Most Important Step to Giving Feedback

4floorsup company culture employee experience feedback high performing leadership performance May 18, 2021
High Performing Feedback

If your goal is to build a high-performing team, then knowing proper feedback technique is critical.

That’s why the very first step I take my clients through when building a culture of feedback is how the interaction with the listener begins, before feedback is even given.

Believe it or not, the first few words that the speaker chooses have the ability to evoke a particular mindset in the listener for the remainder of that conversation. Meaning, the way we engage in conversation with whomever we are trying to provide feedback to, will determine if they are receptive or if they are defensive to what we will say. 

Considering the purpose of feedback, which boiled down into two words would be growth and development, it would then make sense that we want the listeners mindset to be receptive to advice and others perspectives. 

Let’s take a quick look at how it works: 


Without getting too technical, conversational intelligence is the innate ability in all of us to connect, engage, and navigate through conversation with others. It tells us that when the speaker initiates conversation with words of empathy and understanding, it will elicit a mindset of connection and bonding in the listener. Driven by the neurochemical of oxytocin, this will naturally increase the brain's ability to build trust and widen focus, thereby increasing one's capability to see another's perspective. Ultimately, this elicits a response in the listener that is more receptive to the speaker’s advice, as it will be interpreted through a collegial lens, rather than adversarially.


However on the other hand, if the first words of the speaker are critical, instructive, judgemental or interpreted as such, then the mindset of the listener will be one of stress, which is driven by the neurochemicals of cortisol and adrenaline. 

This will inherently create a lack of trust and increase the likelihood that the listener perceives the speaker as an adversary, rather than someone who is there to help them. The consequence is a narrowed focus, making the listener less receptive to other perspectives. In this case, a typical response is one of either: Fight (argue), freeze (disengage and stop talking), flight (change the topic, blame others, use others justification) or go-along (simply agree with what’s being said to make it stop). 


Clearly, if you are trying to have a constructive conversation with someone on how they can improve, it is more favourable that the listener is open to hearing other perspectives, suggestions and advice. 

So, the next time you are going to give feedback to an employee, follow this two step process:

Step 1) Lead with Empathy and Understanding 

Rather than engaging straight away with the feedback, start by leading with empathy and understanding. This will inherently build trust between you and the listener and prime the mindset conditions for receiving constructive feedback.

All it takes is a simple question and active listening.

Consider leading with one of the following: 

“How are you feeling as of lately?”

“What are your thoughts on this?”

“I was wondering if there was any way I could better show up for you as a leader?”

“Have you been facing any obstacles recently?”

“How do you feel about your performance this past quarter?”

The goal here is to use empathy as a sign of listening to the subjective experience of the listener and resonating with it, so that you can create trust and connection. 

Versus leading with:

“This isn’t good, we need to have a talk”

“So let’s take a look at what you did wrong here”

“Your performance has been lacking recently” 

“You're doing this all wrong”

“I already told you, this isn’t how it’s done”


Step 2: Feedback + Strategy 

Once you’ve empathically resonated with the listener, then is a good time to engage in the feedback itself and develop a strategy around the improvement you would like them to make. 


PRO TIP: Always ask the question: How Can I Best Support My Employees for Success?

The key to having successful teams is:

  • Knowing what you as a leader can do to best support your employees for success
  • Design a culture that sets a clear tone for the values, beliefs and behaviours that drives the company
  • Ability to execute a high-performance people-system that creates predictable productivity and results

Remember: Happy people, happy profit :)


Are you a CEO interested in leveraging a purpose & performance driven culture to get the best performance out of our employees? Click here to learn more

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