are rooting for their success. 

Learning this skill as a supervisor helps your team increase engagement in the organization and their department, thus reducing your turnover for reasons related to emotional connection. Furthermore, a healthy dose of polished positive feedback encourages replication, openness, and willingness to accept a side of negative feedback or criticism.

Give Good Feedback

Offering positive feedback is crucial in the eyes of your team, but I can attest that many of us are not confident about delivery or even sure how to provide it sincerely. The following are a few approaches that you can begin practicing with your team.

  1. If you see something, say something.
    Numerous studies indicate that the most effective kind of feedback is quickly timed rather than delayed. It may not always be possible to say it right at the moment, but giving yourself a shorter timeline to provide it benefits its sincerity and adoption.
  2. Be specific if you want it repeated.
    Just saying “good job” to your team members won’t work anymore. Use their name in the feedback and identify the specific behavior you want to be replicated. Avoid lingering on the results because it is the behavior you want to be repeated, not always the specific result.
  3. Spread the love.
    Avoid singling out a favorite—or even the impression that there is one. Share positive feedback for behaviors with each of your team members individually instead of only focusing on a high performer.

Note that we usually rate ourselves higher on the scale of being effective at giving negative, positive, or mixed feedback. HBR’s survey presented results highlighting that phenomenon but also pointed to their team’s opinion that more effective managers give positive and negative feedback. 

Managers that avoid positive feedback are seen as less effective among their peers, subordinates, and supervisors. You aren’t seen as effective or successful if you aren’t committed to praising your team for their behaviors or actions.

Leadership and the S-Curve of Learning

Leadership and the S-Curve of Learning

How to use a few mathematical functions to view a new perspective as a leader of your team. Shift your view of their mastery of the work and learn how to prevent the best on your team from leaving your network.

What is the S-Curve of Learning?

The S-Curve of Learning is a mathematical relationship also known as a sigmoid function. You can look up the Wikipedia article if you’re really a nerd for maths, but for now, you can get by with the simple definition that the curve shows the progression, over time, of adoption. When applied to education or career performance, this curve shows the progression of mastery. The S-Curve of Learning.

We are all on this curve somewhere. Everyone one of us is at different locations for the same topic of education. Multiply that by the endless number of things that we could learn and achieve mastery in our lives and careers.

The Beginning

We all start at zero when learning something new. Just like a new product to market, we are out there doing a whole lot of everything and seeing very little progress – which is how it is in our new job or with a new task or project at work. It can be discouraging. But we keep at it and one day, we start to see improvements. We start to “get it.” And confidence builds. As we grow in skills, so too do we grow in satisfaction and engagement.

The Sweet Spot

Competence is what shifts us into the Sweet Spot on our S-Curve of learning. This is the middle phase for us—where things are challenging and fun and engaging. Things are tough, but not too tough; easy, but not too easy. We face challenges and overcome them, and confidence and competence continue to build.


As we continue on this journey, there is a point where things will begin to be easier rather than challenging. We encounter fewer true obstacles and the thrill of “the game” begins to wane. Just as in the Beginning, there was this “slog” of working a lot and seeing few returns, similarly, the turn towards Mastery is comparable but less challenging. The great thing is that “we got this” when it comes to challenges—they are easy. But the bad thing is the same… less and less growth and challenge cause a loss of inertia from those successes.

We’re all equal before a wave.

Laird Hamilton

Professional Surfer

Where Are Our Teams?

When you look at this S-Curve from a team leader perspective, you ideally want to see a diversified portfolio of distribution along the curve with respect to each person’s “job.” For all their tasks as a whole, they should fit evenly along this curve similar to the bell-curve:

  • ~ 15% at the Beginning, on their way from Zero to Competence;
  • ~ 70% in the Sweet Spot, increasing confidence;
  • ~ 15% near Mastery.

With a bell-curve distribution along this S-Curve concept, a team leader will have most of their team in the “sweet spot” engaging themselves with the job itself and overcoming challenges for themselves. Sweet! Those at the Beginning will require our intervention and guidance – we need to teach them and guide them and give them tasks to help them move towards competency. Those at the end? Guess what! They require our intervention and guidance as well! Not to teach as much as to motivate and help prepare them for new S-Curves of Learning for them to stay engaged with our organization and team.

Danger Zones

I see two areas, the Beginning and Mastery, as our Danger Zones. They are dangerous because these are the areas where exist the highest chance that we may fail our team members in ways that cause them to exit. Even though they comprise the minority of our team in an ideal distribution, these two groups really should draw the majority of our attention. Think of the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule).

Those in the Beginning need training, attention, and time. Without those boxes ticked, new team members may ultimately feel disengaged and unvalued. Two choices exist for them – either they exit our team (high cost to replace and train) or they stay with poor demeanor (high cost to team morale).

Those near Mastery need the proposition of new challenges. As leaders, our goal is to identify these individuals and prepare new obstacle courses, new S-Curves of Learning for their future. Without these new possible futures, the Mastery turns a plateau at the top to a precipice, a cliff to jump off, leaving our organization to start a new S-Curve of Leaning with another team. Sad news!

Questions to Ask & Thoughts to Contemplate

As an exercise, give yourself a few minutes to contemplate all of these questions and thoughts. When you read over something that evokes curiosity and some thought (or you can’t easily answer it), give it room to expand and chase the rabbit down the hole. You and your team will be better for it!

  • If I had to plot on the S-Curve for each of my teams, where would I put them? Why?
  • Individually, where does each team member exist on the S-Curve for their position as a whole?
  • How can I be more involved for my team members in the Beginning?
    • How much time am I devoting to them?
    • Do they have my attention? How obvious to everyone is it?
    • What new concepts or tasks have I personally trained them on?
  • Which team members are nearing Mastery of their position?
    • What’s next for them?
    • What new challenges can we organize for them?
    • Are there new S-Curves of learning?
    • Which areas can we push the goal post further and challenge them to greater performance?
    • Can we shake up the entire sandbox they are playing in (new team members under a team leader, or move an individual to an entirely new team)?
Twitter Chat: Bring Personal Brand Value to an Employer

Twitter Chat: Bring Personal Brand Value to an Employer

The world is more connected every day and your personal brand doesn’t need to be hidden away. Employers can find a great deal of value through their employees’ personal brands with the alignment of the message, support, and resources.

Twitter Chats

Some of my best experiences on Twitter are when I’m engaged in a Twitter Chat. There’s just something about the flooding of responses. All sorts of different people on Twitter get to chime in. It’s a great opportunity to share and gain new perspectives you may not have considered.

What I’ll do here is share the questions from a specific Twitter Chat and my responses. Because of the limited character count on Twitter, I’ll use this format with more space to elaborate on and ideas or include additional, useful perspectives that I found as well!

Christine Gritmon & #ChatAboutBrand

Christine Gritmon is one of my favorite Twitter accounts to follow. She’s a social media trainer, personal branding coach, and micro-business mega-fan. You can follow her on Twitter at @cgritmon and all her social at her website

The insights I share here are from her chat on Tuesday, November 17th, 2020. Using the hashtag #ChatAboutBrand on Twitter, Christine brought together her followers and friends to discuss how personal branding affects your employer’s brand.

Your Brand & Your Employer

Q1. What Does “Building an Online Community” Mean to You?

Create value until you attract fans who want to listen.

Community, in this sense, is the feeling of relatedness and connection between a group of people. In the ever-growing world of social media, each platform has it’s many varied “corners” where similar interests attract groups of people. It’s the discussions that grow around those interests and topics that build the community.

In my experience, you begin by joining in the conversations that already exist. By finding people who are already talking about these topics, you get the opportunity to jump in and engage with others. As you grow familiar with the community, you can begin sharing quality content that others will find valuable.

Over time, you’ll develop from someone who joins the conversation into someone who starts the conversation. That tipping point is when “building” an online community happens. The real accelerant to building a community, however, remains in engaging with the people who are responding to your conversation starters.

Q2. Why do some companies discourage employees from building their own personal brands?


The simple answer is fear. For a great many companies that have yet to evolve their understanding of an employee’s personal brand, fear is still a ruling emotion. Personal branding has grown quite quickly and outpaced the understanding of many management teams, so it’s also not a surprise.

A valuable employee that had a large network outside the company with a positive industry reputation was quite rare before recent years. As internet social networks have expanded and matured, individuals have been able to share their expertise and ideas while building communities of followers. That reality inspires quite a bit of fear in management teams that haven’t yet evolved and are still unfamiliar with personal brands.

Managers at these companies are fearful of a few things:

  • The cultivation of and engagement with the personal brand may distract from work tasks and obligations;
  • An employee’s personal brand grows so large that they do not “need” the company as an employer;
  • The personal brand could eclipse the company’s influence;
  • An individual’s brand and message could diverge from the company’s, creating a distraction from the company’s branding.

Q3. What are the advantages to a company of its employees having strong personal brands?

Larger field of gravity.

As long as the employee’s personal brand is aligned with the company’s image, the more attraction the personal brand draws in helps with the company brand’s field of attraction.

There are plenty of advantages to a company when employees have strong personal brands. Most advantages only exist if personal brands are aligned with the company’s brand image and messaging. When personal brands starting having a divergent message or worse, a counteractive message, the company’s advantages begin to fade away quickly.

When they are aligned, the main advantage is a larger field of gravity. Science explains how an object of larger mass has a larger field of gravity to attract smaller object—topics of conversation are no different in social networks. As more people begin talking about the same thing and sharing similar content, more people are attracted to the conversation in general. When employees are positively associated with a company and their content aligns, potential customers, clients, and partners will end up finding the company through that aligned conversation.

Q4. How can companies encourage and help their employees to develop strong personal brands?

Guidelines and supportive resources.

The first thing a company can do to encourage employees to develop a strong personal brand is: give permission.

Most “social media policies” at companies talk a lot about what employees cannot do. Consequently, the message to employees is a prohibitive vibe, rather than encouraging. A great place to begin that change is to start any policy with a clear message: “We Want You To Build Your Brand!”

After giving permission, the company can provide guidelines the support the employee’s personal brand building. Remember that when the personal brand diverges or contradicts the company’s brand message, the personal brand becomes less valuable and interesting. If the company provide guidelines, not necessarily hard rules, as to what is helpful, then its easier for employees to build a personal brand that supports the company’s goals.

Providing support and resources is also a huge boost to employees’ personal brands. When a company has access to tools for graphics and visual branding resources, analytics tools, or even just experienced marketers that host information-sharing educational sessions—all those resources are extremely beneficial to an employee’s personal brand. A great opportunity for the company is they have multiple moments through sharing these resources to reinforce their brand standards and message with the employees.

Q5. What can an employee do today to use their own personal brand to benefit their employer?

Give insights into topics aligned with the company brand.

Remember, we’re trying to create a larger field of gravity on the conversations that the company brand is already having. The employee can build that conversational momentum by discussing topics aligned with the company’s messaging.

Simply by being associated with the company (through employment) gives the personal brand a bit more credibility in the conversations anyway. Followers are more likely to engage with the personal brand because of that credibility. One thing that is extremely valuable to the community will be insights that the personal brand can give about the industry, the company, and the products and services.

Q6. What (non-entertainment/sports celebrity) professionals can you think of who have also brought positive attention to their employers?

@jeffweiner for Linkedin.

I think of @jeffweiner for LinkedIn when I think of personal brands that have brought positive attention to the company. Jeff stays active on LinkedIn, shares insights, and gives a great example of how to use the platform. I have followed him for years and keep a positive impression of LinkedIn (the company) because of his personal brand.

Don’t Overcome Objections — Prevent Them Instead!

Don’t Overcome Objections — Prevent Them Instead!

In my LinkedIn feed, I saw a connection of mine had responded to a question of a different connection. After reading the original post, I couldn’t help but respond — because I knew the answer! In the apartment sales industry, we usually present the community to a prospective customer, and if we have done the job correctly, we get the sale. Sometimes, however, we get a few bumps in the road in the form of objections.

The Original Question:

So I had a prospect take a tour today of one of our furnished one-bed units. The prospect stated that the furniture looked like it was “from a garage sale” What are some tips on things I could say to sell the furniture even though the prospect may not like it? Getting them to pay more for furniture they don’t like is very difficult!

In the responses that were already posted, I saw a few decent attempts to suggest that the original poster “overcome” the objection. This has been the standard practice of sales teams the world over, but I have always thought differently on the subject. In many cases, the salesperson turns the objection into a battle of wits. They attempt to win the prospect over by correcting them or invalidating the objection. “That closet isn’t small– look, I can do Zumba inside it!” 

What they are missing, however, is that the objection is not what it looks like. Their response is almost always combative and offensive to the prospective customer – because the salesperson misread the underlying intention!

My Response:

You have a few suggestions here, but I think they address objections in the traditional sense and never really address the underlying issue.

When people give an objection, it sounds upfront like they are saying, “I don’t like this; change it, fix it, remove it, build it– whatever you have to do, but make it perfect for me.” WRONG!!!

When someone gives an objection like this, they are really saying, “I don’t see enough value in what you are providing me.

The real issue is that your prospect doesn’t feel as though the price they perceive in their mind is worth what you have shown them.

The Value Problem

Let’s say you were to find the perfect new car to buy – it’s luxurious, it’s the perfect color, it’s pretty much everything you want, and it’s $5,000 LESS than you wanted to pay… but you found out that it had some stains in the carpeting or the power mirrors don’t work. WHATEVER, that’s still a great deal, right? You’ll probably not even say anything about the minor imperfections, and you will drive this bad boy home tonight.

Why? Because its VALUE (despite minor issues) is GREATER than its PRICE.

Conversely, if you were to find the perfect new car to buy– it’s luxurious, it’s the perfect color, it’s pretty much everything you want, but it’s $5,000 MORE than you wanted to pay – well, now we’re probably going to point out all the imperfections, right?

Those stains in the carpeting need to be cleaned. Those mirrors better work. What’s that? Now that you look closer, there are some scratches; there are dings and dents; the paint is faded on the trunk. It will take a LOT to get you to drive this home because the PRICE is now GREATER than the VALUE!

Your prospect is telling you that they don’t see the VALUE as GREATER than the PRICE… for them, it’s the other way around. And now, no matter how petty it may seem to you or anyone else, they are pointing out the stains in the carpeting and the broken mirrors. If the PRICE is too much over the VALUE, they will find a lot more to pick out and complain about.

A Formula for Success


  • When the PRICE exceeds the VALUE, everything needs to be pristine and perfect, and they need warranties, bonuses, perks, and concessions to make the purchase. That’s just not possible in every situation.
  • When the VALUE exceeds the PRICE, you better believe they will shut up and buy right now. They won’t let this *DEAL* pass them by. The best part is that you can control this situation by structuring the presentation.

The Hidden Challenge

My suggestion is that you need to start looking at this differently. Stop trying to attend to the objections themselves. They aren’t the issue– objections are a symptom of the underlying issue that your prospective customer hasn’t been shown the full VALUE. Once you have arrived at the point where your prospect is objecting to things, you have already partially failed, and it is much harder to get back to the “easy” sale.

Instead of waiting for objections, start gathering information about what the prospect knows about your community. Then focus on gathering the information on EVERYTHING important to them.

Focus on their DREAMS, their ASPIRATIONS, their PERFECT LIFE… everything they want, everything that is important, everything that is a MUST HAVE.

Equipped with that information, you can now start focusing every part of your tour and presentation on their DREAM LIFE. Paint every corner of your community as the next step in their journey to that PERFECT LIFE. Draw the lines between what you have and what they want.

Hold off on talking about price until later – if you can redirect the prospect off of a price discussion until as late as possible, you have time to build this DREAM LIFE for them. (What about people who are price-limited? Guess what– with the internet, there’s a 97% chance they know your price anyway! Just assume they know and confirm to them that there’s so much value that will fit in their budget!)

You have the opportunity for the prospect to focus on VALUE continuously… and not just any VALUE, but rather VALUE that fits their individual wants and needs. All they can see throughout your entire presentation is how high the VALUE is.

When you finally drop the true price on them for their new home– “What? That’s it?!?! I get all this– everything you said that is perfect for me, and it’s only going to cost how much?

This is how I have prepared my presentations for over a decade, and I hardly have any objections when the customer is being nit-picky. Every objection I have gets handled early on in the information-gathering stage because I asked the right questions. 

Later, we only talk about their DREAM LIFE, the gobs and gobs of VALUE, and everything that is important to my customer. Start thinking of objections this way, and be prepared to enjoy a higher closing rate!