People & Human Resources

The 19 words that form the best employee feedback

Ronelle Richards /

Feedback is an important part of any employer-employee relationship, but what exactly is the secret behind giving great feedback to your staff?

Writing for Inc. author of The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle draws on recent research by US academics to reveal the key phrase leaders and managers should use when giving feedback.

The study by psychologists at Stanford, Yale, Columbia universities looked at the type of feedback school teachers give to students about essays.

The researchers found one type of feedback resonated with students more than other types and a particular phrase encouraged the students to revise their efforts, leading to improved performance.

The “magical” phrase contains just 19 words:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.”

This simple phrase, according to Coyle, creates a sense of belonging and connection.

He also believes the phrase gives three distinct signals:

  1. You are part of this group
  2. This group is special; we have higher standards here; and
  3. I believe you can reach those standards.

According to Coyle feedback is a vital cue to any relationship and leaders can learn some clear lessons from this research.

The first lessons are that connection and a sense of belonging is essential.

“People can’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” says Coyle.

It’s also important that leaders don’t downplay the difficulty of a task, with Cole suggesting to in fact do the opposite.

“Emphasise the toughness of the task, and your belief that the person has what it takes,” he says.

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Ronelle Richards

Ronelle Richards is a former journalist at SmartCompany. She is currently studying a Masters of Journalism at The University of Melbourne and has previously worked as a journalist and photographer in rural newspapers.

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