I remember as a child being constantly told what not to do or to stop doing something, I cannot think of many occasions when I was told that I did something well. A lot of telling off and not much praise!
I bet I am not alone there particularly if you are of mature age.....
Here is another thought, you have had a bad day at the office and feel tired and only want a bit of peace and quiet. You open the door and there is your young child, smiling brightly and holding up the master piece they have created at school and are so looking forward to showing you. You are tired so what can happen, you ignore the child or pay little regard to the enthusiastic welcome because you are grumpy - they then run off crying as you are not interested, etc...
My whole raison d'etre with management and leadership is, and remains, get the basics right, keep it simple and communicate in a manner to motivate not demotivate.
OK so what am I on about concerning being positive in the business sense? For example, you have asked for a piece of work from someone, they have worked hard and put in long hours to produce the work on time, and to the best of their ability. They deliver it to you and your reaction is something like, "ok leave it on my desk, I will get to it."
They go away thinking, "I have worked very hard to get that done on time and, I think extremely well, and you did not even say thank you".
You then have a demotivated person on your staff purely because of your lack of a "thank you".
People want to be thanked for carrying out whatever it may be. If you are on your own in a restaurant, for example, just look at the reaction of a waiter who gets a "thank you" from a guest and the reaction to a grunt or dismissive gesture from another customer.
Now let's put this into the scenario of performance review, always start with a positive comment not a negative. A performance review need and indeed should not happen just once or twice a year, yes there may be a formal process required by the company, but you should get in the habit of commenting on performance as it has happened. If something went extremely well then say THANK YOU and praise the person concerned (be mindful of whether they would prefer a quiet word or a comment in front of colleagues). Conversely if the outcome was not as you expected and could have been better, do not save up the comment to the formal review but deal with it there and then or in a short time frame. Do not start with a negative comment such as "that report you gave me was poor and I had to rewrite it..." Start with something that was good, that is start positive THEN go to areas that could have been improved upon, NO negatives. If you want a person to improve their performance and be motivated, show them how to improve and do not just tell them all the parts that were poor. Your job as a manager or leader is to motivate not demotivate so always start POSITIVE.
If you have ever made a negative comment to your partner, such as a meal which was poorly cooked, you know the reaction you will typically receive..... "Do it yourself next time...." Or for sure an argument will result. Your subordinates may not be able to say something negative back to you through fear of the consequences but you can be sure they are thinking that and are feeling demotivated.
At formal performance review, always but always, hold it at a neutral venue, not the boss's office. Why, because the review process is a free and open exchange of views, so do not create a barrier to such an open discussion, create a positive atmosphere.
Make sure any formal documentation has been given to the employee well in advance, so they can complete a draft for discussion and you can both compare drafts. At the meeting sit near one another and avoid a barrier between you such as a desk, it just puts up a mental barrier, especially if there are the difficult areas for improvement to be discussed. Make sure there is plenty of time for the discussion. Here is a true story from my experience; I had an appraisal which was progressing well and I had several matters I wanted to discuss. After about an hour my boss said, "OK Paul, we must stop now as I have to go to my aerobics class." How do you think I felt? And how motivated do you think it made me feel?
You should also recognise that you may have made mistakes and be prepared to receive such comments from your employee and see it in a positive light NOT negative.
If your company has a 360 degree appraisal process you must train staff before the process is put in place, I will not describe the process in detail, suffice to say it is a process where you receive feedback from, not only your boss, but also your peer group as well as subordinates. It can be a comparative tool, comparing you to your peer group.
Here is a thought for those who watch football. When one player has done something well, such as made a great save, a superb pass, a great tackle etc. notice the reaction of the player's colleagues. They will make a positive gesture, perhaps just a thumbs up or a pat on the back. Why do it you say when they are getting paid a fortune to do exactly this, because in the long run money is not a motivating tool - positive feedback is.
So think before you open your mouth, not after. Always, but always, start with a positive. Listen to the other person's point of view and say thank you!!!
By Paul Keighley B.Sc., C.Eng., F.I.M.M.M.