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Giving & Receiving Feedback

Why is giving and receiving feedback so hard? Is it a confidence issue, or do we simply lack the necessary skills required to do it well?

In management development programs we have been taught various techniques, such as the Sandwich Technique – squeeze something bad in between two slices of good feedback (well-buttered) to lessen the blow. Some people hate this because it sounds insincere.

In fact, the sandwich technique works really well providing it is conveyed with genuineness, respect, personal authority and an unconditional positive regard for the person receiving the feedback. It also helps if the manager delivering the feedback already has a reputation as someone who naturally and authentically delivers feedback to their team and those around them on a daily basis.

If you are guilty of having gone to a training event, and then emerged from it on a “feedback crusade”, then you may have experienced some strange looks and sceptical comments about your newly found enthusiasm for giving feedback. Be prepared for a couple of months of suspicion and scepticism while your “brand” as a feedback giver adjusts.

Generally speaking, if you persevere with giving and receiving feedback throughout this phase, your “brand” will develop over time – people will start to trust your feedback more readily over the first month or so and be more accepting of it, provided it is done regularly, genuinely, with integrity and a genuine desire to help people learn and develop.

If you’d like to become more skilled at giving and receiving feedback, consider the following 3 steps in your approach…

Step 1: Start off each day for the next few weeks reminding yourself to provide recognition or praise to someone when they do something good – don’t be over the top but natural and in line with the achievement.

Most importantly, use immediacy – do it in the moment, rather than waiting for a more “appropriate” time in the future. If you don’t act straight away there is a good chance you will forget later, or feel more uncomfortable providing feedback to someone. This step is fairly easy to achieve and is very much appreciated by others!

Step 2: When you complete a task for someone, ask for feedback on what they appreciated, and what you could be doing differently. Let them know it’s because you’re interested in this activity and would like to develop a greater level of skill in this area, so their feedback will be helpful either way. In other words, make them feel safe enough to tell you the truth.

If you appear wounded after receiving criticism, or act as though you disagree with what they are saying – forget it. That will be the last time anyone bothers to give you feedback. However, if you can genuinely get into a mindset where you want to learn, you will feel less reddening of the cheeks, heart racing and sweaty palms – the feedback will be welcome and interesting for you. This is a huge step and requires active, daily practice.

Once you’re actively involved in Step 1 and Step 2 and are practicing them regularly, you might like to move onto Step 3.

Step 3: Correcting an action, or giving constructive criticism to someone.

Before providing this type of feedback, check-in with the following statements, and make sure your mindset, personal brand and communication methods are in alignment…


  • You have a desire to help the person to improve their skill and develop their capability
  • You have no impulse to want to humiliate the person, or take out your bad mood on them with a sarcastic or angry comment – no matter how irritated you may be after their action has not worked well (if you feel this way, best to choose another time).

Personal Brand

  • You have a good reputation as someone who speaks up when someone has done a great job, and who is not afraid to receive criticism.
  • You are genuinely interested in helping people grow and develop.
  • You are not interested in competing with others in your own team – rather you strive for personal bests and encourage others around you to do the same.


  • You have communicated a clear standard of performance that has been agreed upon.
  • You are capable of asking open ended questions to find out about the action/s that need correcting, rather than telling the person what they’ve done wrong.
  • You can convey genuineness in your communication at all times, and because your intention is one of positive regard, you are not fearful of hurting someone’s feelings in the process.
  • You can be courageous and bring up issues of performance in the moment, rather than waiting for a more “appropriate time”.

Feedback is something that can be learned – usually through a coaching process.

If you feel you are struggling with Step 3 – or any of the other steps – why not consider engaging with a coach who does work in this area. It is usually a confidence issue, and this confidence can be developed in a safe environment through repetition and practice. Give us a call if you would like to know more.

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