On Feedback

Feedback.  There’s too much to say abou it, for now I’ll  just say: know why you’re asking for it.

It’s easy to slip into a maniacal focus on feedback for the work and only for the work.  When in fact, feedback can be a powerful tool to do more than just improve the work itself. It’s an opporunity to reveal what worries people, what’s most important to them, where their attention lies and what gets them riled up.  It’s a window into somebody’s brain and heart.  It’s an amazing tool for engagement.

You know that Stephen Covey saying (wow, I’m going way back) “Begin with the end in mind”?  This applies to feedback as well. If you know why you’re asking for the feedback you’ll do a better job managing it when you go into a feedback round.  You’ll ask better questions.  You’ll know what to let go of and what feedback is useful directly to the work.  Mostly, you’ll manage your own expectations about what will happen in the feedback round and instead of reacting to it, you’ll use it- either to create or deepen or move relationships, or impact the work directly.

Below are some questions I use for two types of feedback:

For engagement:

  • What do you notice?
  • Say more about that.
  • What else?
  • What are you not seeing that you’d like to see?
  • What are your thoughts/feelings/ideas about this work.  (pick one)
  • Is this what you were expecting?
  • Tell me more

For improving the work:

  • How does this work bring the Strategy alive?
  • What jumps out at you about this work?
  • What do you want more of? What do you like?
  • What can we let go of?
  • What do you think about (insert thingy here)?
  • What’s not here?

Of course each of these lists can be used in a myriad of contexts, but what you can notice is that the first set are much more open.  The second set focuses on the work more specifically.

I used to hate feedback.  It was a chance to be found out.  To have my flaws highlighted, to shine a light on what I didn’t do.  Today, I love it.  It doesn’t have to be a bump in the road or be weaponized.  Instead it can be that tool that gets us closer to good work and good relationships that will carry us forward or unblock our next great challenge.






  1. Thanks for this. We talk a lot about feedback in the leadership development off sites I do. I used to be afraid of it… for years. Still am! But now I look forward to it (while shaking afraid) rather than run from it and avoid it. The key is remembering feedback is not about me, but my potential and my actions. That said, there is a right way to offer feedback just as there’s a right way to ask for it… I would also add the importance of debriefing — feedback sessions immediately following something important or particularly challenging. Thanks Dia.

  2. Great post, and many points you make on the MOTIVE for feedback are especially important for setting the context for feedback in cultures that don’t give feedback directly, especially upward. Your points open to encourage safety.
    Also, if I may add a favorite question to your list: “What are we doing currently, that doesn’t really matter?” (eliminate it, focus on what counts). Thanks!

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