How to Excel in Giving and Receiving Tough Feedback without Damaging Relationships

The challenge is giving feedback that delivers results

We all give and receive feedback consistently. Some are easy, like ‘a nice tie’ while others are tough, like ‘your performance was very poor in the previous quarter…’

Giving and receiving feedback isn’t the big issue. The challenge is whether we’re getting the results we desire from our feedback and whether we’re benefiting from the feedback we’re getting.

One of the most important skills to advance in one’s leadership

Providing feedback is one of the advanced leadership competencies to succeed in the work and marketplaces of the 21st C. One has to excel at it, especially as a senior-level leader.

One of the most important competencies top executives look for before promoting leaders to important leadership positions is whether the leader can communicate tough issues with:

  • The people who report to him/her,
  • Their peers, and
  • Superiors.


Successful leaders give tough feedback without damaging relationships

Successful leaders have advanced communication skills, including excelling in providing UNCOMFORTABLE feedback that delivers results without damaging relationships. Here are just three reasons why they’re succeeding:

1. They’re not giving feedback either to flatter or belittle others. They’ve clear goals. They desire to improve performance.

2. They beg for feedback, refuse to be defensive, and try their best to implement the feedback they’re getting. If they can’t implement, they return to the feedback giver and explain why. As a result, people keep coming to offer them feedback repeatedly.

3. They’ve workable frameworks (models) for giving and receiving feedback and continuously improving it.


One of my favorite topics

Giving and receiving feedback is one of the themes I enjoy when I:

  • Deliver speeches,
  • Facilitate workshops, and
  • Coach my clients.

Many shared with me how the :

  1. Insights,
  2. Stories,
  3. Frameworks, and
  4. Approaches I shared benefited them in improving their ability to provide tough feedback easily and without irritating others.


Giving uncomfortable feedback without others feeling it

I tell my audience and coachees how I met some extraordinary feedback givers throughout my career. I share with them some of the ‘techniques‘ these extraordinary communicators use to excel in offering uncomfortable feedback.

These exceptional communicators gave me tough and sometimes critical feedback without me even feeling it. My conversations with them were so:

  • Engaging,
  • Conversational, and
  • Filled with candor that I left feeling good…

I only knew I was given feedback after the fact during my reflection and meditation time. These advanced communicators know how to make you :

  1. Comfortable,
  2. Open to their feedback,
  3. Relax, and
  4. Accept their feedback, which you wouldn’t have if the same feedback came from somebody else. Even if you accept the same feedback from others, you would know right there and may not feel the same way. You may not eagerly desire to come back again to seek more feedback…

Even in times of conflict, tension, and crisis, these leaders with this advanced competency know how to:

  1. Cut through the clutter,
  2. Control their own emotions and soothe the emotions of others,
  3. Speak hard truths with candor,
  4. Make everyone feel safe to speak their mind, and
  5. Ultimately, turn conflicts into opportunities and create win-win scenarios all parties buys into.


You, too, can become like these PROs

Can you imagine what it feels like to:

  1. Relate,
  2. Work,
  3. Partner, and
  4. Do business with such exceptional communicators?


These leaders are easy to work with. You consider them as allies. You want to keep coming repeatedly to communicate, engage, and partner with them.

Here is the good news: You, too, can become like these advanced communicators.

It’s not rocket science. This competency can be developed and improved. It’s learnable.

Given the multitude of advantages it brings to:

  1. Your life,
  2. Career, and
  3. Organization, you should invest to excel in engaging in tough conversations and providing uncomfortable feedback whenever necessary and without damaging relationships.

When you master giving and receiving feedback, you become among a few elite leaders who can:

  • Provide performance feedback that increases productivity.
  • Communicate with diverse stakeholders, some of whom could be difficult, to create harmony and synergy.
  • Create a pro-feedback culture where not just them alone but also everyone around them excels in providing and getting feedback.
  • And more.


Reflect and assess where you’re now and where you’d like to reach

Start this rewarding journey by increasing your self-awareness and assessing where you are now, where you would like to arrive, and by when. To assist you reflect, ask these and other similar questions:

  • Are you giving constant feedback, including tough ones, and getting the results you desire?
  • How frequently do you offer feedback to your superiors? Is it working? If so, what has helped you to succeed? If not, what might be coming in the way?
  • Do you get frequent feedback from others? Why do you think they keep coming to offer you feedback? What do you think is the reason (s) why you’re not getting feedback at all or fewer feedback? How can you turn around this and get more feedback to eliminate your blind spots?
  • If you’re a leader of your team or organization, have you empowered your people to excel in giving and receiving feedback? Have you created a pro-feedback culture?


Speaking of creating a pro-feedback culture, below is a video clip I produced last year. Watch it when you can, and let me know your thoughts.