Tricky Situation: Applying Feedback for Enhanced Performance

Goal Setting in the New Year

Research shows that leaders who receive regular feedback continue to grow and increase their effectiveness. According to research by Zenger and Folkman, leaders who ranked in the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated, on average, in the 86th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. Furthermore, leaders who were reported as giving honest and constructive feedback by their employees had employee engagement scores that were much higher than those who did not. So, why is it so hard for leaders to give and get feedback?

It’s likely that all of us have had experiences where we have been given feedback on our performance – badly! And, because of our bad experience, it may have made us reluctant to “put ourselves out there” and ask for feedback on ourselves, or may even have made it difficult to share feedback on others.  Even kind, clear feedback from a manager, peer, or employee, can still be difficult to hear. After all, we are only human!

But if done effectively and with the right steps and intent, regular feedback can be extremely helpful in creating an actionable path for leaders to move to their next level of brilliance!  Feedback provides insight for leaders into how they are using their skills and behaviors in alignment with their organization’s expectations. However, for the process to have significant meaning, feedback needs to be clear and specific.

For leaders who want to get the most out of the feedback process, here are some helpful steps we recommend:

  • Create a psychologically safe environment-
    Make sure leaders know that their feedback is confidential and that there won’t be any negative repercussions from the feedback they are giving.
  • Make certain feedback is asked for in a skillful way-
    Be thoughtful in “how” you are asking for feedback.
  • Request both positive and negative feedback-
    Requesting both not only tells them what they need to work on, but also shares what they are doing well.
  • When receiving feedback, give your full attention and listen carefully-Eliminate the potential for distractions.
  • Don’t debate or defend-
    Try not to argue, challenge, or defend what you are hearing.
  • Manage your reactions-
    Try to recognize that this feedback is not personal, so don’t “shoot” the messenger.
  • Reflect and evaluate what you’ve heard-
    Think about what you can learn from the feedback and how it might be applied going forward.
  • Develop an Action Plan-
    Pick one or two areas that you want to improve on right away and consider the steps you will utilize to make certain you are accountable.
  • Share updates-
    Let others know where you are making progress and what you are continuing to work on.

In today’s competitive business environment, we are all striving for improvement. Installing a feedback process for your organization can have many positive benefits to enhancing employee performance, since knowing how we are perceived by others helps us become better leaders.

Remember, feedback should never be seen as punitive. It should always be meant to help leaders improve and grow and be built on trust in a safe environment. Creating a feedback-rich culture should be the aim of all companies wanting to attract and retain the best and brightest employees to their organizations!

At The Center for Leadership Excellence, we have a variety of tools to help leaders better understand how they are perceived and create cultures where employees feel connected and valued. If your organization would like to find out more, please contact Patty Prosser, Coaching Practice Leader, at or at 317-727-6464.

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