Are you generous with the gift of feedback? When you are, it helps people be as productive and effective in their role as they can be.

Feedback is a professional development gift: When people receive actionable, specific, and timely feedback, they can make improvements right away.

Feedback develops relationships: When it’s common and consistently practiced, feedback encourages people to be honest and communicative. Over time, your team’s culture, trust, and transparency will strengthen.

And feedback addresses expectations: Regular feedback eliminates the guesswork from what is expected, opens up a conversation for getting better results together and sets clear expectations on both sides.

One of my favorite things to do is coach an entire leadership team. Not only are there great opportunities to help the individuals be more effective leaders, there are huge opportunities for me to learn about the interpersonal relationships and where small tweaks can open the flood gates and drive team-wide effectiveness.

What I notice however, is people are sometimes afraid to give honest feedback. I’ll talk to one person on the team and they complain about a colleague, but when I speak to that other person they are unaware of the issue. This sometimes even happens between a boss and subordinate – which is a huge miss! Constructive feedback is actually a gift to the other person. Without it they have a blind spot that will forever hold them back.

I recently let others know that I was open to feedback. I wanted to know my blind spots – and it was a real game changer. I was practicing a new keynote presentation and had a team member listen to the recording and provide feedback.  Ouch. It hurt. Some of my jokes were falling flat, one of my stories didn’t make sense to her.  I have to say when I first received the feedback it stung. But then I thought about it some more and it immediately became a gift.

How else would I know what wasn’t working as I thought it was? No one in the audience would have said so. We must depend on our coworkers, and especially our boss, to give clarity to how we can improve. The byproduct is that I’m so much more confident in my approach because that same person confirmed that what I’m doing since I made some changes is great work. I trust her positive feedback because I know she would tell me if I still had areas to improve.

This great Criticism vs Feedback chart from the Center for Value Driven Leadership is a great comparison of the benefits to providing feedback instead of criticism.

Some people are sensitive to feedback – sometimes because they haven’t had repeated opportunities to hear constructive feedback. Because I am comfortable speaking very directly with people, I’ve learned with some people I need to cushion feedback with praise and support.

But in many ways, my open, honest and direct communication it is actually a superpower. I have heard many of my clients comment that they like my straight-shooter advice. It’s lonely at the top and if we have a hard time providing feedback down to our team members think of how hard it might be to share that upstream.

Just this week I told a senior leader that he takes a very long time to get to his point. I was coaching one of his direct reports and this was a huge frustration for her. It stung a bit, but he was so thankful I shared this with him. Now he will be more cognoscente about when his “thinking out loud” is appropriate and the best use of someone else’s time.

You can determine how open people are to feedback during your 1-1 conversations. Try things like, “How can I help you be more successful?” or “What can I do differently to support you better?”  In many cases your team members are probably dying to tell you where you can improve, but you need to let them know you are open to the feedback and willing to change.

I’m lucky. When my clients hire me they often want me to share anything and everything I see that is holding them back from being the most effective leader they can be. If you’re open to the gift of feedback, I’d love to offer you some. Contact me this week to set up an exploratory call.

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