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The Gift of Timely Feedback - Reframing Discomfort Into Kindness


You have a team member that needs feedback and you’re the one to give it. The situation

hasn’t become a crisis yet, but there is definitely room for performance improvement. What do you do?


A. Address it now.

B. Wait to see if things course-correct on their own over time.


If you answered B, you're not alone, and there is a good chance you’re limiting the growth potential of that team member and you may be eroding trust with your team.


Giving feedback is one of the essential components of establishing credibility and trust as a leader, yet there is so much resistance to it. Far too often, it doesn’t happen soon enough or worse, not ever.


When working with new managers, I’ll pose the question, “How comfortable are you giving feedback?” 9 out of 10 managers immediately share their discomfort and admit they avoid it. It becomes crystal clear that when they hear the word “feedback” there is an immediate association with having to address poor performance. But what if feedback is guidance and mentorship, not criticism? Would they still resist it?


When I ask why they avoid it, they share the same answers:

  • “It’s really uncomfortable.”

  • “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

  • “I’m afraid they’ll get defensive.”

  • “I know they’re trying really hard.”

  • “I don’t want them to think I’m taking advantage of my new authority.”

  • “They’re smart. They’ll figure it out eventually.”

So they wait it out to see if the performance shifts over time without them having to face the discomfort of having a feedback conversation. But here’s the thing. We all want feedback. We crave it. We want to do a great job. If we don’t hear otherwise, we believe we are.


How about we shift the paradigm from feedback being negative and uncomfortable to being kind and generous? Timely feedback, before performance begins to suffer, is mentorship. It is a gift. Withholding feedback that could have been given early on erodes trust and builds resentment, not only with the one team member that needs it, but also from the rest of the team observing the behavior that isn’t being addressed.


There are two critical components when giving feedback that build trust and commitment.


1. Give Timely Feedback

“Point-Easy” feedback is given in the moment, immediately following an action that needs adjustment. It should be given on the first occurrence. When given this way, it comes across as guidance, rather than criticism. It’s helpful and kind, because it provides quality real-time observation that helps improve performance. It’s non-emotional.


If we don’t give point-easy feedback, we risk eroding trust, not only with the one individual that needs our guidance, but with others that observe the performance that goes unaddressed for far too long. When we finally address the situation after waiting in belief that they will “figure it out,” we’re often met with anger, resentment and embarrassment. On the receiving end of long overdue feedback people wonder, “Why is this the first time I’m hearing this? I’ve been doing it the same way for over six months. Why wasn’t I told sooner?”


Leaders, please don’t wait to give feedback because you’re uncomfortable. It will be ten times more uncomfortable in six months if you avoid giving the guidance needed now.


2. Give Specific Feedback

“You’re doing a great job” is not helpful feedback. Be specific about what is going well and why. By sharing details about the positive performance you increase the likelihood that it will be repeated. Conversely, “You need to pay a little more attention to your work” isn’t helpful feedback either. Be specific about what exactly needs to shift and how.


Reframe discomfort into kindness

At one time or another, over the course of our careers, haven’t we all benefited from guidance that was given in a kind-hearted way intended to improve our performance and enhance our success? As a leader, if you can shift your resistance to giving feedback, and transform your discomfort into guidance and compassion, feedback can be a generous gift that builds trust and commitment with your team.


So, I’ll ask again. You have a team member that needs feedback and you’re the one to give it. The situation hasn’t become a crisis yet, but there is definitely room for performance improvement. What do you do?


A. Address it now with the intention to improve performance and enhance success.

B. Wait to see if things course-correct on their own over time.


Good answer!