How to Give Strengths-Based Feedback
Heidi Zwart
strengths-based feedback

Part of the role of a manager is to give feedback to their team. Employees are anxious to know how they’re doing in their role and want to hear this directly from their manager. While Gallup surveys have found that negative feedback is better than no feedback, the best managers know how to give strengths-based feedback to bring out the best in their team.  

What is Strengths-based feedback

Strengths-based cultures are built on the foundation of positive psychology whose primary primary interest is in “identifying and building mental assets” instead of focusing on weaknesses and problems. Donald Clifton used this perspective when he began the strengths movement 60 years ago by simply asking,”What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what’s wrong with people?” In response, he invented the CliftonStrengths assessment (previously known as StrengthsFinder), which has been completed by over 26,000,000 people to-date. Over 90% of Fortune 500 companies have used CliftonStrengths to help build a strengths-based culture, which includes making managers better by giving strengths-based feedback to employees. Learning how to give strengths-based feedback requires a few key elements to do it well. 

Identify individual strengths

Strengths-based feedback starts with knowing the individual strengths of the team. CliftonStrengths is one of the best assessments for identifying strengths, but others like VIA Survey of Character Strengths is free and can be a good springboard for strength-based feedback. Once individual strengths are identified, managers can see work styles, decisions, and accomplishments through the lens of strengths and use strengths-based feedback to reinforce them. Knowing how individual strengths show up in the context of a team is also important to give strengths-based feedback to a group and assure the right people are in the right roles. Gallup’s data show that just by knowing their strengths employees are 7.8% more productive, and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity.

Focus on what’s right 

Too often, feedback and performance reviews are geared toward areas of deficit rather than highlighting areas of excellence. In a Gallup survey, just over one-third of respondents (37%) believed their supervisor focused on their strengths. The impact of this is significant because active disengagement rates of those who responded affirmatively to this question dropped to 1%. As a result of these findings, Gallup hypothesized that “if every company in America trained its managers to focus on employees’ strengths, the U.S. could easily double the number of engaged employees in the workplace.” Strengths-based feedback is part of creating a culture your employees love and could be a viable remedy to the mass exodus from the current day workplace. 

Make it personal

Without knowing the innate talents of each member, feedback can feel generic instead of personal. Learning how to give strengths-based feedback includes having “I see in you…” conversations. Managers have the opportunity to highlight how they’ve seen strengths show up in each individual and affirms value and worth in people. When employees are acknowledged and appreciated, engagement and performance increases. Employees can set goals based on their strengths and are more likely to reach them when they’re supported with strengths-based feedback. They also carry this strengths-based work experience into their personal lives and report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

Learning how to give strengths-based feedback is foundational to a great workplace and great managers and leads to positive outcomes for employer and employee alike.  

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