Building a Better Team Through Positive Feedback

image of sticky notes with positive feedback

Most managers learned a long time ago that berating their staff for their shortcomings could never come to any good. But for many, that hasn’t translated to a concerted effort to give their staff the positive feedback they need either.

In the following interview, Valerie David, MHA, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, director of respiratory care services, pulmonary diagnostics, neurophysiology, and sleep at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital in Atlanta, GA, and Cheryl Hoerr, MBA, RRT, CPFT, FAARC, director of respiratory and sleep services at Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla, MO, explain what positive feedback is and why it is so important to the overall success of RT departments.

How would you define “positive feedback” in the context of respiratory care management and how often do you provide it to your staff, either as a group or individually?

Valerie David: Positive feedback is the process of communicating for some result and to increase a current action or behavior. I provide feedback constantly. We do daily huddles and I often use this as an opportunity to provide positive feedback to teammates. In addition, we have quarterly meetings with our staff to ensure that they are getting what they need as well as understand any opportunities. I actually think it is harmful not to provide feedback.

Cheryl Hoerr: Positive feedback is the acknowledgment that the actions by an individual are in line with management expectations. I provide positive feedback to an individual when I witness the desired action. I also make sure to acknowledge the actions in our monthly department meetings. This reinforces expectations to all staff members but also gives the individual some time in the spotlight.

What are 2-3 specific examples of the kind of positive feedback you regularly give to members of your team and how do you believe it impacts the staff members who receive it?

Valerie David: Number one, patient praises. We provide these to our staff as they are sent by the patient and/or their family members. Number two, staff praises. We have a brag board in our department where we place notables on a star and place it on the brag board. Number three, quarterly evaluations. This is a great time to sit with teammates and look at what they have done well, in addition to help them identify what they may want to be involved in within the department and seek out additional training or skills.

Cheryl Hoerr: Our guest relations department contacts patients by phone and asks for specific feedback. Anytime a therapist is mentioned by name we acknowledge them with public recognition and a small reward, a $1.00 hospital voucher that can be used in the cafeteria or the gift shop. The more a therapist is mentioned, the more rewards they accumulate. We also participate in a rewards program that allows me to send e-cards to staff members when I want to let them know their actions were appreciated. If an action was particularly impressive, then I can nominate a staff member for an “award” of points that can be accumulated and used to shop a gift catalog. We acknowledge all these awards in our monthly department meeting.

How does providing positive feedback to your staff strengthen the overall team in your department?

Valerie David: When people know that they are doing a great job, they do more of it. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves. I love to inspire my team and let them know how important they are to the success of the organization, and I do it often, both publicly and privately. So nice to see the smile on their faces.

Cheryl Hoerr: Positive feedback makes people happy. Happy people are simply fun to work with, and they tend to try harder to make things good for their patients. When things are going well the therapists enjoy coming to work and tend to have “a good day.” I’ll echo what Valerie said — when people are recognized for doing good, they tend to do good more often.