The Power of Feedback

Drs. Sheila Boysen, Mike Cherry, and Lesley Page

Studies show that the majority of employees would like more feedback. Given this, why don’t we give it more often? To truly understand how to champion feedback as a leader, we must explore the topic from two angles – first, as a receiver of feedback and second, as the feedback provider.

Denial, Exploration and Integration 

When we receive difficult feedback, we often go through a three-phased response: denial, exploration and integration:

1.  DENIAL

Our first response to feedback we don’t like is usually to deny it, especially if we don’t appreciate the delivery.

The response: you may find yourself pointing out (usually with justification) that the criticism is not always the case: “But I do listen…” (often with examples of times when you have).

2.  EXPLORATION

We acknowledge that giving feedback is hard and that the person probably wouldn’t have gone out of their way to give it unless there was a good reason.

The response: you may start to wonder if even a piece of the

feedback might be true… even just 2% of it: “I suppose when I’m feeling under pressure, I can get my head down and show a lack of interest in what others have to say.”

3.  INTEGRATION

Once we find what is true for us, we can move on to drawing a conclusion as to what we can gain or learn from the feedback.

The response: you start to think about what you might do differently: “I need to be less driven under pressure and more accessible to my team.”

Giving feedback can benefit others in so many ways, including providing:

Learning. If you are seeing a blind spot in your peer or team member, feedback can help them see the issues they have been avoiding. It can also inspire the other person to aim for high standards and give them the encouragement to keep on improving.

Motivation. Feedback builds trust between two people (especially between a manager and a team member) and is directly linked to greater engagement and performance.

To help ease the fear or angst of giving feedback, try to always stick to these two rules:

1.   Tell the Truth with Respect

Giving feedback often requires us to challenge someone, and as a result, can make us feel anxious. The feelings that result from this can distort our message and cause us to either be too tentative or too harsh. In either scenario, it makes the experience uncomfortable, causing the other person to become defensive or even shut down. So be open, honest, and provide feedback with respect for the other person.

2.   Use ‘Fact-Impact’ Feedback

When giving feedback, explain your intention and give the facts using this  formula:

‘Fact Impact’ Example:

A manager spoke to their peer from another department:

“When you have a moment, I am hoping we can chat to improve our working relationship. When you said you would deliver your part of the project by the end of the week and didn’t, I felt frustrated because it had a huge impact on the timeline for what my team has to deliver”

As you state the impact, be careful of inserting opinions and judgments. If necessary

to include, try to label them as such: ‘It was easy for me to think that…’

About Dr. Sheila Boysen

Sheila M. Boysen, Ph.D., PHR, BCC, MCC is Master of Organizational Leadership Program Director and ICF ACTP Director at Lewis University

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