It’s Saturday night and, like millions of other Britons, I find myself tuned in to the televisual showdown between BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and ITV’s X Factor! One by one, contestants take to their respective stages and “sell their wares” to the studio audience, the millions watching at home and, of course, the all-important “experts” – the judges!

But why are the opinions and comments of these so called experts so pivotal to the development and success of the contestants? Are the panel simply there to add another level of entertainment to the format of the show? Can’t the contestants rely on viewing figures and vote counts for feedback?

But, although maybe sometime it feels like it, it is not solely a popularity contest. These contestants (for the most part) genuinely improve week on week. Would you still be happy watching these shows if the standard remained the same as week one? Now ask yourself the same question about your performance at work. Or indeed the performance of your teams. Would you be happy continually performing at the same level and never improving? Of course not!

Well balanced, constructive feedback is imperative to personal and team development. So how do we give good feedback? And how can we use negative feedback to develop people?

4 golden rules will give you the foundations of good employee engagement.

1. Honesty is the best policy!

                Don’t shy away from saying what needs to be said. If we don’t give our truthful opinions then we are not being true to our staff or, indeed, our business.

2. It’s all in the detail!

                Be specific in the areas that you are giving feedback. Don’t fall into the trap of general statements. Give concise critique to pin point the areas for improvement.

3. Focus on what they can influence!

                Ensure that you are giving feedback about areas that can be controlled by them! There’s no point beating people around the head about things that they have no control over. They will disengage with the process and you will lose their commitment. Ensure you empower the team to feel they can make a difference.

4. Fancy a sandwich?

                I have heard it called many things, but the fact is that if you sandwich difficult news with positive comments it will taste far sweeter and ensure you have a positive team who wish to improve the “filling”.

Perhaps if the Judges on TV followed this process it wouldn’t be as entertaining but perhaps if they did, we would witness far more success in the real world after the curtain falls. We must ensure that we follow these rules in business to avoid becoming tomorrows fish and chip paper ourselves!