Tips For Maximizing Improvement-Focused Feedback (I.F.F) For Managers

One of the most critical aspects of any organization is the ability to give and receive improvement-focused feedback (IFF) as opposed to traditional feedback. Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen developed mental contrasting which is a visualization technique that involves juxtaposing the present reality with the desired future reality to generate motivation.

This is important for (IFF) from managers because rather than focusing on what you may have done wrong or where you may have been erroneous this type of technique focuses on how you can improve. This inspires employees on their own to get a better  understanding of what improvements need to be made and this type of intrinsic motivation may also lead to quick and lasting behavior during (IFF).

This is pertinent for product, sales, marketing and every other component of a functional workplace. With a responsibility that permeates through every aspect of an organization it’s important not to overlook even the minor details of improvement-focused feedback because of how significant an impact it can have on company outcomes.

Unfortunately many organizations have a tendency to promote employees who have performed well into managerial positions that they may not be well suited for. Good performers don’t necessarily translate into good managers whose primary duties include providing (IFF). There are a few suggestions we propose that your organization consider when initiating IFF.

Facial expressions, Tone Of Voice & Communication

Dr. Alan Fridlund of the University of California Santa Barbara noted in a study that: “The mechanism underlying facial expressions is fundamentally an adaptive one: your expressions give other people around you a good read of how you’re feeling. And if other people know how you’re feeling, they mostly care and respond to that positively, because humans are empathetic creatures .”

You want to be thoughtful and considerate about how you look and sound when providing (IFF). This oftentimes can affect the impact of the message regardless of the words being said.

Does your body language show that you care or are you more focused on “calling someone out”? Does your tone of voice help or distract from illustrating why you are providing this feedback?

How may your facial expressions be conceived to the average person in society especially while providing negative feedback? Perhaps you should consider practicing giving feedback and getting a solid understanding of your typical facial expressions and body language while providing negative and positive feedback. This can help you prepare for real scenarios where you can be better equipped to present (IFF).

Accountability & Relatability

The best managers and leaders know how to effectively make employees feel accountable while conveying (IFF). One of the key components of IFF is to make the recipient feel ownership and responsibility over his or her tasks with the mindset of improving and becoming better.

In fact according to Gallup:

  • 91% of employees feel that accountability is one of the most important things they’d like to see in their workplace.
  • 82% of those same respondents felt that they have no power to hold anyone accountable in the workplace.
  • 25% of leaders surveyed feel that 10% to 20% of their workers avoid accountability.
  • 84% of employees say the way leaders behave as the single most important factor influencing accountability in their organizations, yet just 15% of leaders have successfully defined and broadly communicated their key results.

Accountability is a two way street. It’s not just for the recipient of the IFF but also the one giving it. Has the manager provided enough resources for the particular employee in question to be successful at his or her position? Managers should be willing to also take responsibility and acknowledge when the fault is theirs and how they plan on improving. These types of actions can lighten everyone’s tension particularly during a time of (IFF) which can be stressful. It also makes him or her more relatable portraying themselves as being susceptible to making mistakes and willing to take ownership of that.

“Yes I’ve done that before and from my experience it’s better to approach it like this.”

Statements like these show a level of empathy that can help employees feel comfortable with getting (IFF).


Sometimes it’s difficult for managers to provide timely feedback because typically he or she must evaluate outcomes before assessing the work done. Though understandable it should be a priority to provide (IFF) as soon as possible whether positive or negative.

The timeliness of (IFF) enables employees to be able to track his or her own performance, compare to previous performances and make necessary improvements more quickly and efficiently. The more time it takes to provide IFF the more difficult it becomes for employees. Also understanding the timeliness of IFF helps employees anticipate the nature of future (IFF) provided by managers. The expectations for both parties are previously set and the feedback can be direct to the point without catching anyone off guard.

For example, ideally the creatives behind a marketing campaign at an agency should have some sort of idea of when to expect (IFF) after the campaign has launched. Perhaps it’s a month after when managers can review the amount of exposure it’s received. Or it may be just two weeks after the campaign has launched because the most results typically occur during that time period. Regardless, some semblance of timeliness serves to put employees in the best position to make necessary changes if need be.

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