6 Tips for Offering Constructive Feedback

by | Sep 29, 2015 | Insights

Feedback is a blessing.

Consider this: When you’re shopping for that perfect dress or suit, you have to stand in front of a mirror that reflects at three angles in order to see the whole picture.

In our day-to-day lives, we normally only see the mirror that’s straight in front of us. Feedback provides the side angle view, the perspective that makes our understanding of how we are perceived and how we are performing complete. It compensates for our blind spots and creates opportunities to achieve excellence.

This perspective is key to making feedback a positive experience – whether you are the one giving or receiving.


In other cases, it may be necessary to address broader performance issues. Here are five tips for how to deliver feedback so that it is indeed constructive:

1. Schedule time with your associate and immediately establish your intent. Frame the conversation as an opportunity to discuss development needs and opportunities. This signals that you are investing in your employee’s success rather than being critical.

2. Prepare in advance – you want to stay on point and ensure your feedback is delivered clearly and is understood. It pays to spend some time gathering your thoughts. You may even want to prepare a few bullet points to capture your key messages.

3. Begin the conversation by recognizing strengths and / or successes. After all, it is because your employee is a valued member of the team that you are having this conversation. (Otherwise, you should be having an altogether different conversation.)

4. Next, let your associate know that you want to drill down on two or three (or whatever the number is) performance issues that need work. When introducing these, be crisp and clear. At the same time, avoid being accusatory, e.g., “You did this” or “You didn’t do this.” Ask questions to ensure understanding.

5. Most important: Focus on outcomes.

Here’s an example: We were working with a CEO to create a communication to his organization announcing the sale of the company. As the “go live” date drew nearer, activity (and changes to the plan) accelerated. One member of our team was responsible for capturing all of the changes to the plan and incorporating them throughout all of the many communication channels we were preparing. When it came time to review the “final” documents before sending them to the client, we found some of the changes had not been captured. Naturally, we pulled the team together and got the work done properly.

Then, after the announcement took place, we held a team debrief to uncover what happened. Rather than blame our team member for the last-minute scramble, we asked questions like: How specifically were you capturing the changes – via handwritten notes on your hard copy of the draft? In track changes mode to the Word documents? Electronically in a separate document? We learned that our teammate had been using a combination of these methods, and agreed on one method that would work best in the future.

By focusing on outcomes, you create an environment in which individual performance improves, and the team is open to sharing learnings and best practices. What could be more constructive than that?

For more information on how On the same Page can help you become a more effective leader, email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.


Tracy Benson

Tracy Benson, Founder and CEO, On the Same Page, LLC, provides executive coaching to senior leaders and their teams in Fortune 500 companies across industries, including: healthcare, pharma, energy, technology, consumer goods, manufacturing, hospitality, defense and financial.

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