The Art of Direct and Kind Leadership Communication: Enhancing Feedback Impact
Balance Clarity and Compassion for Effective Team Development
I was conducting a communication workshop with a long-term client last week. One of the participants admitted that “feedback” is a trigger word for them. Even hearing the word feedback created a trigger response to defend, deny or even just tune it out. It made me think how often we leaders offer feedback that is not clear or is received as criticism.
Sometimes feedback seems unfair to the recipient when the initial expectations are murky or incomplete. Sometimes it feels unjust when the roadmap to achieve those expectations are unclear. At times our own discomfort with offering the feedback influences our tone or demeanor.
It’s vital that we get it right. A spotlight is on every leader. I hope this article supports you in offering productive, collaborative, kind, and clear feedback.
This has been edited and adapted from The Humanized Leader – available in print and audio versions.
“Feedback is a trigger word for me.” – A client’s confession
Let’s talk about feedback. It’s crucial to get it right. It is a pivotal aspect of effective communication, leadership, and team development. Poorly delivered feedback breeds mistrust
Understanding the difference between criticism and feedback is vital.
Criticism attacks, often targeting the person, masquerading as an effort to ensure their safety—think of critical parents. Look out for absolutes like “You always,” “you never,” “you should,” or “you ought to.” These are red flags signaling a shift toward criticism.
Criticism stems from fear, opinion, and ego. It disregards feelings, desires, or effective communication. It imposes character judgments or assumptions about choices.
Let’s be clear - criticism is not feedback.
Feedback aims to improve, focusing on behavior rather than personality. It’s a dialogue, not a lecture, steering clear from judgment or assumption. It guides people toward actions, attitudes, and new perspectives for successful outcomes.
Effective feedback is about course correction and learning. It’s about reframing mistakes as opportunities for growth, a key shift that builds trust and enhances overall team performance. It hinges on observable behavior, redirecting towards behavior and performance that lead to success.
When delivering feedback, remember the acronym FDNK. It translates to four magic words for leadership:
Remember, Feedback is Relational.
When provided in a supportive, fair, and collaborative manner, the likelihood of triggering negative emotions decreases. Feedback is about supporting someone, reinforcing helpful behavior, and guiding them to change unhelpful behavior to achieve success. It’s not about defeating an opponent standing between you and your goal. Step into the power of effective communication, feedback, leadership, and team development for a workplace that people can trust.
Mary Pat Knight is CEO of Leaders Inspired – an executive coaching and consulting agency devoted to the development of emotionally intelligent leaders. She is also the author of the Amazon #1 International Best Selling book, The Humanized Leader.
The ground-breaking new book, The Humanized Leader: The Transformative Power of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership to Impact Culture, Team and Business Results, is now available in Kindle, paperback, or as an audiobook. To get your copy – or extras for your team, click the button below.