Being able to give feedback is essential for anyone in a leadership role. In some organisations, feedback is pro-actively encouraged. In others, it is a process that happens but once a year. As a leader, you will want to develop the talent in your team. One way to do this is to create a culture where feedback is asked for and received regularly.




The word feedback suggests providing comments or thoughts on how someone has just performed. Marhsall Goldsmith, leadership coach, introduced the concept of ‘feed-forward’. The idea of giving people your thoughts about their potential – where could they go next, what might they develop to achieve their potential. My recommendation is to offer a combination of both feedback and feed-forward.

I also encourage you to pro-actively seek feed-forward from your stakeholders e.g. ‘in your experience of me, what do you think I should develop further to achieve my potential?’

As you prepare to give someone feedback I recommend you think about three essential ingredients:

  1. Think about your intention. What is your intention in giving this feedback? Is it to motivate and inspire? Is it to let them know that something is not working and they need to develop new skills? Is it acknowledge them for their contribution and provide a stretch?
  2. Think about the impact you want to create. Do you want them to leave feeling inspired? Do you want them reflect and learn from what didn’t go well and create opportunities to learn new skills? Do you want them to believe they can make changes and move forward?
  3. Think about the place where you have the conversation. The place needs to be one which says to the person ‘this conversation is important and you matter’. The place needs to be free from interruption, where you both feel comfortable.

Whether you are giving feedback on the spot or, even better, you have time to prepare the feedback, consider the three ‘S’s. Be specific about what you have seen, heard and felt. Provide evidence and the facts. Be sincere in how you deliver the feedback and be succinct.

Neuroscience research has shown that the brain responds better to appreciation than criticism at a ratio of 5:1. This suggests that when we give feedback it is important to acknowledge and appreciate one another. When we do this, the blood flows increases to our brain enabling it to function better and ignite new thinking. Of course we also want to offer constructive feedback that may appear or sound critical. It is the ratio in which we give the feedback that will make the difference as to whether we motivate or demotivate an individual.

For feedback to be received well, I recommend asking the individual to give feedback on himself or herself first e.g. ‘If you were to give feedback on you – what would you say?’ This question helps the individual to begin thinking for himself or herself. Some will naturally be more critical than others and this will give you an indication in how to structure your feedback. Others may feel they have performed better than you think they have. Once the individual has shared his/her thoughts, you can offer your thoughts being specific, sincere and succinct.

Paying attention to the intention, impact and place to give feedback will enhance your leadership skills in giving feedback. As the saying suggests, people join organisations and leave mangers – don’t allow someone to leave your organisation as a result of poorly executed feedback.

What do you think about as you prepare to give feedback?



Kline, N. (2010). More Time to Think – A way of being in the World. Fisher King Publishing

Rock, D. (2008) SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating and influencing others. Neuro- leadership Journal