Wednesday, May 22


Feedback is the breakfast of champions Ken Blanchard

However, both giving and receiving feedback can have its challenges.

Feedback is an art-form to be learnt, appreciated and enjoyed. We thrive through feedback.

In my last blog Growth through Feedback’ we were looking at the subject of how to receive feedback. In this blog we will look at how to give feedback.

We are all blind to certain areas of our lives, performance or behaviours. We don’t know what we don’t know.

Therefore this is such a vital topic, because ‘Without honest and timely feedback your personal and organisational growth is always limited’ Craig Groeschel (again I want to give credit to Craig for a lot of the research in this blog.)

Timely feedback is essential, so we need to CONSIDER WHEN WE ARE GOING TO GIVE FEEDBACK.

A helpful read on giving feedback is Ed Batista (Executive coach) on Make getting feedback less stressful. Ed says “Make feedback normal, not a performance review”

We need to be building a habit and a culture of giving feedback on the go and not waiting for a performance review, as this will usually be way to late.

The impact of praise is considerably reduced if it isn’t done shortly after the event and the reinforcement of behaviour is lost. Worse still corrective feedback is often resented if it is done way after the event.

Having said that it may not always be wise to give feedback immediately after an event. Sometimes there needs to be an emotional gap time between activity and feedback, so it may mean waiting a day or so, but in some instances immediately afterwards is exactly the right moment.

Craig Groeschel makes an excellent point concerning the timing and place of feedback. He says there are occasions we may want to give feedback publicly.

For example if we reward a behaviour that is a core value of the organisation and do this publicly we are reinforcing that value.

Sometimes corrective feedback needs to be done publicly, but of course, very sensitively. For example if someone has been very rude or disrespectful in a meeting, by gently correcting them right there, helps them and everyone else see that the moment has now been resolved. None of us do well with incomplete awkward moments.

I emphasise though that this must be done carefully, as you don’t want the result to be that they feel devalued.

So HOW DO WE GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK so it benefits someone’s personal growth?

Let’s first acknowledge how much we all need positive feedback and appreciation. Praise is one of the strongest ways to reinforce desired behaviours. It is a lot more effective than focussing only on adjustments to someone’s weaknesses.

Therefore, we should take as many moments as we can to show our appreciation of something someone has done, being specific with our complement, without adding any extra coaching tips at the end.

It is too easy to assume people know how much we appreciate them, when often they don’t. We need to communicate our appreciation more than we think we do.

When we are giving constructive feedback :

create a climate of safety – Start soft. Be kind. Show you really care about them. Put yourself in their shoes. Deal with your internal frustrations before you go into the meeting.

People may hear your words but they feel your attitude John Maxwell

We take tension out of the air by being quick to tell them what is not going to happen. “I just want you to know, you are not in trouble ….” “… you are not getting fired …”

minimise uncertainty – Give someone some notice of a feedback meeting, and be clear that the meeting is for feedback, so they know what to expect.

Set the scene in a way that relaxes them. Maybe allow them to have some input to when and where it happens. If there are some difficult conversations to be had then it is always best not to do it in a public place, but equally not in a private office if that office is intimidating.

maximise autonomy – The more we can help people own the moment the easier it is and more effective it is. So help them to spend some time self-reflecting on their performance. Ask questions. Very often they bring up the very things you were wanting to refer to yourself, but now they own it.

I will often ask questions like :

“What 2 things would you like to make sure you do again next time you do this project/presentation/…”

“What 1 thing would you do differently”

“How well did you think you responded to that challenge in the meeting?”

“Why do you think you reacted in that way?”

keep focussed on just 1or 2 of the most important areas, that have highest return. Too many points of development is paralysing. Focus is essential.

be specific – so we don’t just say “you need to be better with people”. We can be more clear about the specific area of people skills we are referring to.

Be specific when making recommendations, for example what specific books they could read, what specific actions they could take, a specific person they could spend some time with.

separate intention and impact. It is rare that someone intentionally does something that is negative. So it’s not their intentions we are referring to but the impact of their actions.

eg. when you are late it makes people feel like you don’t care, I know you didn’t mean to be, I know the traffic was bad, but this was the impact.

eg. Whenever you criticise something before the person has finished speaking they feel devalued – I know you intended to bring helpful advice but that wasn’t the impact. The impact is people feel you have a bad attitude.

eg. when you are greeting people on the door with a coffee in your hand it makes people feel they aren’t your first priority. I know its not what you intend, but it’s the impact.

We need feedback more often than we think, and from various different people. Each person who can input to our growth is seeing us from a different angle. Each reflection is helpful for our development.

As leaders we can set the tone of this feedback culture by celebrating people and their achievements as much as we can.

To see this blog in context take a look at Become the Leader you want to be Led by and go to point 4 where we talk about Leader as Coach.