If you’re going bake anything it’s important that you use the right ingredients and the right amount. Most people would say the essential ingredients are flour, baking powder, and sugar. While preferences may vary, without them you’ll run into trouble making your dish rise. Like baking, there’s a long list of “ingredients” a leader could include when providing performance feedback. But which ones will truly make performance rise?

Let’s start off with pouring in some concepts of Emotional Intelligence (E.I.).

In less scholarly words, it means to know yourself and do your best to understand how to interact with other people.

We all know things about ourselves that others don’t. What motivates, angers, delights or flat-out annoys us. All of which are associated with different emotions that alter our attitude thus how we interact with others.

The more self-aware we are of our emotional drivers the better we can control our attitude and behavior. For that reason, this makes E.I. a valuable component of providing performance feedback.

E.I. also consists of the ability to view situations from outside in. This means taking a step back to do a “self-check”, then examine the circumstances as well as the person involved so that you can respond appropriately.

Many of us have experienced or witnessed a situation where feedback went wrong from the very beginning – poor management of E.I. was likely a part of the mishap.

You must be in control of yourself, considerate and communicate well enough to deliver the feedback in a receptive yet motivating way.

The key here though, is that effective performance feedback starts with YOU. The leader sets the tone. As the famous Rapper Ice Cube said in his 1992 hit song “check yo-self before you wreck yo-self” …and your team.

On to the next ingredient, consistency.

Could you imagine walking into your home after a long day at work and unexpected guests are sitting in your living room? For some of you, that’s a far too often reality.

Well, hang on to that moment.

Performance feedback should not be a surprise to the employee either!

In American football, a coach doesn’t wait until the off-season to tell the players what needs to improve or what’s going well. And players expect that if they miss a block that causes the Quarterback to get sacked, they’re going to hear about it before the next play. Every player is accountable, they thrive on feedback to get better and if they’re not getting it they know that something is up. Continuous feedback is a part of their culture.

Likewise in business, feedback needs to happen as often as there are opportunities to provide it. When an employee is meeting or exceeding expectations, let them know. When they’re not, let them know. Waiting until annual review time to start pounding out an employee’s performance highs and lows will be a daunting task. And bringing up an incident neglected 8 months ago will be staggering.

As a teenager would sarcastically reply to a parent attempting to tell them about the latest celebrity news, “Late.” That’s exactly what the leader is in those situations.

Michael Phelps, one of the winning-est Olympians of all time, has built his career on thrusting his arms through the water to claim medal after medal. His tenacious movement toward the Gold is remarkable to observe. To the beginner’s eye, the answer to his success is the speed of his arms or the number of breaths he takes per stroke. While those factors are important, we can’t leave out the technique of his arm motions and kicking that contribute as well.

It’s the graceful balance of those actions that generate a force of energy to propel him towards the finish line.

The final ingredient is momentum.

Leaders must build a balance of momentum to sustain effective performance feedback.

This can be achieved through providing proper guidance that will help employee’s own new behaviors, celebrating the success of achieving desired outcomes and showing them how their improved performance directly impacts the organization.

Performance discussions are some of the most valuable interactions between a leader and employee.

Handling them well, from both sides, is critical. To drive organizational performance leaders need to genuinely know their employees, provide consistent feedback, and keep them motivated to perform.

Stir it all in a bowl, place it in the oven, then watch it rise.

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