Four Steps to Giving Feedback

There are times when a follower’s (or employees) actions or behavior needs to be addressed, due to the potential negative impact it can bring. This is why a leader needs to be intentional about giving feedback. Giving feedback is not one of the easiest or glamorous leadership responsibilities but it’s a crucial aspect to leading effectively. Below are 4 practical steps to giving feedback:

1. Be specific- When giving feedback it’s important to be specific and direct. Pinpoint and bring up the exact problem at hand while avoiding any previous or indirect issues. Provide a specific situation that show the action or behavior you are addressing. This can help the person to clearly see the problem you are addressing.

2. Offer solutions- All feedback should be combined with solutions. When giving feedback you should provide relevant and practical solutions to the specific issue you’re addressing. Author Anthony J. D’Angelo wisely said, “Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.” One way a leader can do this is to offer their time to train or coach the person.

3. Provide Praise- Blogging friend Bogdan Kipko (I highly recommend his blog, click here to check his blog out) recently shared this Facebook status: “A person won’t change the way they behave until they change the way they believe.” People want to know you care about them and value their contribution to the team. This is why a leader should provide praise when giving feedback, especially when it’s negative feedback. This can be done when you use the sandwich method. To use this method sandwich the negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback.

4. Monitor for change- When you go through the above steps the last is to monitor the person to make sure their actions or behavior changes. Even if a leader delivers the most effective feedback, it’s ultimately the person who is receiving the feedback’s choice to change or not. Ideally you would be able to influence them to change. However, if their actions or behaviors continue to happen you should take the steps necessary to remove them from the team (after several warning).

Questions: Can you share any other additional steps? How do tend to provide feedback?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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52 thoughts on “Four Steps to Giving Feedback

  1. I think it is absolutely essential to provide encouragement for “wise” risk. If it doesn’t work out as it had been hoped, a lesson was learned. It was not a failure. Your point about giving praise is important, Dan, because I don’t think you want to break the spirit of the person who tried. I don’t want them to stop dreaming and hoping.

    • I agree, praise can cause the person to be encouraged through the difficult conversation. I’m sure you have had to give feedback in your years of pastoring. Thank you for sharing.

  2. We’re all constantly giving feedback in some form or fashion. People want to know where they stand. Giving feedback allows that, especially when it’s done in a respectful and helpful manner.

  3. We have to be careful not to view feedback as a problems-only approach. Personally, I DIE without regular feedback, and we will find that this and upcoming generations– so used to being able to instantly monitor progress– expect it. I would offer tweaked versions of these points for offering feedback on a regular basis (even when there’s not a problem):

    1. BE SPECIFIC in your observations, areas for improvement, development plan (especially important), and words of praise.

    2. OFFER OPPORTUNITIES for growth through professional development and new responsibilities.

    3. PROVIDE PURPOSE by reminding your team why you do what you do and how important it is to everyone involved.

    4. MONITOR FOR GROWTH, realizing that it is as much a leader’s responsibility as it is his constituent’s to keep growing and learning.

    And that’s your guest-blog-in-the-comments-section for the day haha! Thanks for these great tips on how to address these issues in our teams.

    • Hello Justin,

      Great point about giving positive feedback (when their are not problems being discussed). That’s a follow up post I might do sometime soon. Thank you for adding your own thoughts to the outline. I always enjoy your comments.

  4. Good list. I think since many of the things all of us do are due habits the monitoring process is where most of us let down. It will take a quarter or two to bring about lasting change and changing habits. I like to use humor and painting the big picture of what is the long term benefit to all of us. Then of course the follow through is crucial.

  5. This is a solid guide Dan. I particularly like this: “Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.”

    That’s so huge. Once a problem has been addressed it will do you no good to focus on it any longer. It will also affect the employee becuase it can be extremely discouraging when someone focuses solely on your shortcomings. But by focusing on improvements and offering praise, I’d suspect a hefty majority of employees would feel appreciated and
    correct their mistakes.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. Ya, I really liked that quote.

      I agree, when done right (Offering solutions and praise) most followers/employees would self correct. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  6. A great guide to one of the hardest thing a leader/manager has to do. I think it’s also important to ask the individual for their views about the issue and give them the opportunity to give their own analysis and generate their own solutions. You also need to listen, because there may be reasons for their behaviour that you weren’t aware of. They’re more likely to respond positively if you help them to take some responsibility and control, rather than being too directive.

    • Hello Sue,

      Having the person share their views and thoughts is a great additional step. Being willing to listen is so important. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  7. What I would add is not really a step, but a blanket over the steps. I would add relationship and authenticity. In other words, build relationships with people. I’m not saying be their best friends, but I am saying to be interested in and care about their lives. Not only will this reduce issues needing addressed, but it will make addressing them go better. And then be authentic. Be real with people. Oh, I would also add to be the example. Set the example of what happens when you make a mistake by owning up to it, learning from it, and moving forward. I see my husband do these things all the time, and he is a terrific leader in the workplace and at church.

    • Those are great additional points Kari. Each one can help when it comes to leading them and giving feedback to them. Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this topic.

  8. Giving feedback is almost always tough and is the reason that relationships are so important. If we have the proper relationship, I can provide honest feedback and you can received it with properly. Still tough though.

    I was always taught the “sandwich” method of coaching someones behavior. “Praise / correction / Praise.

  9. What excellent advice. I would say to always assume the best. Often an employee isn’t able to do something the way they would like to because of circumstances or another employee.

  10. Hi Dan,

    This was an excellent post on giving feedback. I loved the tip on providing praise and it reminded me of the way we give feedback at our public speaking group, particularly to new speakers. We always sandwich one piece of negative feedback with two pieces of postive feedback, to ensure that we encourage the speaker and to help the person increase his/her confidence.

    Thank you.

    • Hello Hiten,

      It’s great you guys praise when giving feedback within your speaking group. New speakers really need to hear that. Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

  11. I tend to use the compliment sandwich – I point out something specific they did that was great, I bring to light so sing that needs changed, and end with something they did well. Seems to work for those I mentor!

  12. Feedback seems to be one of the most neglected functions in leadership. It is so easy to fall prey to the fear of “offending.” We do a tragic disservice to those we lead when do not help them grow by providing the feedback they need. When giving feed back I try to make sure I keep it positive (praise) at the beginning and at the end.

  13. Positive feedback is so important- it can be a deal changer. Sometimes it can be challenging but I think if we try and view people through the grace of God we can find something worthy of praise. Also, it helps remind us all that we mess up. The cross is level ground.

    • Great point about seeing people “through the grace of God.” That mindset can really help us when it comes to giving feedback. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  14. I love your point about sandwiching negative feedback in between positive statements. That was the first thing that came to my mind when I read your headline, and the “feedback sandwich” has been really helpful for me as I’ve employed it.

  15. Isn’t there an old saying that you should praise someone in public and criticize them in private. I think that’s a good general rule to follow. You don’t want to make someone feel bad in front of other people. When giving feedback, it’s good to know what you’re going to say before you say it. Think things through. Don’t be general about your complaints unless that’s appropriate. Plus I think the sandwich method is a great idea. Even though most people know about it, it’s still a great technique.

    • Yes, that’s a old and wise saying. Preparing to give feedback is so important, it allows us to know how and what we are going to say. Thank you for adding to the topic.

    • Hello Steve,

      That’s a great saying. Taking time to plan what we are going to say is so important. It allows us to say what we are meaning to say. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  16. Great thoughts Dan. I also think leaders need to provide feedback often. Ninety-day check-ups are a great way to provide corrections without the employee/subordinate getting too far off course.

    All very good nuggets of advice.

  17. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. That’s a line Ken Blanchard likes to use now and then. Great post Dan!
    I think everyone knows feedback is important – yet we see too few of them done well. What do you think are some of the of the causes of that?

    • That’s a great quote. I was trying to use that exact one in this post but it did not work out. Great minds think alike:)

      I think their are many reason. A couple including the leader reacting in the situation rather than taking the time to think through and plan how they will react (provide feedback) and the leader now knowing how to give proper feedback or unwilling to put in the effort it requires. What do you think?

  18. Catch people doing something right. If the feedback is negative, give it right away – don’t wait for a performance appraisal or the next one on one. Glad you were able to build on my guest post, Dan.

  19. I would also add that it’s important to give feedback at the proper time. You don’t want to wait too long or you’ll lose the prime opportunity while its still fresh in people’s mind. On the other hand it’s also important to judge the receptiveness of the person before you give them feedback. Some people just aren’t ready for it and it doesn’t make sense to give feedback to a person who isn’t going to listen or will easily get offended.

    • I totally agree, the proper timing is so important. I think that can sometimes be the difficult part about giving feedback. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  20. I love the methodology of Abraham Lincoln (who was really one of the BEST leaders EVER): praise publicly, correct privately. When he ever did mess that up he was so quick to apologize. It was important especially in politics when everyone had HUGE egos and large crowds behind them.