Build your leadership skills with positive feedback

As a manager, are you making the most of the positive feedback you receive? Receiving appreciation for your work can be a great motivator and morale booster.

Many people fail to take full advantage of the benefits positive feedback can provide. Some may feel hesitant to accept recognition, feeling modest about their achievements. Others may be good at accepting appreciation but fail to process it effectively.

As a manager, it’s important that you learn how to use positive feedback to benefit your professional development and act as an example for your team.

Positive feedback supports employee engagement

Gallup’s 2015 report “State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders”, revealed that 51% of US managers are not engaged at work. This can have an impact on their team members in what Gallup calls the “cascade effect”. They found that employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged at work!

Employee engagement is not just a company or HR’s responsibility, is also down to the individuals who work there and the image they portray. As a manager, you have an important role to play in your team’s motivation and levels of engagement. Positive feedback is one of the strongest ways of promoting loyalty amongst employees, with 88% valuing recognition from their managers over monetary rewards. That’s why as a manager, it’s important to set the example by showing you’re able to take positive feedback on board.

Don’t be afraid to embrace your feeling of pride when you receive positive feedback. It’s a natural reaction that occurs when your brain releases dopamine, causing the overall feeling of satisfaction you have when you’ve achieved your goal. Research suggests that dopamine may actually be a great motivator.

Using employee feedback to tap into your strengths

If you learn how to analyze and use positive feedback to your advantage, you can gain valuable insights into your strengths, helping you to improve as a professional. Researcher and applied psychology expert Michelle McQuaid has been at the forefront of what has been called the ‘Strengths Revolution’. Through her research, she has demonstrated the effectiveness of focusing on improving professional strengths over weaknesses.

A Gallup study revealed that managers who are focused on strengths are 86% more likely to achieve above-average performance levels. Identifying your strengths by asking for, and welcoming, feedback will help you to create goals for the future.

Four steps to harness the benefits of positive feedback:

1. Share appreciation

The way you respond to feedback is just as important as learning how to accept it. If you receive a compliment on work related to team success, it’s essential that you recognize your team members for their efforts and all share in the success together.

Recognizing your team will boost motivation and engagement. They will feel a stronger sense of community when group efforts are recognized, in turn, building team spirit. What’s more, sharing recognition helps build trust as a manager, by showing you’re not going to take the credit for your employees’ hard work.

For example, if you receive positive feedback from upper management you can recognize your employees’ efforts by saying, “Thank you, we had an amazing group of people working on this project and we couldn’t have done it without the participation of the whole team.”

Share your recognition with the rest of the team by saying, “You played a key role in our achievement and our senior management has been very satisfied with the results, let's keep it up and continue looking for new opportunities.”

2. Use your strengths to improve your management style

To identify your strengths, make sure you are continuously asking for feedback. In some cases people might offer feedback without you requesting it, for example, someone tells you that you’re a great organizer. It is always good to ask for specific examples in which you demonstrated this ability to help you replicate this behavior. Remember to source feedback from multiple people to get a more holistic and unbiased view, this can also help identify patterns if there are any.

While there are more “traditional” management strengths like being a good listener or a team player, it is important to keep an open mind and adapt. You can use the feedback obtained to fine tune your strengths and perhaps identify focus areas.

Being aware of your strengths can inform how you approach projects/ tasks moving forward as you can build teams with all the right strengths who can deliver the results needed.

3. Leverage your strengths to benefit your team

Now you’ve learned how to use positive feedback to your advantage, it’s important to help your employees do the same. Showing them appreciation is an effective way of improving their overall job satisfaction and confidence.

Encourage your direct reports to also use positive feedback as a way of identifying their strengths, and fine-tuning what they’re already good at. Once they develop an awareness of their strengths, ensure everyone is aware of the different abilities within the team.

Once they are aware of each other’s strengths, it should become easier for you and them to delegate and assign tasks to the most suitable person, making projects more successful.

4. Set goals for yourself

Just because you may have a natural ability for some things, don’t take them for granted: they are skills you should continue to develop. Setting goals for your professional development is a great way to ensure you are continuously learning and improving. It also gives you something to work towards and ensure you increase your competency in certain areas.

By developing your strengths, you may also become an expert in a certain topic meaning that colleagues will come to you for advice. This is a perfect way to create more visibility for yourself within your company.

As a manager, make a practice of regularly asking your team members for feedback so you can know if you’re making progress, or what areas you can focus on. Tracking your progress with positive feedback can help you stay engaged and even improve your performance.


Everyone enjoys receiving recognition for their work no matter what level you are. Learn how to gather and use positive feedback to your advantage and build it into your working habits, this can serve as a boost in motivation as well! As you develop, remember to keep your team members included as they play an important part in your role.


  1. Recognize your team’s contribution
  2. Request and analyze feedback to gain insights into your skills and competencies
  3. Use your strengths to improve and streamline your management style
  4. Apply your strengths to benefit the business
  5. Set goals for yourself, to continue developing your skills every day

Download our eBook Manager's Guide to Using Feedback to Engage Your Team for further insights and ideas.

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