Feedback – friend or foe?


Feedback – friend or foe?

Written by Helen Clarke

Feedback helps you to get the best out of people by focusing on specific behaviours you have seen or would like to see.  It requires the team to know each other well, so there is the courage and the consideration to give and receive feedback.

Establishing a cultural norm of providing feedback creates a cohesive and engaged team. No-one should be caught off guard in their performance review and hear information that they were previously unaware of regarding their behaviour, results, or attitude.  Therefore, don’t wait for annual review time to give feedback.

Withholding feedback is like a withdrawal in the bank account of the health of your organisation, your team and you personally. 

In ‘Everyone Deserves a Great Manager,’ a book from Franklin Covey Institute’s Scott Miller, he describes two types of feedback:

Reinforcing feedback 

  • Brings out people’s strengths, affirm that their attitude, work, or behaviour is outstanding.

Redirecting feedback

  • Acknowledges that the person is a good person, but there are some things that the person is doing that are getting in the way of their best performance in their role.

Giving and receiving feedback in remote teams and in hybrid working environments requires a more deliberate and proactive approach. You may need to look harder for opportunities to provide feedback as the face-to-face interactions are decreased compared to people who share a physical workplace.

What you need to know

Leaders providing feedback

  • Know/ask what the right frequency and format for feedback is that works for each of your team.
  • Timing is key – it’s important to strike a balance between delivering feedback too soon and not waiting too long which may cause unnecessary anxiety for the person. 
  • Avoid using the word feedback as people often automatically become defensive. Consider: “I want to share some information with you.”
  • Declare your intent right at the beginning of the conversation, priming the team member to listen.  Acknowledge that the conversation might not be easy, but it is your hope that the spirit of the conversation is of support and guidance so they can perform at their best. You might say: “Before we begin, please know that my only intent is to help you improve on some areas so that you can grow.”
  • Direct the feedback to link behaviours to intrinsic motivations and long-term development.
  • Practise empathetic listening and honest dialogue – “Tell the truth.”
  • Be specific when giving feedback and omit any judgements about the person’s character: “I noticed that….” and be specific about the impact.
  • Exercise a balance between courage and consideration, so you can demonstrate a “tell me more” attitude. 
  • Use precise and professional language.  For example, compare: “You are too quiet in meetings,” versus: “I notice you didn’t say anything in our last team meeting and I’m worried that we are missing input from you that might cause us to delay going live with the new software.”
  • Discussing blind spots may require more time and be prepared to use very specific examples so that the person can better understand what you are sharing with them.
  • Do not be afraid of emotions when meeting – take time to sit with the person quietly and avoid judgement. Maybe take a break or come together again later.

Leaders receiving feedback

  • Use lower stake scenarios first when seeking feedback as a leader.  Acknowledge what they have said, take it on board and come back to them on how it worked.
  • As a leader, are you hearing themes about your leadership from your team? What is that telling you?
  • The accountable friend technique. Meet with a peer on a monthly basis to discuss an area that you want to develop. Start small and let it grow as time passes and you build confidence.

Receiving feedback

  • Use self-talk to reduce the defensiveness that you might be feeling when you receive feedback, such as: “This is the pathway to growth.” Or if the person is not skilled at giving feedback you might say: “There is something valuable here,” then take what works and leave the rest.
  • Ask questions to learn another person’s perspective and slow the conversation down, using phrases like: “Tell me about a time when…”
  • Help the person know that you have received their message by reflecting the content and the feeling from the information back to them.
  • Timing is important - if you are feeling overwhelmed and defensive, ask to make a time to talk about it later. This shows that you are being respectful and brave, by recognising that you will have a more productive discussion at that later time.

To assist with the above, Kāpehu is a workplace conflict coaching service provided by Fair Way. If you are preparing for a difficult conversation and you know the other person may have a strong emotional reaction to the feedback you are going to give, you can use conflict coaching to ensure you are prepared for the conversation. Perhaps having practiced and role played the conversation with your coach, thinking about what you say and how you want to say it may be the difference between gaining or eroding trust.

Kāpehu helps you take potential conflict and turn it into a productive conversation. Entering a safe and confidential space with a problem, and leaving the session with a plan.

If you would like to find out more about Fair Way’s workplace services including coaching and training programmes, please get in touch via or 0800 77 44 08.

About the author

Photo - Helen Clarke

Helen Clarke is a Kāpehu practitioner at Fair Way, with a focus on wellbeing at work and navigating workplace conflict. Helen’s facilitation and mediation work draws on her experience of being a small business owner, her career as a Physiotherapist especially in Occupational Health and Rehabilitation as well as her voluntary roles in the community.  Helen has a particular interest in assisting people to rebuild their relationships affected by conflict. 

Helen has a Post Graduate Diploma Business Studies (Dispute Resolution) from Massey University. She is an associate member of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) and a Resolution Institute accredited mediator. Helen has also trained as a CINERGY Conflict Coach. 

If you would like to get in touch with Helen, please contact her by email at