Become a better leader by giving feedback


  1. Give valuable feedback
    Without feedback people are in the dark; they have no idea how they stand with their boss, with their peers, or in terms of what is expected of them, and any problems will only get worse as time passes. An artful critique focuses on what a person has done and can do rather than reading a mark of character into a job poorly done.

  2. Be specific
    Pick a significant incident, an event that illustrates a key problem that needs changing or a pattern of deficiency, such as the inability to do certain parts of a job well. It demoralizes people just to hear that they are doing “something” wrong without knowing what the specifics are so they can change. Focus on the specifics, saying what the person did well, what was done poorly, and how it could be changed.

  3. Offer a solution
    The critique, like all useful feedback, should point to a way to fix the problem. Otherwise, it leaves the recipient frustrated, demoralized, or demotivated. The critique may open the door to possibilities and alternatives that the person did not realize were there, or simply sensitize her to deficiencies that need attention —but should include suggestions about how to take care of these problems.

  4. Be present
    Critiques, like praise, are most effective face to face and in private. People who are uncomfortable giving criticism—or offering praise—are likely to ease the burden on themselves by doing it at a distance, such as in a memo. But this makes the communication too impersonal and robs the person receiving it of an opportunity for a response or clarification.

  5. Be sensitive
    This is a call for empathy, for being attuned to the impact of what you say and how you say it on the person at the receiving end. Managers who have little empathy are most prone to giving feedback in a hurtful fashion, such as the withering put-down. The net effect of such criticism is destructive: instead of opening the way for a corrective, it creates an emotional backlash of resentment, bitterness, defensiveness, and distance.


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