Incito Leadership and Executive Coaching


How to Give Feedback That Can Be Heard

It's a conversation that I have had at some point with every leader that I coach: How to give effective feedback. Feedback to direct reports, feedback to peers, feedback to a more senior leader… or anyone else in their life. Having not mastered this skill causes leaders considerable stress and prevents them from being assertive and speaking up or they damage relationships when essential feedback is delivered incorrectly. Leaders are often been recommended to use the feedback sandwich approach… start with saying something good, tell the bad news feedback, end with something good. The result ended up making the other person feel defensive which is natural – the fight or flight response – and yet it prevents the other person from hearing the message you have to share to help them grow. Even worse, this approach can breed cynicism and the receiver hears the good as ingenuine.

We have been conditioned to expect that feedback is something that will hurt and not help us. So, how to get past the defensive response and help the recipient really hear your gift of feedback? Start with permission, intention, facts, and impact.

  • Ask Permission: Let the other person know you have some feedback you would like to share with them and ask if it's a good time. If not, ask when you can connect with them to share your feedback.
  • Share your Intention: Feedback is a gift and up to the receiver to do what they wish with that gift. If you could have them benefit from you gift, what would you like them to gain? Think about this before you share your feedback and then start your feedback with sharing your intention.
  • Give the facts: Be specific what you have experienced and observed.
  • Share the impact: If needed, let them know the impact that you have experienced and/or your perceived impact on others. You may also share you feelings concerning the situation.
  • Wait for the response of the other person and talk though anything that comes up.
  • Don’t be attached to what the receiver does with your gift of feedback. The responsibility of a gifter ends with the thoughtful giving of a gift.
LeadershipJenn Lofgren