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10 mistakes leaders make when giving constructive feedback

Giving feedback is critical for leaders, so how can you ensure you're managing conversations well?

10 mistakes leaders make when giving constructive feedback

Ever been on the receiving end of some poorly given feedback?


Only 10% of employees say they’re engaged after receiving negative feedback.*


But giving feedback as a leader is critical, so how can you ensure you’re managing those conversations with your team well? 



10 mistakes leaders make when giving feedback - Louise Brown Coaching
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Here are 10 common mistakes leaders make when giving constructive feedback:


  1. Not giving feedback in private

Feedback mistakes - not giving feedback in private - Louise Brown Coaching

We’re social animals. When we’re told we need to change what we’re doing it can impact our ego as we think about the value of our role in the team. To avoid triggering shame, share constructive feedback in private and allow your team to digest and respond to it in their own time.




2. Making it negative rather than constructive


Leadership feedback mistakes - making it negative not constructive - Louise Brown Coaching

It’s easy to make feedback look negative without meaning to. If the emphasis seems more on punishing us for what’s already happened than on what would be more helpful next time - fear kicks in, we feel threatened and go into defensive mode. To ensure your feedback is heard, keep the emphasis on learning for the future.



3. Not making it timely


Leadership feedback mistakes - Not making feedback timely - Louise Brown Coaching

The purpose of feedback is to help someone learn, so it’s best given as close to the related activity as possible. Work can be busy, so sharing feedback when it’s fresh in your team’s minds makes it easier to hear and understand in context. The only exception to this is if you're angry or frustrated, where it’s best to wait until you feel calm.


4. Talking about too many things


Leadership feedback mistakes - Talking about too many things - Louise Brown Coaching

Despite multi-tasking, we actually find it difficult as humans to take on board lots of things at once. So limit your points to one or two at a time and avoid giving lots of examples as this can be overwhelming and trigger the other person’s defenses. If your feedback is timely, it’s easier to give because there are fewer things to talk about.


5. Using 'you' rather than 'I'


Leadership Feedback Mistakes - Using 'you' rather than 'I' - Louise Brown Coaching

‘I’ statements focus on your own experience, whereas ‘you’ statements can create a blame dynamic. Feedback is a two-way process. Rather than ‘you said you’d send me the plan on Monday’, try ‘I was under the impression you were sending me the plan on Monday. Was there a delay I didn’t know about?’


6. Being vague or contradictory


Leadership feedback mistakes - Being vague or contradictory - Louise Brown Coaching

There’s nothing worse than coming away from a feedback conversation where you’ve heard contradictory or confusing messages - so be clear and give specifics. For example, ‘you need to step into the clients shoes’, is far less helpful than ‘given how busy they are, I think you would have held their attention better with a shorter presentation’


7. Making a s**t sandwich


Leadership feedback mistakes - Making a s**t sandwich - Louise Brown Coaching

Avoid burying some constructive feedback in a couple of positive buffers. Humans are clever animals, so when someone tries to disguise something we can sense it. Giving feedback - when done kindly - is a positive thing that helps us grow. Don’t insult the other person’s intelligence by trying to hide it.


8. Underestimating body language


Leadership feedback mistakes - underestimating body language

Humans are highly attuned to the stimuli around us, particularly when our survival depends on it (in this case our paycheque and wellbeing). When communicating, remember 93% of what you ‘say’ has nothing to do with your words; To help the other person hear your message, be mindful of your body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.


9. Neglecting the positive


Leadership feedback mistakes - neglecting the positive - Louise Brown Coaching

It’s easy to take it for granted when things are going well. Along with constructive feedback it’s very important your team understand what they do well and DON’T need to change. To avoid creating a negative association between feedback and change (which can be exhausting and demotivating), ensure you also give positive feedback when appropriate.


10. Not allowing space to digest feedback


Leadership feedback mistakes - Not allowing time to digest feedback - Louise Brown Coaching

We never know exactly what’s going on for another human being, so don’t expect them to process your feedback immediately. They may find it hard to hear, have questions or just need some time to digest it. Giving and receiving feedback is a two-way process, so allow them space to respond in their own time.



How tuned in to your human are you when you're leading? Are you harnessing your superpower as a leader? Get in touch or subscribe for more inspiration, tools and support.


Louise Brown Leadership and Team Performance Coach - Louise Brown Coaching


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