When most people think of feedback, they think of something that gives the recipient information—a sort of value judgment about how a job, task or other effort was done. Good vs. bad. Exceptional vs. mediocre. On-time vs. late.

But what if feedback, when done right, isn't really about passing a value judgment on something that occurred in the past, but is instead about sending a signal to the person about what you expect will happen in the future?

On top of that, what if feedback could be given in such a way that you could improve employee effort and performance? So much so, it would seem like 'magic'.

Now about the magic...

As a manager you need a way to give great, meaningful feedback that will actually have the effect of changing things for the better. It turns out that 19 words can accomplish just that.

In a recent article for Inc. Jeff Haden features Daniel Coyle's book The Talent Code to explain the specifics…

A Stanford University study, found that middle school students who received the magical 19 word feedback demonstrated at least a 40% jump in productivity and achievement far outpacing students who received every other form of feedback.

So, what are the 19 words?

I'm giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.

These words are so magical, because effective feedback is more about the relationship you have with your employee than it is about a particular task they have done.

The magic feedback phrase tells employees:

  1. You belong here
  2. Our group is special because of our high standards
  3. I know you have the talent to reach those standards

As Haden writes, "When we receive an authentic, crystal-clear signal of social trust, belonging and high expectations, the floodgates click open"

Effective feedback is an iterative process. You don't do it once and bam, you're done. Instead offering a social feedback loop to your employees, through RedCritter's badges, points, skill tracking, certs, and peer-to-peer accolades sets the stage for productivity and engagement. Especially when it's framed with variations of the magic phrase. As the Stanford study's authors suggest, successful feedback both instructs and motivates.