The gift of feedback

Feedback is a gift – choose it thoughtfully, present it carefully and receive it graciously.


One of the most difficult responsibilities of a leader can be giving feedback. The whole message model below helps us consider what we need to say and how we need to say it so that feedback is fair, objective and specific.

Use the whole message model to help plan and structure your feedback. And don’t forget to use it to help you give positive feedback too. Good feedback delivered in this way provides far more useful information to the receiver about exactly what worked well and why than a simple ‘well done’.

Feedback model

How to give feedback

    1. Plan

Before you give any feedback use the whole message model to plan what you are going to say and consider the following questions. Make notes and take them with you if it will help you remember everything you wanted to say.

  • Why are you giving feedback?
  • What are you going to say?
  • When is it best to say it?
  • Where is it best to deliver it?

2. Give

Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. How might it feel to be given this feedback? Be empathetic but tell the truth; it is easier in the long run to nip things in the bud than allow unwanted behaviours or poor quality work become the accepted norm.

  • Give the whole message
  • Be direct, sincere, specific
  • Focus on behaviours
  • Avoid generalizations and phrases such as you always do / you never do / you need to / you have to
  • Be timely
  • Manage your tone of voice and body language to align with what you say

3. Listen

Make sure you allow time for, and actively listen to, their response.

  • Listen to their thoughts, feelings, wants
  • Allow the person to respond
  • Check for understanding
  • Remember that the recipient has a right to choose what they do with the feedback

Some notes on receiving feedback

There will be times when the tables are turned and you are on the receiving end. Feedback really is a gift as it allows us to learn, improve and grow. As leaders we must actively seek feedback and regularly use it to adapt our behaviours and influence our training needs decisions. Here are some tips for graciously receiving feedback:

  • Actively listen
  • Probe for the whole message (what are the observations, the thoughts, the feelings and the wants – what is driving the feedback)
  • Acknowledge and own the feedback
  • Consider what is accurate and true
  • Thank the message giver
  • Decide what to do with the feedback – will you use it to shape your ways of working?

Do you have any tips to share about giving or receiving feedback? We’d love to hear them.