Be Honest and Caring When Giving Feedback

September 25, 2016
Mary Jo Asmus

Giving 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.

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Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.

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