It’s not much of a surprise that most leaders honestly say they want quality feedback. What IS surprising, is that very few people, leaders included, are actually good at giving feedback. Many simply don’t give enough.

Studies and surveys show that as many as 1/3 of all feedback interventions backfire while a whopping 98% of employees will fail to be engaged due to lack of or poorly delivered feedback. In the face of these startling numbers, 58% of managers still feel they do give enough feedback.

Giving feedback is just another leadership skill to continuously sharpen so it becomes productive in improving morale, fostering innovation, and increasing engagement.

No one size fits all

What is your style?

Leaders have various natural styles for giving feedback ranging from direct to soft. There are many approaches in between and no single style works for every leader or for every situation a leader faces. Consider your own style as well as your organizational culture when looking for the best way to improve your feedback.

For example, if you are a directive or autocratic leader (like Adolph Hitler and John F. Kennedy) with a highly hierarchical culture, then using a more direct approach would be expected. If you have a transformational or democratic leadership style (Walt Disney or Nelson Mandela) combined with a collaborative culture, a softer learning approach would be more the norm.

Is it negative or positive?

How will the topic of this feedback impact the organization? Will it be positive – like a significant increase in revenue or decrease in expenses – or will it be negative like a dropping in the level of customer satisfaction?

Who is receiving the feedback?

Also, consider the situation and the individual to whom you are giving the feedback. You might need to adjust your approach, not necessarily your style, in order to get the results you need. Ask yourself “What does this situation call for?”.

Is this the first – or the fifth – time you have had a similar conversation? Does this person need a swift kick in the pants or do they simply need your help in removing obstacles? Do you need to nurture them with helpful input and awareness while protecting their confidence level, or do you need to accelerate their progress by helping them brainstorm and learn by doing?

Is it Really Feedback?

Tell the Feedback and Coach for Learning

Very often, a leader will give great feedback and then proceed straightaway to tell the person what they need to do next. This is extremely detrimental to the entire exercise.

Telling your team member how to respond to the feedback puts the ownership of the issue clearly with the leader and not the team member. More importantly, you lose the opportunity to coach that team member for learning and faster growth because individuals increase their longer-term self-sufficiency when they process solutions independently first.

Clarity of agreement

Many times we miss the chance to confirm the understanding between the leader and team member by failing to ask the team member to summarize or re-iterate their next steps, learning, or success. In other words, when they are able to repeat back to you your feedback and outline their own path forward, their chances for your desired outcome are greatly improved.

Get Your Own Feedback

Soliciting feedback is just as important as learning how to give it. It’s often more difficult for leaders if they fear their teams will varnish the truth. Getting good feedback takes some work, too. and for leaders, it may require actively asking peers and team members. For some insights, you may want to take a quick self-assessment.


At Kinetic Insights, our PathFinders are skilled in helping leaders unleash the greatness in themselves and in their organizations. Call or email us for a quick discussion that just might put you and your team on the path to significant change.

Gail A. Froelicher is Founder and CEO of Kinetic Insights, LLC. For over 11 years, Gail and her team of PathFinders have journeyed with their customers to forge successful paths in rapidly changing business environments.