How to Give Positive Feedback to Your Business Stakeholders

Some stakeholders are just better at helping us do our jobs. While some people carry on and get distracted by any sort of new, cool idea that makes its way into your conversation, others stay focused and even help you stay focused and on track. Some people start explaining things in the middle of a process while others seem to begin right where you need them to for a full understanding.

Do you tell your business stakeholders what they are doing right?

Catch Your Stakeholders Doing Something Right

Let me share a short story with you about giving positive feedback to a stakeholder. This particular stakeholder was a manager and the first time I met with her and one of her direct reports to learn about their IT requests, my head was swimming with details and clicks and process and procedure. But I got enough to get a preliminary list of enhancements that I could talk through in a more measured pace.

During the second conversation the manager seemed to tell me just what I needed to know. Every explanation started just early enough in the process and had just enough context that I could very easily wrap my head around it.

Before ending the meeting, I looked the stakeholder in the eye and sincerely thanked her for everything she had shared and let her know how helpful it was that she was able to explain things all the way through.

She beamed with pride. I started forming a positive partnership and cultivating trust with that one sincere compliment.

Help Your Stakeholder Help You

But it gets better. A few days later I was working through the details of some of the higher priority requests with her and her direct report. Her direct report kind of jumped into the middle of the process. The manager stopped her and asked her to explain this and that. She was helping her employee become a better stakeholder and I really believe this was a direct result of the positive feedback I gave her.

So, I ask you, do you tell your stakeholders how they are being helpful? Are you aware of what makes them more helpful or do you just gripe about what makes them difficult? How amazing do you think you could be if you put your “manager” hat on as a BA and try to catch your stakeholders doing something right?

7 thoughts on “How to Give Positive Feedback to Your Business Stakeholders”

  1. Yes it’s really advantageous to give positive feedback can be a powerful tool for employee motivation. It is important to consider the feeling of the person receiving the recognition. Any one doesn’t want to assemble the entire company every time you give positive feedback, but do as much ceremony as the action warrants.

  2. I also look for every opportunity to find common personal ground with business partners. Knowing who has kids similar age, a dog, likes to ski or has always wanted to visit Timbuktu is a great way to build a relationship. Also helps fill in those awkward moments at the beginning of a conference call when you’re waiting for others to join the line… better to ask how exams are going, whether the dog finished obedience classes, conditions at Banff or about the trip than making clichéd small talk about the weather! Making a personal connection, especially with the virtual workforce, is so important in building a great working relationship.

    1. Kerri, I agree building personal relationships is also super-important. I think you’ll see a career stepping stone in the newsletter sometime in the next few months that encourages just your sort of proactive decisions you are making to build stronger personal relationships with stakeholders. It goes so far to building trust and helping people see you as a partner.

  3. I am so happy to hear this Michelle and thank you for sharing your positive feedback on this idea! I like the metaphor of the “manager’s hat”…giving positive feedback to stakeholders is very much a manager’s hat in terms of helping get the best possible contributions from those you rely on to be successful.

  4. Michelle Swoboda

    Hi Laura,
    What a great topic and I learned something. I always thank my stakeholders for the time they have given me, but I have not put on my managers hat and given them feedback. This is going to really help with my current project. There is a difference between thanking the stakeholder and telling them what they are doing that is helpful.
    Next meeting I will thank them for specific gifts to me – that will help me to be more effective in my role. Taking that extra step will take us miles together.

  5. Thanks, Doug.

    I completely agree not to give unwarranted positive feedback. What’s interesting though is how we look at what “positive” is, especially as we grow older. The book I mentioned told a story about how excited parents get when a small child takes their first step or even does something remotely like taking their first step. With small children, we tend to give a lot of positive feedback for small steps in the right direction. With adults, we tend to want to wait until they get things perfect before we give positive feedback.

    The author contends you can do the same thing with adults and this allows you to ignore the not-so-good behavior and focus on positive changes in the right direction. Now, of course, there is a difference between outright bad behavior that must be addressed and not-so-good behavior that can be ignored. That’s a gray, but important, line. That said, I probably overstated the comment “ignore what they are doing wrong”…not so much ignore, but look for opportunities to redirect the behavior and call out a positive change in direction.

    They actually train the killer whales with no negative feedback whatsoever. Positive feedback, redirecting negative behaviors, but no absolute negative feedback.


  6. Providing positive reinforcement is just plain good psychology and is important to building bonds/relationships. How many of us have had bosses that focus on the things that are wrong, but we never seem to here from them when things are good?

    Building relationships with our customers/stakeholders is key to being able to perform our primary tasks as analyst effectively. So it makes sense that we as analysts know what is important to make that happen. Laura, you are absolutely correct that positive feedback is probably the number one building block and very simple to execute. Simple human nature shows us that negative reinforcement, which includes the omission of positive reinforcement, is not something that is generally beneficial to enhancing our interaction. It also shows us that we CAN take steps through our own behavior to change that.

    I should note that I don’t condone providing positive feedback when it is not warranted (false positives), nor avoiding problems, per your mention of ignoring the negatives. I think the negatives must be dealt with to prevent them from festering. BUT! I do think that there are positive ways to communicate about negative situations in order to achieve a strong working relationship.

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