5 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid When Making Feedback

July 10, 2023

5 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid When Making Feedback

Providing effective feedback is a crucial skill for leaders, as it directly impacts employee engagement, performance, and career growth. However, many leaders struggle with delivering feedback that is meaningful and well-received. 

In this blog, we will explore five common mistakes leaders make when giving feedback and provide practical alternatives to improve the feedback process. By addressing these pitfalls, leaders can enhance the value of their feedback and create a culture of continuous improvement within their teams.

Mistake 1: The Feedback Dilemma

The outdated practice of sandwiching constructive feedback between positive comments is ineffective and lacks clarity. This approach is often predictable and can lead to confusion, diluting the intended message. Instead, separate positive feedback from constructive feedback. Acknowledge positive contributions separately and address areas for improvement directly. This simple adjustment promotes clarity and ensures that both positive and constructive feedback are received without confusion.

Mistake 2: Employing Vague Terminology

Vague and emotionally loaded terms, known as "blur words," hinder effective feedback. Blur words lack objectivity and can trigger defensive responses. To provide clear and actionable feedback, focus on observable data points and specific actions. 

For example, instead of saying, "You're not reliable," you can say, "I noticed that the report you promised to deliver by 11 am hasn't been received yet." Using concrete observations promotes understanding and eliminates ambiguity.

Mistake 3: Preaching Instead of Engaging

Feedback should be a dialogue, not a one-sided monologue. Leaders often forget to actively listen and remain open to different perspectives during feedback conversations. To create an effective feedback exchange, invite the recipient to share their thoughts, perspectives, and additional information. Actively listen, ask clarifying questions, and demonstrate genuine curiosity. By engaging in a conversation, you foster mutual understanding and build trust, making the feedback more impactful.

Mistake 4: Disregarding Encouraging Feedback

Leaders often overlook the importance of providing positive feedback to their team members. Recognizing and acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments is crucial for motivation and development. Challenge yourself to maintain a positive-to-negative feedback ratio of at least 2:1 or even 3:1. When you observe something commendable, share it genuinely and specifically. Cultivating a culture of positive feedback empowers individuals and reinforces their valuable contributions.

Mistake 5: Failing to Request Feedback

Leaders must lead by example when it comes to receiving feedback. Failing to seek feedback or creating an environment where honest input is discouraged hinders personal growth and limits team development. Regularly ask your direct reports and colleagues for feedback, particularly on your leadership approach. Model the behavior you expect from others and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement. Encourage open and honest communication, even if it takes time for individuals to feel comfortable providing feedback.

Giving effective feedback is a vital leadership skill that drives employee engagement and growth. By avoiding common feedback mistakes and implementing alternative strategies, leaders can enhance the impact of their feedback conversations. Embrace open dialogue, provide clear and specific observations, and balance constructive feedback with positive recognition. 

Remember, by fostering a feedback-rich culture, leaders inspire continuous improvement and drive exceptional performance within their teams.