What Are Your Top Performers Doing Differently?

Can you identify individuals within your organization that you would consider a “Top Performer”? Can you identify individuals within your organization that are not on the same level as your “Top Performer? If you answered yes to these questions, you could benefit from our Top Performer process in the Forté suite. To learn more, read Hoop’s current Insights article with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

Keys for Helpful Feedback

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Years ago – before the rise of webinars with comment boxes – I gave seminars via a conference call line. Eighty or so participants would call in, I would put everyone on mute, and then “present” for the next 30 minutes.

I’m an experienced speaker, and I had notes in front of me, but I would sweat my way through these calls, feeling exhausted afterward. It felt stressful and hard because I had no feedback – visual or verbal – from the group so I had no sense of how I was doing.

I could’ve adjusted or clarified, and improved on the fly if only I had some information to go on. Instead it was like speaking into a black hole.

Sometimes our jobs can feel that way if we aren’t getting feedback from our leaders, clients or co-workers.

Feedback is absolutely essential for improving performance, increasing accountability, establishing desired goals, recognizing strengths and achieving wanted results.

Here are three keys to the art of giving good feedback.

1) Positivity 

In addition to direction on what or how you’d like to see someone change or improve, also provide information on what they are doing well.

Aim to give them a “feedback sandwich” – a positive praise, followed by the points where they could improve and suggestions for improvement, followed at the end by another positive praise or your vote of confidence.

Positive feedback stimulates the reward center in the brain, leaving the person happy and open to taking new direction. Negative feedback, on the other hand, tends to trigger the threat response and defensiveness can set in.

You can be tough as a leader without being negative or mean. Stay positive.

2) Specificity

People generally operate best when given specific direction. Rather than saying, “I want you to be more talkative in meetings,” try, “You’re a careful thinker, which I apprecaite, so I’d like to hear at least one idea or opinion from you in each meeting.”

If you are too vague in your communication with others, it forces them to guess what you want. If they don’t know what they should do – or how you what it done – they may not ask for clarification for fear of looking ignorant or inattentive. Considering asking them if you have provided enough specific information about the goal, process, procedure, desired behavior or deadline at hand.

When giving feedback, give specific examples of when/how they have not met expectations, and offer what they can specifically do to improve. The need for specificity on feedback and direction is going to be especially high for systematic thinkers like conformists on the Forte scale. While non-conformists may not crave as much specificity on the how-to part, they too need clear information about what you want to see improved.

3) Immediacy 

The adult brain learns best when feedback is given at, or shortly after, the time of performance. If you wait weeks or months to tell someone their performance on something was average or sub-par, they likely won’t fully grasp the changes you’re wanting to see as they won’t adequately recall the details of their performance.

Immediate and frequent feedback provides more opportunities for adjustment, allowing employees to accelerate their growth on the performance learning curve. Immediate feedback allows adjustments “on the fly” before ineffective habits are created. When employees do not get feedback they will assume what they are doing is working, or at least is acceptable, and likely will continue the behavior.

Like positivity, immediacy in feedback also increases people’s motivation for improvement – particularly on tasks they will be repeating either soon or often.

Better Your Employees’ Performance by Bettering Your Feedback

According to Columbia University neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner at the NeuroLeadership Summit in Boston, people who receive feedback only apply it about 30% of the time. So be prepared to address the issue again if progress is not made – but remain positive and specific and give feedback as immediately as possible.

Staying mindful of these three keys will increase the odds your feedback will lead to improved performance.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Rachel is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Call at The Forté Institute at 910-452-5152.

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Coaching to Success

I nodded my head continuously as I read through an article by Monique Valcouat at The Harvard Business Review titled “You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach.” 

(Note: We’re proud to say The Harvard Business School is a Forté client.)


Here’s an excerpt from that article I think every leader should read:


“If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at something that is personally meaningful. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

Regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential. In fact, according to recent research, the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from average ones is coaching.”


If you’re a leader, it’s great to see these clear, prioritized, research-based objectives for your role. But if you’re like most leaders, at the same time, you feel somewhat uneasy with this.


You make decisions about products, purchases and budgets, you keep your team working on task, you deliver quality on schedule, but are you confident you are actually developing your team?


Do you know what drives each person? Can you help them best relate to each other, or adapt to workplace demands? Are you coaching them to produce meaningful work for your company, in authentic ways?


Forté can help.

Coaching Hand Up graphic 


Q: How can I understand what drives each person on my team?


A: Give them each the Forté Communication Style Profile survey. It helps both them and you understand their communication style, leadership style, self-motivators, de-motivators, and much more.


You’ll both receive a copy of their profile results and it will certainly reveal what drives them—as well as how they are currently adapting on the job, and how they are most likely being perceived by the team at this time.


Q: How do I provide timely feedback to my team members?


A: Coaching is not a once-then-done process, neither is Forté. Your team can take the short, automated Forte Adapting Update survey as often as every 30 days, or at intervals of your choosing.


This Adapting survey will instantly reveal how they’ve been adapting to their work demands and environment – both recently and over time. You’ll both be able to see how well they believe they’re currently meeting their goals, feeling resilient in the face of challenges and change, and more.


You can use this report as a jumping off point for a regular coaching conversation with your direct reports. You don’t have to remember to administer this survey, it can be delivered to their email inbox automatically at the prescribed intervals.


Q: How do I know the best way to communicate with those I am coaching?


A: Once the Forté Communication Style survey is completed, you can run Forté Interaction Reports between you and each of your team members. This tool shows both of you how to best to communicate with, and adapt to, one another.

You will know how to talk so they they will listen. Forté is all about recognizing each other’s strengths, and building productive relationships that last.


Q: How do I help my team members reach goals and improve on an on-going basis?


A: Utilize the Forté Performance Coaching report. One of our exciting new tools, this simplifies and codifies the coaching process for you and your team.


Each coachee receives pre-session questions to prepare them for your coaching session. You receive a coaching strategy, checklist, and plan that is in line with each team member’s main strengths and motivators as revealed by their Forté profile.


You’ll be guided and empowered like never before to specifically coach each team member to top performance.


Often, coaching is the difference between a leader who gains commitment from their employees and one who only gains compliance.


Regular communication around your team members’ development is essential. Make a plan to have consistent coaching conversations with your team.


Call or email The Forté Institute today to explore how we can help you coach your team or organization to excellence.


The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is a Communication Studies faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist and a trained and certified coach.