Giving Feedback Confidently


Oct 22, 2020

Does the thought of giving feedback to your team members fill you with anxiety and dread?  

In the last few months I have been supporting leaders and managers in their performance management and annual performance appraisal process, and the question I get asked most is “how did you get confident giving feedback to your staff?”  

They  would tell me about times when they’ve had to talk to a member of their team about poor performance at work, and always about how much they dreaded it.  

They would tell me about how much time they spent worrying about what they were going to say, how they were going to say it…and even if they would actually say what needed to be said.

And then, on the other side, you have the employee whose dreading it just as much!  They’re worried about getting a bad rap, some nasty little surprise, or wondering if they’ve done enough, if their work performance was “good enough”.  

It doesn’t make for a very positive experience, does it?

And it ends up becoming a tick and flick, get it over and done with exercise, rather anything of great value.

And I get it, I really do.  I remember the first time I had to talk to a member of my team, back in the very early days of starting up my NFP, about their performance, or lack thereof.  I was nervous, and a little scared.

I kept thinking “What if they challenge or argue with me? What if they get angry…or get upset and cry!  What if they won’t like me anymore”. To add to it, I was the youngest person in the organisation (and I was very young), and having to give this type of feedback to someone much older than me, well, it just felt…a bit scary.

All those thoughts running through my head were all about ME.  They didn’t serve the person who was about to receive the feedback, or the young people with disabilities we were there to serve either.  They were non-productive thoughts based on my own fear.

Giving feedback is a BIG part of being a great leader

Your ability to bring out the best in your people, and support them to contribute in a meaningful and impactful way, comes back to your ability to both give and receive feedback.  

Feedback is how your people will learn, grow and improve.

Your role as leader is to make sure that the feedback is timely, relevant, and framed in a way that promotes positive outcomes and progress, true to team and business values and purpose.

And for that reason it is both an opportunity for growth and your duty as a great leader.

Giving Feedback

So, how do you become more confident about giving feedback to team members?

Confidence comes from competence, and competence comes from experience.  

As I was developing my ability to give feedback in a way that served and supported I would enter the conversation with three intentions and guiding principles.

These principles helped me immensely in feeling more positive and confident about the, sometimes, tough conversations I was about to have:

  1. People are people first – Remember the human element always. Be kind. Be clear.
  2. The Door of Dignity – Everyone leaves with their dignity in tact. Go for the win/win.
  3. Owners earn – You don’t have the only, or the perfect, solution. Ask questions. Your people may come up with the perfect solution, and when it’s their idea, they own it, and are immediately more committed to seeing it through.
  4. Its not about meI threw in this fourth one, because it grounds you and gets you out of fear based thinking and makes you very PRESENT with the other person.

Every time I have entered into having to give feedback with these intentions, no matter the energy of the other person or how they were choosing to show up, the outcomes were more positive, productive, and lasting. Particularly when having to address some performance concerns or “needs improvement” actions.

“Confidence comes from competence, and competence comes from experience.”

There are many skills and attributes that go into giving feedback well. From having great Performance Management structures, policies and procedures in place, to those more difficult to teach “soft skills”.  However,  the foundational elements of being ready to give feedback that serves and supports is critical to a successful outcome.

No Surprises

And on the subject of performance management and feedback structures – do you have one??

If the only time you give your people feedback, or address performance concerns is at the Annual Performance Appraisal, then you probably don’t.

Why is it important?

Having a good performance management and feedback structure means that you’re having those conversations at the point that they are most relevant to the situation or behaviour that needs to change; and therefore a greater likelihood of positive outcomes.

It’s not just about the tough conversations of poor performance either. It’s also about recognition and acknowledgment of the good stuff too!!! Giving positive feedback lets your people know that you want them to keep doing those things, they feel valued, seen, heard and that their contribution is making a difference.

A good performance management and feedback structure is:

  • more respectful
  • builds trust
  • increases satisfaction, engagement and fulfilment
  • focuses on growth and continuous improvement
  • removes nasty surprises at annual performance appraisal time
  • creates a culture that honours problem solving, innovation and opportunity

These are all great reasons to stop avoiding giving feedback to your team and start enjoying the difference giving feedback will have on your teams’, customers, and business’ success.

Engaged Feedback

As you may know, I’m a big Brene Brown fan. She’s one of my favourite leadership authors. So, it was no surprise that when I read her book “Daring Greatly”  some years ago and discovered her Engaged Feedback checklist, I was in awe!  

Brene has this amazing ability to so eloquently articulate what I believe and practise. This list is SO GOOD that I have to share it with you: 

Giving Feedback

If you need help in getting your performance management and feedback structures, policies, procedures and practises in place, along with the “soft skills” book in a complimentary session with me and we can discover what would work for you and in your business. Please get in touch.