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24 July 2013


Why is it that when most people hear those words “I’d like to give you some feedback…” they often gear up expecting to hear the worst? Not a great frame of mind to be in if it is indeed something you really do need to take on board, to learn and develop and if you plan on furthering your career.

The thing is that when the Stakes are High, Opinions Vary and Emotions are Strong, as a leader you need to pull out all stops to manage the feedback process effectively and with dignity intact on both sides.

The following 10 principles are important to any employee development process; however they apply to the giving and receiving of informal feedback at other times as well.

Before you start, consider your ‘audience’:

  1. Focus on the behaviour rather than the person. Talk about what the person did and not what you think this implies. Emphasise the positive as performance will improve with frequent positive reinforcement. Recognise and reinforce what’s done well even in poor performance areas but link to specific objectives for improvement.
  2. The employee should be strongly involved in the coaching, counselling or review process to increase acceptance of work plans established and objectives determined.
  3. Discuss only behaviour that can be changed. If you focus on personality traits that are extremely difficult to change, you’ll only increase the other person’s frustration. For example, commenting that the person is ‘shy’ and does not speak up enough is not helpful feedback. However, suggesting training or techniques to help develop this person’s assertiveness, may begin the process of changing the behaviour. Remember though, none of us can change our personalities as a result of feedback – we can choose to change our behaviour.
  4. Let the recipient know what the impact his/her behaviour has on you and others and your assessment of his/her performance.
  5. Describe the behaviour, don’t evaluate it. By not evaluating, you reduce the need for the other person to react defensively.
  6. Deal with the specific behaviour, not generalities. For example, telling a person that they are dominating is not as useful as saying “You interrupted Carole twice, and Colin three times at our team meeting yesterday - you stopped them from giving their viewpoint each time”. Provide documented proof of good and undesirable behaviours.
  7. Use an “I” statement to accept responsibility for your own perceptions and emotions. For example, to comment on performance, “When you hand in your report late every week, iif at all, it feels to me/I think that you’re not committed to the job" is more effective than to say …
    “You’re obviously not committed to the job and don’t care at all about the deadlines” (this may not be true and the result is likely to be an argument and defensiveness).
  8. Check to make sure that the receiver understood your message in the way you intended it. That is, question his/her understanding or ask him or her to paraphrase your message.
  9. Feedback should be appropriately timed and is generally most useful at the earliest opportunity after the given behaviour. It is important that you prepare for the discussion and schedule the meeting as soon as possible after the event.
  10. Document the results of the discussion to assist with the communication and provide historical data on the employee’s performance. This will assist in the preparation for the performance, career aspirations and development plans. Document both the positive as well as the negative incidents.


An essential component of providing any form of feedback is trusting the other person to be honest with you.  There are four elements that create trust in what we say and do.  People trust you because of what you do, not your feelings or intentions, but your actions.

The key elements of trust are:


Do what you say you’ll do – and if you can’t do it, don’t say you will.  Keep your promises and deadlines.


All people want to be accepted for who they are, and what they do, not judged, criticised or made to feel inferior.


People tend to cooperate best with people who will be truthful with them and give the whole story without hiding parts, even if they’re not pleasant.

If you let people know what you value, are passionate about or what you think and believe in, what you consider priorities, you’ll be more believable.


When you are straightforward, people know that what you say is in line with what you believe, what you know to be true and what you do. It means saying and doing what you believe, and that words and actions align.

Underpinning these four elements is RESPECT, not only for yourself but also for the employees you work with.  Without respect for others and yourself, trust will be very hard to develop.

If you would like more information on our LEADING & MANAGING PEOPLE programs, please contact:

Penny Nesbitt

Director r o c k e t   b l u e pty ltd

0430 895097