Experts POol


Is the fear of feedback holding you back?

It’s something every manager must do….often. It’s also something many leaders dread and desperately want to avoid. Sorry. You cannot avoid or defer this critical part of your job as a leader. The performance, accountability, growth and development of the people who report to you depend on your skillful delivery of feedback.

Well then, if you have to do it, how can you make the whole thing easier and make sure it’s effective?

Give yourself some time to prepare for this very important conversation, time to really think this through. Some things to consider:            

      • What is my genuine intention here?
      • What can I realistically expect this person will do with/about the feedback?
      • Is this an employee who strives for self-improvement and personal development?
      • Is this someone who will take the feedback to heart or see it as an attack against his/her professionalism?
      • Will he/she be defensive, go into denial or deflect and blame others?
      • Is there trust in your working relationship?

Use the answers to these questions to help you frame your message in a way that it can be received as it is intended.  

Then, when you feel ready:

Start by giving up some power. The simple way to do that is to ask, “I have some feedback for you that I hope will be helpful. Is this an okay time to talk about it, or would you prefer to schedule another time for this conversation?” 

Deliver the feedback in well thought out, simple terms. Make sure the feedback is actionable. While context is important, don’t go on and on. Get to the point, make the point, succinctly.

Then ask, “Does this make sense to you?” 

Then listen, listen, listen. Give your employee a chance to ask some of her/his own questions and to acknowledge the feedback in her/his own way.

Be sure to ask, “How can I help you to think through this issue or change this pattern?” Listen, listen, listen. Offer your support in every way that makes sense.

And there’s a final step most of us miss. A few days after this crucial conversation, circle back with your employee.  It’s an opportunity to talk about the employee’s plans for using the feedback to grow/develop/change. And, importantly, it’s an opportunity for you to advance this working relationship exponentially – simply by asking for some feedback yourself! In that moment, invite your employee tell you what was good and not so good about how you delivered the feedback. Here’s your chance to model the graceful acceptance of feedback.

Mary Alice TierneyMary Alice Tierney, Sp '72, is an executive coach at Right Management, ManpowerGroup. She can be reached at



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