“Getting people to welcome feedback was the hardest thing I ever had to do as an educator.” ―Professor Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

In the next 60 seconds, you will learn how powerful feedback really is—and how to use it without doing more harm than good. Ready? Go!

SOLID One-Minute Coaching™

We need to collaborate with others to succeed as executives. For that, we need to master the art of giving (and receiving) feedback and critiques.

Why Feedback Is So Important

Feedback is every organization’s lifeblood—the mechanism that lets people know whether they’re doing a good job or if their efforts need to be fine-tuned, upgraded or entirely redirected.

Most people, however, are uncomfortable when giving or receiving feedback. I hear this from many of the executives I coach. Despite its importance, we procrastinate and try to avoid it altogether.

Without feedback, people remain in the dark. They have no idea how they stand with their superiors or peers regarding what’s expected of them. Problems invariably worsen over time, so we need to use feedback to find solutions that help us adapt and adjust.

Executives who are direct with those they lead change lives for the better. Avoiding the task of giving feedback means avoiding growth.

Why Feedback Is So Dangerous

Just giving feedback is not enough. It must be delivered effectively.

There is a tendency toward “brutal honesty” in the business world. Bosses hammer subordinates with truth without any sensitivity.

In a study of 108 managers and white-collar workers, researchers found that poorly delivered feedback was one of the top causes of workplace conflict. After harsh criticism, people refused to collaborate or cooperate, leading to stonewalling and disengagement. Their performance on the task they were criticized over actually worsened.

If you unravel their histories, you will find that disengaged employees rarely started off that way. At the core of their problems you will often find a hurtful encounter, usually delivered as inept feedback.

For help negating this risk, read “Balancing Positive & Negative Feedback.”

If you would like to examine the way you provide feedback, the best option is to talk to your executive coach. If you are a CEO or other bona fide executive, now is the time to schedule your first complimentary session.

Coaching Questions

  • Think of a time when you received unnecessarily harsh feedback. How did it affect your performance on that task?
  • Now think of the most helpful feedback you ever received. What made it so powerful? How was it delivered?
  • How frequently do you provide feedback to your direct reports? What impact do you usually observe?

Dive deeper into this topic by learning how to give constructive feedback.