Giving Feedback

Aug 30 2015

It appears that a good chunk of my time is spent helping leaders be better at giving feedback, but why?

Over the years, it has become apparent that leaders have avoided giving feedback – or given it badly! Which is a shame, because most aspiring leaders say they want and need more feedback in order to help them develop.

So, why the gap?

The thought process I ask leaders to take, is first to consider why they are giving feedback? Is it to help someone improve, help them develop, be better at what they do? Or, is this reason not so positive? The purpose and desired outcome will ultimately shape the style and impact of the feedback.

Very often leaders do not know how to construct the feedback  – I offer a very simple, yet effective structure:

  • What’s the situation?
  • What’s the behaviour? (what did the person say and do?)
  • What was the impact?

The message needs to be clear, concise and considered. If they have raised the topic of feedback with someone and are still struggling to get to the point after 5 minutes then the recipient will be, at the least a little confused, and at the worst anxious because they sense something ‘bad’ is coming! Once anxiety is in the room the whole process becomes harder.

I am always curious to understand how much feedback is given and the balance between positive and negative. The structure for feedback, both positive and negative, needs to be the same – if positive feedback is “that was great”, then this is also poor. Remember to refer to the structure.

And finally I ask the leader to consider how they receive feedback – do they receive it graciously and openly?  The leaders are seen to set the ‘role model’ for how feedback is received by others, for if they get defensive and anxious then the poor reputation of feedback will simply be perpetuated to the rest of the group.

My final thought – I remember receiving some really tough (but true) feedback some time a go, at first it hurt, and yet it was one of the most constructive things towards helping me develop. I embraced the feedback and worked with it – and as a result I took some massive steps forward in my career.

So go forth and give feedback!

If you would like to hear more on this topic, Dr. Wanda Wallace and I recently made a podcast to discuss this and more. Go and have a listen at


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