NextGen Know-How: Creating a Feedback-Rich Environment

manager giving positive feedback to employee at the office
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CSP, CPCC Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

4 minutes

A fluid feedback process will foster higher employee performance and contribute to a more productive and engaged workplace.

One of the top reasons employees leave organizations is that they are not getting the feedback they need to learn and develop in their jobs. Most managers neglect to give meaningful feedback, whether it’s because they don’t make the time, are uncomfortable delivering it or don’t see the importance.

But providing timely feedback is not only an important responsibility as a leader—it’s also crucial in creating an environment of honesty, trust and collaboration. Without honest feedback, it’s challenging to bring out the best performance in employees and deepen relationships. 

Unfortunately, most managers give vague feedback that is not helpful. Saying, “You’re doing a great job!” may sound nice, but it doesn’t give the employee any specific and meaningful information. 

One of the first steps in growing as a leader is to shift your mindset around feedback. Instead of thinking of feedback as uncomfortable, understand that it’s about giving each individual information that can help them do their job better and be more successful.

Feedback is not just a leadership skill; two-way feedback is an important element of creating a modern, engaged company culture.

Traditional approach: A manager gives feedback to subordinates, one-way (boss to employee).

Modern approach: Leaders cultivate a culture of continuous feedback. They not only provide timely and specific feedback but seek out feedback from others around them (from direct reports, supervisors and peers). The feedback is two-way and a fluid process.

The modern approach supports creating an environment of truth. Employees don’t have to guess how they are doing, and they feel confident that their leaders share with them information for the sake of development. Feedback comes from a place of support. Rather than scheduling an event where the manager formally sits down to provide feedback—often once a year at the annual performance review—the manager provides situational and structured feedback.

Relationships are dynamic—they require constant communication and cultivation. Successful leaders build relationships with each individual and adjust their leadership style as needed. Just like a plant needs water, fertilizer, and the sun to flourish and grow, relationships need care and attention to develop and thrive.

The better the relationship with an individual, the easier feedback can be to share. This is why it is important to invest in the relationship—people are much more open to hearing feedback from people who they know and trust.

Imagine you are in a grocery store having an interaction with your child. Someone you never met approaches you to give you feedback on your parenting. How would you feel? Perhaps not as open to the feedback as someone who you know and trust. Investing in employee relationships allows for a more honest, receptive environment. 

Creating a feedback-rich environment starts with every leader modeling fluid feedback—both asking for and giving feedback. When you notice yourself talking about someone rather than talking to the person, that may be a sign you need to give feedback.

Employing coaching skills can make giving feedback more natural and helpful.

Using questions to facilitate the feedback process can create a dialogue rather than a lecture. For example, you can start by asking: 

  • How do you think that went?
  • What have you learned from that situation?
  • How might you approach that differently next time?
  • How do you think the team received your message?

Use neutral phrases to continue the dialogue:

  • I have some observations/input to share when you have some time.
  • Do you know what you did to make that meeting so successful? (Then provide your observations or feedback. This is a great way to give positive feedback and describe the talent or skill back to the employee).
  • My observation in that meeting was that the team members weren’t really absorbing the data. What do you think?
  • “I’ve noticed …”

Using this style of question and observation can help managers avoid “delivering” feedback and checking it off the list.

Things to remember:

  • For feedback to be useful, it needs to be meaningful and specific.
  • Feedback can be positive or constructive. Make sure you reinforce positive feedback as well!
  • Give feedback early and often.  
  • Use feedback as information, not as judgment. Focus on the behavior, not the person. For example, avoid saying “You are always late.” (This is a judgement.) You might say, “I noticed you arrived late to the meeting yesterday. What happened?” (This focuses on the behavior without judgment.) 

As a leader, you can ask for feedback on your individual performance, as well as feedback on ideas, approaches or projects. Here are some examples:

  • Holding a “lessons learned” meeting after the completion of a project.
  • In a team meeting, asking for opinions that differ from yours or other team members, and encouraging healthy dialogue and debate.
  • Asking a question like “What is one way I can support you to help you succeed?”

Creating a more fluid feedback environment will elicit the best performance of your employees and contribute to a more productive and engaged workplace. cues icon

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or

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