We all know that its tough to be on the receiving end of negative feedback, and we've spent a lot of time discussing how to view that type of feedback as the positive that it is, an opportunity to sharpen our game. But have you ever noticed how difficult it is for people to receive positive feedback in a productive way?
Sadly, I suspect we're not good at receiving it because we don't get it very often. If that's the case, I'll paraphrase Gandhi here: "be the change you want to see in the world." If you're not getting enough positive feedback, make sure you are giving enough to your peers, your direct reports, and yes, even your leaders.
But let's assume you've received that most precious of prizes: positive feedback. How do you make it more meaningful, and possibly increase the chances of having it happen more often?
1. Say Thank You. Hard to believe, but I sometimes dread giving positive feedback. That's because I know the response will be litany of reasons the performance doesn't deserve praise or could have been better. Don't make the giver of this precious gift wish they had never delivered it. Look the giver in the eye and say, "Thank you. It means a lot to hear this from you." And then proceed.
2. Convert the praise into developmental feedback. If you get a vague statement like "that was a great job" ask questions to find out exactly what was great about it. "Thanks, what specifically should I keep doing?"
3. Ask about the impact. Find out why this behavior impacted the person enough to give praise. Is is because its rarely demonstrated? Because it was an unusual approach? Was it something you had been struggling with in the past and have demonstrated improvement?
4. Test the limits. Behavior is situational. What works with one guest may not work with another. Discuss where/when the behavior you're getting praised for might not work, or be adapted to be equally successful.
Be curious and ask questions to understand the value of the gift you've been given. Learn all you can from someone who has clearly shown an interest in you.
And here's a reminder to praise givers. We should always be prepared to give deeper feedback than "great job." If you want to be known as a great communicator, be known as someone who pays attention to the details.