The most important part of being in a leadership position is providing great feedback. And there’s a phrase that’s been scientifically proven to help you — and your managers — provide better feedback. 

Here it is:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.”

It comes from a team of psychologists from institutions like Stanford, Yale and Columbia who were looking into what it takes to present great feedback. The team studied middle school teachers’ feedback strategies with their students and found that students who received this feedback revised their work at a much higher rate than those who didn’t. The phrase also helped improve student performance significantly.

The results of the study were detailed by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. and The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills. A tip of the hat goes to Jeff Haden who found this little nugget in Coyle’s work and shared it over at Inc.

Why it works

So the million-dollar question is: Why is this phrase so effective?

According to Coyle, it accomplishes one very important thing before you even begin to present the details of your actual feedback: It forms a connection with the recipient and lets him or her know they’re part of a team.

In other words, it tells the person he or she’s working with someone else who’s invested in them. And creating a sense of belonging is vital to getting the most out of an employee.

Secondly, it tells the recipient that the group is special because it has high standards, Coyle says.

Finally, it provides the recipient with a much-needed boost of confidence — i.e., “I know that you can reach [high expectations].”

After all, if an employee doesn’t believe he or she can do what’s asked of them, the person won’t take the feedback seriously.

Once these connections are established, information can flow freely and be absorbed.

When do you use it?

Of course, it stands to reason that this phrase could become played out over time if it’s used too often. Imagine sitting down with your employees on a weekly basis and starting the conversation with this phrase every single time.

After the second or third meeting, it’ll lose all of its impact.

But if used sparingly — say before your most important feedback sessions or before an annual performance review — it could carry significant weight.

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