Executive Leadership Coaching

A 6 Step Model for Better Feedback

Giving effective feedback is something that very few leaders do well. Effective feedback includes positive feedback to let someone know they are doing a good job, as well as constructive feedback to improve performance.  In fact, research shows that giving both kinds of feedback is critical to developing your talent, and the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio is 5:1. In other words, effective teams need a little negative feedback to stay on course and avoid complacency, but they also need 5 times more positive reinforcement to stay motivated and driven to do their jobs. 

Positive feedback is far easier to give and receive than negative feedback, although  other research reveals that any indication of feedback creates a threat response in the brain, which tends to “shut down” the ability to stay open and receptive to feedback. Columbia University neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner’s work shows that feedback is only received and applied about 30% of the time; in other words, people are ignoring 70% of the feedback they are given, partly due to a neurological rejection of the information.

From my own work within organizations, I know that many leaders wish they and their teams were more skillful and giving more effective feedback. To give more effective feedback, we advocate the following 6 step model: 

1.    Be direct with your feedback. The more words you use to qualify or soften your feedback, the less understood the message is. Speak clearly and simply.

2.    Share your goals for sharing the feedback to provide context; for example “I would like to share some feedback with you, and my goal for sharing this is so that the team might work together more positively.” Focusing feedback on areas to help employees grow and develop is more useful than feedback which merely criticizes; ensuring you start with the intention to improve development is critical. 

3.    Share your fears with giving this feedback, which helps make an emotional connection with the other person in the moment. For example, “I hesitate to share this feedback, because I know how busy and overworked you are, and I don’t want to add to your stress.” 

4.    Identify the specific behavior, not personal attributes. For example, “when you look at your phone during meetings it appears you are not listening” rather than “when you are checked-out during meetings.”

5.    State the impact the behavior had on yourself, or others. For example, “when you look at your phone during meetings it appears you are not listening, and the team believes the meetings are not very effective if you aren’t fully present, because we can’t make the best decisions without your input.”  

6.    Finally, ask for the other person’s understanding of the feedback you shared, and invite his/her ideas for solving the problem. This turns the conversation from a feedback conversation into a collaborative discussion of how to approach the issue going forward, as directed by the person who received the feedback. This allows for the receiver to self-create the actions which might fix the issue, and also reinforces the motivational element of this feedback model.

Leadership Bookshelf - What We're Reading

The Mind of a Leader by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. 

A new book by Harvard Business Press which dissects the modern leadership crisis (88% of employees say their leader's don't lead well) and conveys a timely new message that leaders must be mindful, selfless and compassionate in order to be effective. 


Humble Inquiry by Edgar H. Schein

A simple and clear book on communication and relationship-building through inquiry.  Full of wisdom.


High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove.

This classic book on managing has become a cult classic within startup and tech circles. The book takes on the day-to-day stuff of management—meetings, performance appraisals, interviews, compensation—and deconstructs the process and goals of being a manager.  



Leadership Bookshelf -What We're Reading

The Culture Map, Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer. 

In this must-read for anyone working in different countries, the author discusses cultural differences and how to succeed while working in a global context. 


The Power of Presence, Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others by Kristi Hedges.

Executive Presence - the "IT" factor for many leaders who are striving to move up in their careers. What is it, and how do you get it? The author describes presence as three factors: Intentional, Individual and Inspiration, and provides masterful strategies and tools to help you get there.

Looking for more meaning in your work?

We have coached many clients to help them find more fulfillment and success in their work. As you might expect, each client defines meaning and success differently, so the coaching process has different parameters for each person:  it could involve negotiating different responsibilities in a current role, leaving a job, changing careers, or making larger-scale life changes toward entirely new ways of living and working.  Whatever the situation, if you are motivated to be more successful in your career, think about these 10 career success strategies:

High Performing Habits, Part 2

High Performing Habits, Part 2

In an earlier post I wrote about research showing that the most effective leaders go beyond time management skills to use high-performing habits throughout their workday. These are meaningful at work, and yet, the activities that impact our effectiveness do not end when we go home. In fact, the habits we create during our “off-work hours” can be some of the most impactful on our focus, creativity, resilience and physical and mental energy – all of which we need in large supply to successfully navigate the the average workday.

Leadership Bookshelf - What We're Reading

Designing Your Life - How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

The authors of this well-written book teach a "Design your Life" course at Stanford, and believe that in order to change, people need a thoughtful, designed process to succeed.  As a coach, I agree. If you want to move forward, you need to know where you are going, and how to get there.  Recommended for anyone that wants life to be a little more meaningful. 

Want to be 10% More Effective Today?

Want to be 10% More Effective Today?

The fast-paced, 'always-on' work environment of today comes with real downsides; forced to multitask, and constantly reacting to interruptions and demands, our brains - already full by mid-morning - start to feel a sense of overwhelm, and we lose our focus and ability to prioritize, and we become more emotionally reactive. The result: less productivity.  Whether you are a leader of a team, or an individual contributor, this has real impact on your day.  Imagine the impact on your day if you could reclaim even 10% of your mental effectiveness and productivity.  

The way to reclaim your mental effectiveness is now scientifically proven, and doesn't require more than 10 minutes per day: