Shh! The Secret to Giving Powerful Feedback!


Giving feedback takes skill and practice, but it something worth investing in because it directly impacts your ability to lead in critical ways!

Too often leaders give what I refer to as foolish feedback – feedback that is vague, making it impossible to repeat or improve your performance. Or it’s negative and crushing to hear.

Perhaps you’ve encountered foolish feedback like this:

“Great job!”  “You rock!”  “Thanks for all you do!” “Like that, only better.” “It’s good.”

I’ve encountered many well-intentioned leaders, people who were thoughtful and kind, but who regularly provided foolish feedback.

The #1 Mistake

Of the 1,400 leaders, managers, and executives surveyed by The Ken Blanchard Companies, 82% agreed that the number one mistake leaders make is failing to provide appropriate feedback. That’s significant! Did you catch that? It’s the #1 way that leaders fail! People are looking for leaders who offer valuable information that they are able to act on, and enables them to grow and improve!

You might speculate that leaders fail to offer helpful feedback because…they are busy, they haven’t seen excellent it modeled, or maybe they believe what they are doing is working. However, if you are on the receiving end of such feedback, it’s quite frustrating. In fact, even positive, foolish feedback has a way of feeling negative. Not knowing what to change, repeat, or stop doing is discouraging! And it feels like the person giving the feedback doesn’t have a clear sense of what you are doing.

Like any other skill, providing quality feedback is a skill that must be intentionally developed. It takes practice.

What’s the reward to giving powerful feedback? It gives your people a target to shoot for which enables them to grow. It boosts their confidence and enhances their performance. In the long run, that all adds up to increasing the odds that the big goals you are working towards will be reached and that the morale of your people will remain high.

Begin improving the quality of your feedback and making it more powerful by doing these 9 things:

1. Communicate Expectations Clearly

The key to giving powerful feedback is actually communicating very clear expectations from the start. That not only significantly increases the chances of your expectations being met, but it also opens the door for letting them know how close they came!  Because there is something concrete to link back to, the information you provide becomes even more powerful.

In the same study done by The Ken Blanchard Companies mentioned before, 76% of those surveyed felt that leaders failed to communicate clear goals and objectives. As a leader, much is riding on your ability to communicate your expectations clearly with your people! And feedback is the natural follow up.

“Improvement begins with I.” – Arnold H. Glasow

2. Harness the Power of Your Words!

Words are powerful; it is undeniable. Surely, you’ve experienced the depth of how negative words hurt, or how positive words have a way of sending you soaring. As a leader (parent, boss, or person of influence), your words carry significant weight.

In the same way, the lack of words or communication is also powerful. In the absence of anything being said, negative thoughts and feelings will always fill the void. I call those “communication voids!”

“The absolute worst kind of feedback is none at all.” – Russ Hopkins

3. Focus on Behavior

Feedback is counterproductive when you blame, criticize, or focus on the person rather than the behavior.

On the other hand, when the information you share zeros in on the problem and not the person, is affirming, and provides concrete actions, it’s incredibly helpful.

4. Be Specific

Being specific takes time and effort, however, if you are willing to invest the time, not only will it pay off for you, but also for recipient. Before you offer feedback, identify the situation or situations where the behavior showed up – concrete examples. These might be positive behaviors you want them to repeat again and again or behaviors that might need to change. Even taking it a step further and connecting the behavior to their strengths and/or weaknesses makes it possible for them to repeat or make adjustments giving them the opportunity to grow in and improve in the future.

What needs to be specific?

      • Where you observed the behavior taking place.
      • Exactly what they did right! Remember, feedback is also POSITIVE!
      • The behavior you don’t want repeated.
      • A clear target to shoot for – how will they know they’ve done what you wanted them to do?
      • The strengths or weakness you’ve observed
      • Areas for growth – what will demonstrate they’ve grown?

5. Provide Information, Don’t Give Advice

Let’s face it…most of us don’t appreciate advice, especially unsolicited advice!

However, sharing helpful information such as resources, possible mentors or coaches, or ways to further develop needed skills allows the recipient of the feedback the freedom to pursue them or not, depending on their own goals.

6. Reinforce the Priorities

When your feedback is disconnected from the vision, strategy, and values of your organization, it undermines the organization.

Linking your feedback to your vision, strategy, and values demonstrates that they are a priority to you. It also helps those you lead to see how they connect and contribute to the vision, strategy, and values or where they may need to make adjustments.

7. Flex to Their Personality

It’s human nature to interact with others in a way that comes naturally and works for you. However, as a leader, it’s your job to flex to others in a way that is in keeping with the other person’s bent. So, if you want your feedback to be received well, it must be delivered in a way that connects with their personality. Here’s more on communicating with various personalities.

8. Inspire!

When we think about feedback, the tendency is to think about it in terms of negative feedback, but feedback is just as much about praise and positive affirmation. We could all use a little more of that!

That’s why it’s crucial that you notice a job well done, which means you have to be paying attention. That kind of feedback inspires one to do more of that and perform even better! It’s a powerful way of drawing out the best in your people. Your support and belief that they are capable of great work will spur them on and enable them to do more than they thought was possible.

“Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment.” – Bill Walsh

9. Welcome It!

How regularly do you ask for feedback? It’s a powerful tool for growth!

Inviting feedback from those you lead, sends the message that feedback is helpful, valued, and appreciated. Not only does it let you know how you are being perceived as a leader, but also gives you the opportunity to improve. Plus, experiencing feedback yourself is a fantastic reminder of what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

How normal is feedback in your culture? The more it happens, the easier it is to give and receive. With practice, you will get better. And as you get better, everyone learns and grows and gets better too!

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

No more holding back! The secret is out: feedback is powerful!

What would make the feedback you give more powerful?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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