Newmeasures: Insights for an exceptional workforce

Providing Feedback

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

What to Know

Remember that you’re giving feedback to a person and the message that is heard is more important than the message that is given. People are more likely to hear feedback when it is specific, focused on behaviors rather than the person, a combination of positive and constructive, and when there is an opportunity to voice their own observations as part of the process. When feedback is actually heard, you’re more likely to elicit the behaviors you’re looking for.


“Sandwiching” feedback — where you sandwich negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback — is not as effective as some may claim. When feedback feels insincere people are less receptive and may overlook the constructive information you’re sharing. Rather than hide critical feedback, be upfront with employees and set the expectation that all feedback conversations should include discussion around positive performance and potential growth opportunities.
What Managers Can Do

Consider short, yet frequent check-ins with each direct report (e.g., 20 minutes, once a week) and focus on: 1) what’s going well? 2) where are you having challenges? 3) how can I help?

Focus on providing real-time feedback and use questions to help employees process their own performance. Ask questions like: how do you think that went? What do you think you could do differently next time?

In conversations with direct reports, focus on the behavior rather than the person. For example, rather than saying, “You are confrontational,” consider describing a specific behavior such as, “yesterday, when you raised your voice….”

We often avoid providing feedback because we don’t want to upset others. However, it is important to remember that being direct and honest is the kind thing to do. Feeling frustrated and not saying anything leads to resentment, conflict and confusion.

What Employees Can Do

Be proactive about asking your supervisor for feedback, especially after major events or milestones. Ask your supervisor: what do you think went well? What could I do better/or differently that would help me be more successful?

Feedback conversations don’t have to be scary or formal. Rather than wait for a full debrief about a project, find opportunities to informally ask your supervisor for feedback about specific topics. Questions such as, “How do you think that went?” or “Is there anything I could do differently next time?” can be very insightful.

Be prepared going into a feedback conversation with your manager. Think back on a specific timeframe and make concrete notes about your performance. Try to describe examples using STAR: situation, task, action, results. If your manager doesn’t solicit your input, ask if you can offer a few examples that demonstrate what’s going well and where you’d like to improve. Coming into a performance conversation with your own ideas demonstrates that you take ownership in your development.

What Leadership Can Do

Role model the behaviors of asking for feedback to encourage others to do the same. For example, after a project or meeting, check-in peers or direct reports and ask: How do you think that went? Do you have any feedback on things I could have done better/differently?

It’s all too easy to give critical feedback or point out what needs more work, especially when you’re short on time. Don’t fall into this trap. Positive feedback is actually more effective and is highly motivating. Make a point to call out the positive.

Be careful of creating a culture that is too “nice” in the sense that people do not give each other feedback. Make continuous learning and improvement a regular part of your day-to-day conversations.


Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny

Radical Candor by Kim Scott