In almost every coaching program I run my clients ask me about how they can have more effective feedback conversations. Some clients share with me:

  • “Feedback conversations are more painful than going to the dentist!”
  • “I avoid some feedback conversations. Some people just fall apart and the conversation goes nowhere.”
  • “I cringe at the thought of giving praise as I don’t want to come across as insincere; “they’re getting paid, isn’t that enough?!?”
  • “I’ve not done some annual reviews because I don’t know how to start the conversation; it’s not great news and I’m worried I’ll be accused of bullying.”

When you avoid feedback conversations you’re actually interfering with the potential for greater productivity.

Feedback gives you insight, helps you learn how you can improve. It should be regular, constructive, respectful.

This includes feedback from peers, direct reports, key stakeholders, customers and suppliers.

Imagine you’re at a conference and the keynote speaker was good – not great, but good – you give an applause because you respect their effort, feel their pain for public speaking, or their message was good. It is applause worthy – that is relevant feedback.

Now imagine the same okay speaker, same situation, but the MC/Emcee directs you to stand and give a standing ovation. Feels inauthentic and forced, right? Feels a little over the top for what you have received. This is inauthentic praise. How does this help the speaker get true feedback that will help them improve?

Now imagine you’re the speaker but there’s no audience! You are speaking to an empty room where you cannot see facial expressions nor the body language of the audience; you don’t hear the subtle giggles in response to your jokes, there is no Q and A to wrap up the session, nothing, zip, nada!

No applause … no feedback. How does this help you, the speaker, to improve?

While personal reflection on on performance is one type of feedback, the speaker, you and me, need external feedback as well in order to improve our performance and hence our productivity.

Here are three feedback conversation tips:


1:  Be specific. If it’s praise or if it’s something you need to correct then you need to be truly specific about what the behaviour or the performance or the result you need. If you’re not specific then there’s the change that people can escape out of it. “That wasn’t me!” The blame goes elsewhere. And the impact is lessened so there’s very little positive impact on productivity.


2: Remember that feedback is about change. It’s not about you saying “Hey good job,” good job on what? It’s not about “Hey you did that bad.” “What did I do bad?” You’re actually having a change conversation. That’s where I want your mindset to be. You want to help that person be able to work through change.


3:  I think this the most important of all when it comes to feedback conversations. Follow up! You need to follow up, so many leaders don’t follow up and therefore they get upset because their staff don’t do anything. A leader needs to follow up, that means it says the message that the employee is important, it says to the employee that what you are doing is really important and that’s where our productivity gets boosted.


I’d love to know your thoughts.


I was recently interviewed by Emma Rhoades from Culture Shift on the topic of Feedback and my book Successful Feedback, check it out here (~20min):