why do we suck at feedback?


The real question I want to ask is, why do we invest so heavily into Performance Management Systems rather than creating feedback skills as the fundamental component of the workplace culture?

Organisations continue to focus on the perfection of their performance system when the complex problem to solve is the practice of effective daily conversations which includes performance feedback.

Consequence: Employees leave managers, not companies

What I find, when talking with people, is that so many feedback opportunities are missed. Whether you’re walking down the corridor or sitting in a meeting together, it only takes a few minutes to provide the feedback which could be a game-changer for someone.

Maybe we think by saying “You did a good job” or writing an email advising a team member “I noticed you were late for a meeting” is good enough.

Nope – it’s not good enough.

It is essential when providing feedback, is that it is rich in data, it’s interactive, given with the honest intent to increase the performance of that person (or team), and that it makes an impact. And you know that it makes an impact because the communication flows and loops and there is action.

 Between the intent and the impact is where the skill comes into play.

 Research: It’s more than a hunch

Research tells us that people leave their manager, they don’t leave their company. Read that again.

In the 2015 Gallup Survey ‘The State of the American Manager’, 50% of people interviewed had left their company, at some stage in their career, to escape their manager.

People observe you. If you’re a manager/CEO/people leader, staff watch and listen to you, and have expectations of you in your role. They want you to action or at least feedback to them there is or isn’t progress.

And closer to home, Heads Up, the workplace educational unit at Beyond Blue in Australia, tells us that Psychological mental health is exacerbated when there is a lack of feedback about performance. And the cost associated with unhealthy workplaces which cause depression and anxiety costs Australian workplaces $10.8 Billion each year in lost productivity and compensation expenses.

Fact: Feedback motivates people

Motivating people might involve giving them a bonus but true motivation is the conversation that you have which acknowledges their effort, skill and the impact they’ve made. The effort and time you take to identify where they can improve, change or increase their performance is what motivates them.

Humans have an intrinsic motive to know that they’ve done a good job – so they’re expecting your recognition and praise – this is your opportunity to give feedback.

Martin Seligman, ‘father’ of Positive Psychology created the model, PERMA which identifies the elements that help people lead happy and fulfilling lives. Positive emotions (feeling good), Engagement (finding flow – immersion in what we do), Relationships (connections with people that you trust), Meaning (understand impact of life’s work), and Accomplishments (push us to thrive & flourish). Essentially, if your communication is constant and your feedback is welcomed, you’re helping people find true happiness in what they do while they work with you.

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model - understanding how to help people search for their happiness in their work assists you have rich conversations.

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model - understanding how to help people search for their happiness in their work assists you have rich conversations.

As Andy Grove, (former CEO & Co-founder of Intel) said, “a manager can damage morale, motivation and productivity of their teams based on their actions, or inaction. According to the Gallup’s study of managers, they found that the manager accounts for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement.” The manager has such an important role, it rises above their technical expertise.

Ken Blanchard (PhD, management expert, author) coined the phrase, Feedback is the breakfast of Champions. And, Peter Drucker (author, management expert) told us that Culture eats Strategy for breakfast. What I say is, if you have a culture which is continually engaged in conversations including feedback – no matter which role a person is in, then you’ll make it to lunch!

 The Key Act: Follow up with Feedback

We spend days setting strategy, creating objectives for our people to achieve and identifying the key results to focus on and specific actions to complete (add up all those hours) – yet, what hours do we spend following up their progress?

I’m excited when I hear leaders tell me that the spend 5-10 minutes every week following up the people in their reach, providing feedback, seeking feedback and solving problems together. What disappoints me is when I hear staff tell me that they only receive feedback at their annual performance review (which they’ve written themselves).

Checking in on a daily, weekly or stretched out to monthly (depends on you and the individual) is a goal to set to seek and give feedback on performance.

“Hey, let’s talk about the presentation to the board. I’m confused about two items which you raised – can we discuss it now? There is no blaming here – it’s a good example of accountability of follow up feedback. This gives you the data and permission to keep the conversation alive and online.

 The Feedback Goal: Feedback makes an impact

Consider the best feedback you’ve ever received.

Who gave it to you? What did they say?

I recall being told I said “OK” numerous times (try 70!) during a 45-minute practice presentation. Wow, it hit me like a tonne of bricks – I was totally unaware that I was an OK factory! That was almost 30 years ago, and I still recall receiving this piece of feedback. It was delivered directly, it wasn’t sugar coated, and I was thankful for their honesty.

What feedback could you give, right now, to someone in your workplace?

What would you say?

How would you say it so that it lands well and creates a positive conversation?

I hope this stretches your holding zone. Moving from your place in the comfort zone to the stretch zone or better still, I hope it freaks you out! And, quite rightly, it will freak you out because most of us suck at it.

 The Workplace Goal: Let’s create Feedback opportunities

These opportunities present themselves every day, every hour and every minute.

It’s important that you observe people or at least hear them. You could be in a meeting, watching a staff member serve a customer or be in the middle of a conversation with a colleague.

If you see what you want to see or hear what you don’t want to hear – act as close to this moment as possible. Catch people doing the right thing and stop the wrong thing reoccurring.

I have a client whose leadership team shares and seeks feedback at each meeting. They commence with observed ‘strengths ‘in play and the impact they’ve witnessed and secondly, they (now) confidently share where they have ‘overdone the strength’ – with the outcome being a negative impact. This has been a game changer for this organisation. They have very quickly come a culture of feedback.

 The Workplace Skill: Giving & Receiving Feedback

It takes skill to say it with the right intent, in a timely manner, in the right way to make the other person feel alright about receiving the feedback.

Everyone needs to be on board to know that it’s their role to receive feedback. And, that they have permission, that they are accountable to give feedback too.

Here’s an example of feedback which I recently received:

Louise, thank-you (gratitude) for your prompt response with the information I requested (specific task identified) it enabled me to quickly complete an important task for a client (connecting my involvement) – my client was surprised with the promptness and it looks like we may be closer to working on the project together. I really appreciate your help. (Impact)

There are many ‘right ways’ to give feedback – models, methods and frameworks which work for different situations and personalities.

Don’t get stuck using one technique – it might not be the right feedback technique for every situation and individual.

The Four F model is a great Feedback model - one of many which I share with clients during workshops.

The Four F model is a great Feedback model - one of many which I share with clients during workshops.

 The Feedback Challenge: What will you do now?

If your intent is to positively improve the performance of your people, it’s clear what impact you’re seeking, then I can fill the ‘skill’ void – I will use suite of intelligence tools needed to seamlessly seal the intent.

If you are the CEO/the boss, then you can set yourself a key result of giving feedback every day.

How about you start today.

Your challenge is: to give feedback to three people and ask one person for feedback.

When receiving feedback, don’t accept, “you’re doing a good job”; rather respond with, “thanks, would you tell me specifically what I did today that you thought was good.”

Once you have your Feedback Skills embedded into your culture, and you no longer suck at it, you’ll question if you really need a Performance Management System or you’ll be surprised how more effective the process of appraisals becomes when Feedback is at the core.

Autumn special feedback skills.png

My seasonal focus is Feedback. If you value communication in your workplace, please read my White Paper on Feedback Skills, Click Here to request a copy.



Well-being builds your leadership. Being self-aware, you take more notice of your behaviour and how this shows up in how you lead your life.

We demonstrate five ways that we help people put their well-being centre of attention and how this will show up in leading a more effective (and happy) life.

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Rediscover the skill of DISSENT

Are you punishing the dissenter in the room? Professor Charlan Nemeth challenges us to think about how we make decisions and how we encourage decision making in the workplace. No! is a book which will polarise the workplace community as we operating in a world which wants to get along and makes decisions by consensus methods.

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Can We Co-exist?

Can We Co-exist In The Office, Roads ... In Life?

I'm on the edge of my seat watching the concluding episodes of Cordon - a Belgium drama being aired on SBS in Australia. We peer into peoples' lives in the fish bowl as they are cordoned off  due to a virus outbreak - required to co-exist with people - in particular, an office team living in their workplace.

On the radio this morning, John Faine #abc774 questioned if motorists and cyclists can co-exist on the roads? We were asked as listeners to consider if  it's our attitude and behaviour which is causing the 'dooring' deaths in our suburbs.

When people are forced to share the same space in a work environment (we generally don't get the chance to choose our work colleagues, let alone the team reporting to us) we survive or lead.

Survival is all about me! Focusing on what works for me and what the device in my hand tells me! We consider what's best for ourselves first before thinking or feeling for others.

Leading to co-exist is all about assessing, observing, reading and 'smelling' the culture & climate of the community and being the person which the people need and what the situation requires. 

Pushing peoples' panic button by urging them to do what is outside their personality comfort zone are potentially necessary for 'survival' (whether it's to live through an epidemic or arrive home safe from a bike-ride) however, it's your approach and attitude which will determine the outcome.

Yes we can co-exist and it does take an inordinate continuous effort and great leadership.

Understanding Why We're Doing It!

A big take-out during a group discussion yesterday on the subject of CHANGE was the need to understand and communicate 'the Why'. Too often we are the messengers and we don't devour the Why to enable us to regurgitate the Why to those involved.

My kids are getting excited about Halloween. We're planning our outfits, deciding which lollies to buy and what decorations to make and put on the front door. It took my daughter, who's seven, to ask "Mum, why do we celebrate Halloween? (I didn't need to google the answer!) Whilst this was out of curiosity, it did put things into perspective for my smart little girl!

Selling the Why is critical, crucial and criminal if not done successfully. Whether the Why is around developmental, transitional or transformational CHANGE ( it is always about some type of CHANGE), answering the Why is your first role and goal. People need to understand why we're doing it.

A story, facts, benefits, admitting the unknown future positively are all techniques to approach the Why. It's important to consider who's listening to your Why. A story for some, the excitment of the unknown for others.

I do like to show and share Simon Sinek's The Golden Circle, a super 'Why' model which makes sense to everyone who watches the TED talk.

So, what's the Why around your current piece of work, change, behaviour etc? How effective are you in explaining and articulating your Why



Will your New Year's Resolution create a Revolution or Movement?

It’s the start to our financial year – a time to kick off a new budget, implement a new plan, and set tougher goals and targets. 

I always get excited with a new year – I set challenges for myself in an attempt to keep with the pace of change. I know what I want, what I really need and I like to dream of bigger and better changes in my business!

Listening to people discuss their business plans and observing what they do I often see a void in wants and needs and in particular their ‘change plan’. It’s a simple void (easily avoidable) - no matter how courageous the change is - if they avoid getting people involved in the planning then it’s tougher and costlier to get them on-board down the track. How many times have you seen the revolt towards change?

Not everyone wants to join the change movement; however your resolution can be about:

  • Talking openly about the creation of the budgets, plans goals and targets
  • Explaining ‘the why’ – rather than the what, who, when
  • Asking "how are we going to achieve or meet or exceed?"

Leaders facilitate conversations and today’s an opportunity to create a movement which people want to join to achieve and exceed your goals. 


How would you describe the culture in your workplace? Good, Great, Workable, Toxic?

‘Toxic’ is such a demonstrative adjective; it gives more clarity than other descriptors such as ‘good’ – What does good look like?

I wrote about ‘Toxic Culture’ at the height of the Australian Olympic Swimming team performance review. I wonder how their culture is progressing.

It continues to disturb me that such a label could be associated with an organisation and someone’s leadership. In the past few weeks, I've heard more organisations’ cultures being described as Toxic. Wow, that’s a tough gig to fix.

What comes to mind is how the people in the organisation operate, behave, communicate and engage. No matter how good or bad a culture is described, I find that people fall into one of four clubs in an organisation. By mentally categorizing people, I then know how to engage them, each ‘club’ needing a different approach to get them on-board the journey.

Culture Club Classification and Engagement Tips:

Change Weary Club – they tell you that any change won’t work (and hasn’t worked in the past) and resist showing interest

 -Find a positive in what they do e.g. concern for customer care – using it in your communication e.g. metaphors

Compromisers’ Club – generally the busy leadership team who are hard to pin down

-Negotiate with them individually to change specific actions & behaviours – reinforcing the need to role-model.

Connectors' Club – these people are doing the right thing without knowing they’re doing it

 -Tap into this group, ask for their help, get their ideas and make them feel important.

Champions' Club – they know they are doing it right and are known for being a leader of change

-Search them out, involve them (and any others willing & interested) and work with them to increase the club membership.

Whilst I intentionally make light of the ‘club’ language, I don’t deny the difficulty to tackle culture. However, people create culture and you’ve got to break down the challenge and engage these clubs – working internally encouraging the leaders to lead the followers.

Connect with me to identify these clubs’ traits and how to engage them in your workplace.