Be honest and caring when giving feedback

sad little Caucasian girl holding a heartGiving feedback may make you feel vulnerable and exposed, causing you to avoid or delay important observations that your team and other stakeholders need to hear. You’re not alone. Many leaders dread giving honest feedback to others, thus avoiding it or sugar coating the message.

Good feedback requires you to be clear, direct, and empathetic. It comes from the heart, and it shows that you care about the person you’re giving it to.

Consider the load you’ll lift from yourself (and possibly the other person) if you’re honest, direct, and caring in the observation you need to give.  This thing you need to say may have been weighing you down for some time, and it can interfere with your ability to be at your best. Don’t wait any longer. Now is the time gather up your courage, starting here:

Reflect on how you want to show up: Consider yourself as the provider of the kind of honesty you need to deliver from the viewpoint of the recipient. What do they want to know from you? How are you delivering the message? Are you providing this feedback to them in a calm and empathetic way while being direct? You can do all of these things, and that’s what most people would want from a leader.

Write down what you want to say: If you are the type who avoids being direct, nerves can get in the way of your delivery; when this happens you might sugar-coat the message or blurt it out in a way that might be less than caring, while missing important points. Writing down notes on what you want to say before the meeting will help you to get ready to cover everything you need to.

Practice with someone you respect and trust: Another way to help you deliver the message honestly and with care is to practice with someone you respect and trust. Your spouse, a friend, a peer or your coach can listen to you and give you feedback on how you might be truthful without glossing over important points, or being so direct that you lose the empathy needed in the delivery.

Be real and stay open: Consider how being true to who you are will shape the way you deliver the information; are you being true to your values?  When you actually give the feedback, stay open and listen deeply to understand the other person’s reaction without judgment. Your ability to listen well and not judge show that you care.

Care enough about others to be honest with them. It will get you and your organization so much further than avoiding, delaying, or sugar coating the messages they need to hear.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

2 comments on “Be honest and caring when giving feedback

  1. Mary Jo, I’ve been following your blog recently and get so much from reading it! Especially appreciate your suggestions for keeping it real and open and listening deeply. Also, appreciate about lifting the load from yourself and others. We consume too much energy holding back and containing what needs to be stated, what others would value by hearing. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Tom. I completely agree with your thoughts and would further add that when we know ourselves, we are also able to surface unconscious bias, thoughts, and actions that help us to surface what needs to be said.

Comments are closed.