effective feedback


Giving Effective Feedback – What more should I know?

Jan 9, 2023 | Coach's Questions

Have you ever tried to share some constructive ideas with a colleague, only to have it backfire and leave them defensive and even angry? Or have you been on the receiving end of what feels like unsolicited input or unfair judgement? 

Providing effective feedback is a skill that will help to build your team up and focus on continual improvement. 

Here are eight strategies that help to ensure you don’t cross that line from effective feedback to unwelcome criticism:

  1. Consider the relationship you have with the person with whom you want to share feedback. Do you have a good rapport? Is there a troubled history between you? People feel free to disagree or share dissenting opinions when there is trust between them. It’s important to build strong work relationships so there can be conflict around ideas (not people) to bring out the best in the workplace. The conversation you can have when there’s a strong relationship is different than when things are already strained. 

    Pro tip: Good leaders handle criticism well, viewing criticism as an opportunity to listen. Do you model this? Are other leaders in your organization open to honest feedback?
  1. Before you speak to someone, step back and think about things objectively. Do you have any biases that are clouding your perception? Are you reading into things? (Try using our Ladder of Assumptions tool if you’re not sure.) What is your intention in sharing feedback? It’s helpful to pause and collect your thoughts so that you start the conversation with the right intentions.
  1. Check in with the person before you give feedback. It’s very helpful for most people to prepare mentally for a performance-related conversation, whether it’s with a leader, manager or peer. Just asking, “Could I speak with you quickly to share some feedback?” can make someone feel much more receptive than they will be if they feel blindsided. It’s also helpful to share feedback in a timely way, so that it’s meaningful and the person doesn’t feel you’re dredging up past flaws they can’t really remedy.
  1. Give your feedback one-to-one in a private space. There’s an old saying to praise in public and criticize in private. It’s important because even if you intend to share constructive criticism, it’s still criticism. Nobody wants to have flaws, mistakes or “could have been better” highlighted in front of other people in the workplace. Having a private conversation will make the recipient much more open to hearing what you have to share.

  2. Talk about the situation or behaviours you observed, not the personality or things you presumed. Share facts and neutrally stated observations with the intention to be helpful rather than to sit in judgement. For example, consider the difference between:

“You’re so aggressive, you barely let the client get a word in during the meeting!”
“I noticed during your presentation you didn’t provide an opportunity for the client 

to contribute  or provide input and insight.”


“You were clearly unprepared for the meeting and hadn’t practiced
your presentation for our clients.”

“During your presentation you appeared unprepared and uncomfortable. I noticed 

that you were really struggling to answer questions.”

Note the difference by sharing your observation that they appear to be unprepared rather than your assumption that they hadn’t prepared or practiced. Consider the focus on the outcome of struggling to answer questions. In this example, we might learn the person did prepare but focused on the wrong thing, or they had practiced and practiced but were so nervous about this particular client that they froze. Finding out those things will dramatically change how we help them improve and what solutions they might see.

Using “I noticed” or “I feel” or “it seems” when you share information about behaviours you’ve observed feels supportive and collaborative. It’s an important way to communicate that your intention is to help someone do even better, not to tear them down.

  1. Discuss the result of the behaviour. Again, speak neutrally and be specific. For example, “I noticed that the client tried a few times to speak or interject, notably about X and Y. I felt that they were very frustrated when they weren’t invited or permitted to speak, and I’m concerned that we missed an opportunity for their input.” Or, “When you couldn’t answer the questions the clients had about the budget or the timeline, I noticed they were exchanging glances and made a few notes. I feel if you had provided robust answers they would feel more confident about working with our company for this project.”

    It’s important to share consequences for the business of the behaviour that could be improved or changed. Stating facts objectively limits the room for debate and keeps the focus on improvement.

  2. Give time for the other person to process what you’ve said and respond to you. Effective feedback is a conversation. Make space for them to think about what you’ve said and then listen to understand when they respond. It’s valuable to encourage team members to speak up at work. Stifled conversations build resentment and toxic environments. When there are strong relationships and a solid foundation of trust, people will be more open to hearing feedback and talking about how to do better.

  3. Move the conversation to how (or what) to change. As the leader or manager, you don’t have to provide the answers. Try using a COACH Approach with your team colleague to help them think through the problem and possible solutions. For example, “What would help you with this?” or “What could you have approached differently?” are good questions to get someone thinking about ways to improve. Perhaps something like, “How would you like to approach this next time?” can help them figure out a plan to move forward.

The goal of effective feedback is to have conversations about how to do better and achieve success in future. When you follow these steps to give effective feedback, team members will feel that they are being supported in striving for excellence rather than being scrutinized for flaws or criticized. 

Coach’s Questions – 

How have you approached providing feedback to your team in the past? What would you change or do differently now? Would your team members feel safe and supported enough that they could disagree with you?