Withholding feedback is like asking someone to complete a crossword without providing all the clues – it’s simply not possible.

Here’s how to deliver constructive feedback in a useful and effective way.  

Employers who do not provide feedback to their team run the risk of stifling growth and limiting the potential of their employers, and ultimately this can have an impact on the company’s overall performance, according to Corrinne Armour, leadership speaker, coach and co-author of Developing direct reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders.

“People need your feedback to develop and grow. Withholding feedback is like asking someone to complete a crossword without providing all the clues – it’s simply not possible.” 

Before jumping in to offer feedback, there are two sides to the employee–leader discussion. Your personality, mindset and approach to the conversation will equally influence whether the discussion takes a positive or negative turn.

Leadership derailers: the dirty dozen

“Leadership derailers are as unique and prolific as people’s personalities,” says Armour, who when researching her book identified 12 globally recognised leadership derailers. Do any of these match your leadership style?

1. Staller: analysis paralysis Taking too long to take action, perceived as blocking progress.

2. Doer: can’t delegate Hoarding work and responsibility to the detriment of themselves and their team.

3. Controller: command and control Highly directive, possibly stifling initiative and innovation.

4. Cyclone: bull at a gate In a hurry to achieve results but leaving destruction in their wake.

5. Avoider: conflict averse Reluctant to face tough conversations and situations, in turn creating challenging team dynamics.

6. Fence-sitter: indecisive leader Unclear leadership and direction, creating bottlenecks in progress and frustration for others.

7. Know-it-all: closed to other ideas Reluctant to consider new ideas or input from others.

8. Guardian: inability to innovate Prefers the status quo and is reluctant to change, with a low focus on innovation.

9. Micromanager: management on a leash Excessive supervision that is perceived as stifling and untrusting.

10. Poker face: showing no emotion Non-expressive communication style and a direct verbal communicator who is frustrated by inference and reading between the lines.

11. People burner: poor people skills Prioritisation of task accomplishment over people and relationships.

12. Tactician: poor strategic thinker Reactive to daily pressures, buried in the day-to-day. Unable to hold the broader, strategic view.

Once you’ve identified elements of your leadership style, and the areas of your management approach that need to be addressed and possibly changed, there are a number of ways to keep on improving your relationship with your staff, says Armour.

Connect feedback to employee needs

Feedback that answers to the needs of your employees inspires the most motivation and learning. Link feedback to performance metrics so it’s easier to track progress when new behaviours are adopted.

Practice makes perfect

The better you are at giving feedback, the faster and deeper your people will develop. Giving critical or corrective feedback can invite negative reactions: denial, hurt, blame and anger are possible responses. Most of us are not eager to upset others, which makes it easy to justify delayed responses or missed feedback opportunities.

Employees want the feedback you are uncomfortable to give

It turns out that people do want the bad news that their employers don’t want to give them, which is why it’s important to nurture a professional and honest culture at all times. A recent research project found that people wanted corrective feedback, more than praise, if it were provided in a constructive manner.

In fact, 72% said their performance would improve if their manager provided corrective feedback. People can’t see their own behaviours as clearly as others can. Without an outside perspective, they remain blind to their development opportunities and strengths.

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