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A Practical Journey towards Leadership Development - The Key Skill of Giving Feedback



This is the fourth article in a series outlining an approach to building leadership capability. Today’s paper talks about the key skill of giving feedback.


Feedback sessions cause anxiety. The word ‘feedback’ seems to mean judgment to many. Receivers often create a shield to protect themselves from anticipated negative feedback. Often the giver wants to avoid upsetting receiver and “softens” the message. Feedback is meant to be an objective message about behaviour, performance and consequences either as a job well done or a suggestion on how to improve on the job. The goal of feedback is to encourage the recipient to move forward by learning, growing and changing.


Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone offered this perspective in a 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, “The [feedback] process strikes at the tension between two core human needs — the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are." This is why so many of us react with fear and anxiety when someone says “would you be open to some feedback?” Many of us feel defensive or threatened because most of us assume the feedback is going to be negative.


However, the performance of your organization depends upon the performance of every member of your staff. Thus, a key skill for all who manage and lead people is the ability to provide candid, constructive feedback about their performance. Feedback is a must for people who want to have honest relationships. It is a powerful and important means for communication. Feedback connects us, and our behavior, to the world around us. Feedback is always meant to be positive. Its objective is to improve a situation or improve performance. It is gift of information that you should always be gracious enough to give or to receive.


Recent Statistics - Feedback

  • 65% of workers want more feedback

  • 39% of employees don’t feel appreciated at work

  • 98% of employees will fail to be engaged if their managers provide little or no feedback

  • 78% of employees say being recognized would motivate them at work

  • 92% of respondents agreed with the assertion, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

  • 80% of Gen Y said they prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews.


Feedback is not punishment. JotForm had a great thought that I believe sheds light on the intention of feedback. They said “feedback is effective when it sheds light on the present and offers a window into the future, without dwelling on the past.


Great feedback needs to consist of 5 attributes. It needs to be;


  • Timely – it needs to be connected to the event, if too much time has passed the feedback has no relevance.

  • Genuine – it needs to be real

  • Specific – the feedback needs to have clarity in order to be believable. Avoid generalizations, give examples and always give credit for good work

  • Sensitive – just a simple rule, praise in public, constructive feedback in private. Think about your words and the effect they might have

  • Applicable/actionable – what can the person do to make this right. How will you follow up?

10 Steps for a Successful Feedback Session

  1. Determine the purpose for the feedback

  2. Identify desired outcomes

  3. Consider the recipients point of view

  4. Gather all the data, fact and information necessary to present a clear view of the situation

  5. Outline the process

  6. Control the process

  7. Ensure active participation/engagement by asking for their suggestions /observations

  8. Summarize agreement

  9. Confirm actions

  10. Follow up


Even if they don't vocalise it, employees crave feedback. And with the ambitious and growth-driven younger generations of Millennials and Gen Y now making up a significant proportion of the workforce, feedback is only going to become more critical to the on-going success for companies.


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