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Wednesday Wisdom: Learn to give and receive feedback

I have seen so many organizations lose great people because of the lack of a leader’s ability to give and receive feedback. I have seen too many teams broken apart for the same. I have watched individuals that have so much potential flounder because their leader did not take the time to provide them with some feedback.

I had a mentor give me an “analogy” once. He said people are often good at or interested in many things. It is like they are spinning like a top and just need someone to stop them and point them in one direction to help them succeed. I love that visual and I am so grateful that I had someone do something like that for me.

The problem with giving feedback is most people do not know how to effectively give feedback. Most people also do not know how to receive it either. Sometimes it is a case of the inability to do so, the lack of awareness or even the fact that leaders are sometimes intimidated by an employee because that employee is stronger in an area than they are.

When I was in the Navy, I was taught to give feedback in a style affectionately know as a “shit sandwich.” Here’s how it went: you give a compliment (usually something very superficial), then the negative thing you want to or need to confront someone about, then end it with a compliment. So here’s an example of what it may sound like, “Hey Amy, your hair looks good today, but I also wanted to talk to you about that report you submitted last week. It was incomplete and there were several mistakes. You missed an entire section of the report that is required to be filled out. You must not have taken much time to complete it. Oh, and your shoes are polished very nicely.

In that case, you know what I heard? Yes, I heard the “shit” part of the sandwich. After getting the sandwich served to you a few times, every time you hear a positive thing, you cringe waiting for the “shit.”

Why in this case could a leader not just pull someone aside, and say we need to talk about the report you did. Use it as a training session or a refresher. Allow the person to ask questions and see where the areas of opportunity are.

Sometimes giving feedback is hard. It takes a leader to give it. Regardless of if it may hurt someone’s feelings or not, you must be giving feedback all the time. Often times people do not even realize they are doing something wrong or that they could be doing something better.

The other side of feedback is receiving it. Too many times a persons ego gets in the way of them hearing feedback that they need. People are also not skilled at self-reflection or self-awareness. When people get what they perceive as “negative” feedback they take it emotionally and never really hear what the other person is saying. This does not result in change or growth, but only resentment and anger.

Giving and receiving feedback is a crucial skill everyone must learn. Do yourself a favor. Invest in some training for your organization on giving and receiving feedback. You want change? You want to retain employees? By investing in some training you will reap the benefits of a healthy workforce.

Modglin Leadership Solutions offers this kind of training and we would love to get your group or organization on track to giving healthy and effective feedback as well as receiving and using feedback.


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