About this book

Feedback can sometimes feel like a chore. However, when used effectively it can be an incredibly useful tool that can drive improvement and bring you success. Feedback is serious business, but it shouldn’t be daunting – it should be a highly valued instrument that will carry you to the results you know you should be getting.

This practical guide will ensure that you feel ready to deal with any performance issues in your team and spot opportunities for developing others quickly and easily. Dispel any myths and avoid common pitfalls to make feedback into an integral tool in your business life.

Drive your team to success by getting to grips with feedback. Increase your confidence and improve your skills to deliver feedback in a self-assured and constructive manner to create an environment for achievement and top-quality performance.

To get the most out of feedback, this helpful guide will give you useful and incisive advice to help you get a clear understanding of exactly what feedback is and what it can be used for. It will allow you to work through your expectations to transform the value of feedback, and provide you with excellent advice and guidance on how to effectively prepare feedback conversations that are clear and helpful to your team. Ultimately great feedback will help you to craft and cultivate a culture of great communication by asking the right questions and listening effectively and empathetically.

Packed with tips, examples, case studies and scripts, this is an essential tool that will enable you to utilize feedback to your advantage to become a skillful, supportive and successful manager.

Publication date:
March 2014


Chapter 1. Getting and Making the Most of Feedback

"It is by learning to love and thrive on feedback that we can excel in the spontaneity of today's business climate."

—Sue Knight

In this chapter, we'll explore why you may have some unease about giving and receiving feedback, and how to resolve your underlying, and sometimes even unconscious, concerns about it so that you can increase your skill level and use feedback confidently and positively to enhance your own and your team's performance. Before moving on to giving feedback, we will cover how you can get more comfortable with asking for and receiving feedback gracefully and constructively. You will learn how to set the standard, model great behaviors, and inspire others. You will also learn how to mine this information to fuel your own motivation, capabilities, and performance.

There are four main steps in this process:

  1. Uncover any resistance you may have around feedback.

  2. Create new and more helpful beliefs around feedback.

  3. Learn to ask for and receive feedback and start doing this.

  4. Use feedback to develop yourself and accelerate your success.

An important principle underlying effective feedback in the work arena is that the more you use it, the more powerfully it will work for you and your team.

Do you want team members who are motivated, mutually supportive, doing the right things, doing them well, and getting great results? If so, they need:

  • Good self-awareness

  • Knowledge of their strengths and potential for development

  • Confidence to communicate effectively with each other about performance and to hold each other accountable

  • Trust and respect for each other

Feedback is an enabler of all of these qualities, and creating an environment where feedback is used regularly and effectively will allow your team to flourish and, more importantly, allow you to stand out as a great manager. To instill feedback into your team's culture, you need to develop your own skills in this area, be a role model for giving and receiving feedback, and develop and encourage others to do the same.


What concerns do most women have about giving feedback?

Over the course of my training and coaching work, I speak to lots of professional women from different backgrounds in a variety of roles and organizations. Despite differences in circumstances and experience, they often say that they would like more courage and confidence to deliver difficult messages or have challenging conversations. Their concerns about feedback are usually similar. Some of these are cultural, based on conditioning and upbringing; some are more practical in nature, and many are simply to do with lack of skill, know how, or experience.

Typical concerns include:

  • Worrying about conflict or damaging a relationship

  • Not wanting to upset someone or hurt someone's feelings

  • Not knowing how to start the conversation

  • Not wanting to demotivate someone

  • Not knowing how to fix the problem they've identified

  • Not being able to find the right time or place

  • Not wanting to be seen as bossy, mean, unkind, or disrespectful

If you're reading this book, you want to get better at giving feedback and are probably keen to know how to improve your skills and capabilities in this area.

In order to make sustainable changes in behavior, we need to understand what is going on at deeper levels. We need to examine any relevant thinking patterns or assumptions and how these could affect our decisions and behavior.


Levels of change

So, what do we mean by deeper levels and why are they relevant? One of the reasons that giving and receiving feedback can be such a minefield and so uncomfortable for many of us is that it is all about relating to other people, and we are all complex individuals. When we give and receive feedback, we may be in deeply personal territory, so understanding what goes on at different levels will make you more able to navigate these issues sensitively and appropriately when developing yourself and others.

Robert Dilts, one of the prominent thinkers in the development of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), produced a model for change based on the work of anthropologist Gregory Bateson, which he referred to as the "Neurological Levels". The basic tenet of this model is that there is a natural hierarchy for change, and that for change to be substantive and really "stick", we need to make it at a deeper level. An awareness of these levels is a great foundation for using feedback effectively, as we normally use feedback because we want to encourage a change of some kind.

For example, you might have an employee who doesn't participate in team meetings, is serious, quiet, and reserved, and who rarely shares information to the extent that it's having a negative impact on their reputation and performance. Would it help to say "You're too unfriendly, you need to join in more, communicate with your colleagues more often, and smile occasionally"?

Her behavior could just be related to a lack of social skills, but could also be driven by beliefs about work and what's appropriate. Perhaps she believes that being professional means being serious and not getting too friendly with colleagues, or perhaps she thinks that she has nothing of value to say or that it is better to listen than to speak. She may start to smile more in response to your feedback, but would she really have changed? Or, would this just be a superficial adaptation that ends up making her feel uncomfortable and false?

By examining and aligning values and beliefs before learning new skills and techniques, we can accelerate changes in behavior and performance so that these can more easily become habitual.

A straightforward way to grasp the concept of levels is to think of people as icebergs! What we can readily see of them, chiefly their behavior (how they act), is actually just the tip—the bit that is above the waterline. What goes on beneath that we can't know about without asking questions and getting to know someone are things like who they think they are (their identity), what they care about, what they think is important and use to steer decisions (their values), what they hold to be true (their beliefs), and what they are capable of (skills and strengths).

We may not even consciously know these things about ourselves without some reflection and focused self-analysis. The following explanations provide you with more information on each of these levels:

The following explanations provide you with more information on each of the mentioned levels.


The concept of behavior is quite simple; it's what we do and say, what others see and experience of us, and is something we learn to adapt to suit our environment. If we are behaving in a way that is out of line with our beliefs and values for a sustained period, it takes some effort and will probably feel draining and unpleasant. We can all think of times when we've had to be on our "best behavior" for some reason, and how relieved we felt when we could relax and just be "ourselves" again!

Skills, capabilities, and strengths

Skills are techniques that can be learned, and capabilities and strengths tend to be innate but can still be developed and honed. Many performance issues are either related to skills or strengths—someone may just not know how to do something or may find it very difficult. Being able to identify that someone needs to learn or improve a skill or be guided to operate more in line with their capabilities and strengths, and to be able to illustrate to them how they could do this, is a key technique in managing and developing others.


A belief is a view or perspective on something that you hold to be true. Beliefs are powerful constructs, sometimes limiting and sometimes helpful and empowering. Most importantly, they can be changed, altered, updated, questioned, and challenged. Other people don't know what your beliefs are unless you choose to share them. Here are some examples of beliefs that might stop us wanting to receive or give feedback:

  • Other people often misinterpret my actions.

  • If someone criticizes me, I'll lose confidence.

  • I'd rather stay friends with my team than risk upsetting them.

  • Whenever I give feedback, people get defensive.

Many of our beliefs are also closely aligned to and underpinned by our values.


Values are the things we consider important, and we use them as our personal navigation system to guide our beliefs, decision-making, and actions. We use values to decide what we "should" or "ought" to do or not. Other people won't know the values that guide our actions unless we choose to explain them, and sometimes we don't even know ourselves until they are brought to our attention by either personal reflection or input from others. If you are being asked or expected to work in a way that is contrary to your values, it will be stressful and draining. For example, if you value collaboration and work in a highly competitive culture, you may well feel tense, frustrated, and dissatisfied in your interactions at work.

We usually acquire our personal values while we are growing up, often from our parents, care takers, and teachers. Their life experiences may have been very different from ours, so the values they passed on to us might be due for a refresh. Not surprisingly, a value that served us well when we were 7, 12, or even 18 may not be quite so useful or valid once we are mature professionals. If, for example, you learned as a child that pointing out a negative quality or something you didn't like about someone was rude or wrong, this might be impacting on your attitude towards feedback today. Of course, there's a world of difference between pointing at someone and saying "you've got a big nose" and giving carefully considered feedback that will help someone improve their performance.

Women receive repeated messages growing up that it's important to be kind, fair, caring, and good, and that they should be nice if they want to be liked; these qualities can become strong values for us. Despite the great strides that have been made in equality at home and work, many women are still taught, explicitly and implicitly, that women should please others, be polite, pay compliments, make people feel good about themselves, and overlook or overcompensate for others' negative traits. These qualities are associated with stereotypical femininity. Women may fear being judged as "the Dragon Lady" or a "bitch" in business if they do not conform to these traditional conventions (and just to reassure you, giving feedback well won't make you either of these).

A lot of women, especially high achievers, are also prone to set themselves extremely high standards, and may aspire to perfectionism. We know rationally that this is not an achievable standard, but in its pursuit, we can become self-critical and overly sensitive to others' feedback, berating ourselves if we make even the slightest error. Many of these messages can also become strongly associated at an identity level.


Our identity is our definition of who we believe we are and what we stand for. If you are expected, or try, to act in ways that are contrary to your identity, it will be extremely uncomfortable, almost as though you are betraying your true self. Similarly, if you think that others have misunderstood your identity, for example, perceiving you as cool and aloof when you think you are approachable and caring, this can be quite upsetting. Being clear about the difference between identity and behavior is very helpful when you are receiving and giving feedback, and underpins a key distinction between personality and performance. Identity is who you think you are, and behavior is what you do.

How would you feel if someone gave you this feedback, which is based on your behavior:

"I've heard you raising your voice on the phone to the helpline several times this week, and I noticed that you slammed the phone down mid-conversation, so I'd like to talk to you about how we can make sure that you communicate effectively and professionally with colleagues in other departments."

How does this compare with with the following feedback, which is based on who they think you are:

"You've got a terrible temper, you're too impatient, and you're really rude on the phone. Please sort it out."

In summary, for many women, the expectations we have created for ourselves and the desire to be perceived as good, kind, perfect, and nice as well as wanting to be liked have made it difficult for us to develop the confidence, beliefs, and skills we need to communicate assertively and constructively with others. This is exacerbated if we think that the other person may not like the message we have to give. We worry that it will reflect on how they feel about us and what they might say or think about us. Just imagine how terrible it would be if they disliked us or thought we were bossy, opinionated, stuck up, spiteful, or horrible?

Working through some of these feelings and views is an important first step in developing the right mindset for using feedback effectively. The following activity will help you to do this. You can do the exercise on your own, or you might feel it would be helpful to work through with a friend or trusted colleague.


Learning activity – creating helpful beliefs around feedback

List up to ten things that you have previously believed about giving and receiving feedback and relating to others at work that you now realize may not necessarily be true, and aren't very helpful going forward.

For example:

  • You must always be kind and polite to people you work with

  • You need to make sure you're perfect yourself before you give someone else feedback

Ask yourself when and why you chose to form these beliefs. Did you create a generalization or oversimplify something confusing or hurtful so you could make sense of it? Perhaps, you took advice from someone you respected without really questioning it? These beliefs may have been helpful to you at some point in your career, but are they serving you well now?

Next, list up to ten things that you now choose to believe about feedback and relating to others at work. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Feedback is a great way to learn

  • Effective feedback will enhance my team's performance

  • The feedback I receive helps me to learn more about myself and become more successful



You might be slightly skeptical about changing your beliefs and think that this is in some way fickle or naïve. If this is the case, remind yourself that beliefs don't need to be set in stone—they're not based on fact, but on interpretations of your experience, so you are free to reinvent them as you see fit. Experiment, try some new beliefs on for size, and see what difference they make for you.

Beliefs are powerful; the words of car manufacturer Henry Ford are worth remembering here:

"If you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

Essentially, the way you think about things, your perceptions or misconceptions, have an impact on your experience and actions. If you view feedback as a painful chore, it will be exactly that. If you are able to see it as an incredibly constructive and useful tool for your professional life, that's what it will become.


Asking for and receiving feedback

There are several components to getting feedback and using it successfully. These areas follows:

  • Knowing how to ask for feedback

  • Receiving feedback gracefully

  • Learning from the feedback

  • Adapting your behavior in line with the feedback

Before we look at each of these areas in turn, it's helpful to think about some of the feedback you have received in the past, what this has taught you, and whether there's anything else you can learn from this.


Learning activity – reflecting on feedback

It is likely that you have encountered feedback before at some time in your life and your experience has probably shaped how you feel about feedback now. These experiences, whether good or bad, represent excellent opportunities to improve the way you give and receive feedback. They can help you to change your perception of feedback, and they can also help you to see, practically, what you can do to make giving and receiving feedback more effective in your life.

Take some time to reflect on the feedback (or criticism) that you have received over the years that was either unhelpful or hurtful. It could be from parents, friends, partners, teachers, mentors, peers, or bosses, but should typically be the things that had a particular impact on you and how you felt about yourself.

For example, a boss once told me that I over-analyzed problems. This made me feel slightly misunderstood and confused because I didn't know what she really meant, and as a result, I didn't really do anything differently. Even now I still wonder about it, and it's really frustrating—I still don't think it's really true; what did I do to make her think this? Do I still do it now? Maybe I'm over-analyzing this.

Use this format and aim to come up with a list of between 5 and 10 examples:


Make a note

(Name)………………told me…………………………………………………………………………………(describe the feedback)

This made me feel………………………………………………………………and as a result I………………………………………………………

Now take a mental step back and positively reframe the examples. Choose to believe that the people who gave you the feedback had good intentions, but maybe just weren't equipped to deliver the feedback well; they may have been misguided, ill-informed, or have been giving feedback based on their own "stuff". It is now time to silently thank them for this feedback, decide whether there is any value in it, whether there are any lessons you want to take forward from it, and then move on.

Next, repeat the exercise focusing on those times when you have received feedback that has really helped you improve in a certain way, motivated you, or given you an important insight.

For example, my first manager told me that the way I had applied for an internal vacancy wasn't going to work because I hadn't explained why I wanted the job or explained how I could do it better than someone else. Initially, I felt a bit embarrassed and stupid, but as a result, I reworked the application and got the job!


Make a note

(Name)………………told me…………………………………………………………………………………………… (describe the feedback)

This made me feel………………………………………………………………and as a result I………………………………………………………

Think about how these examples are different from the first list. What was it about these instances and how people gave you the feedback that made it valuable and constructive?


Write a few notes or discuss these with a friend or colleague to remind you what you have learned from this exercise and what you want to remember about giving and receiving feedback from now on.

For example, I like feedback that is specific, not just a general observation. I like to be told what I might do differently. I also need to believe that the person is genuinely trying to help me and that it's something I can change. I need to remember this next time I have to give some feedback.

Now that you are more in touch with any discomfort you may have had around receiving feedback, you are ready to plan systematically how to get good quality feedback and then use this to improve your self-awareness and performance.

Another benefit of this approach is that once you have developed the habit of proactively asking for feedback, you'll be a lot more used to hearing and responding to it effectively, which also means that if feedback of the uninvited, unanticipated, or unpleasant variety comes along, you'll be better equipped to handle it with dignity.


Learning how to ask for feedback

The previous exercise hopefully helped you think more closely about what works well in terms of feedback and what does not. However, to become really comfortable with feedback, knowing who, how, and when to ask for it and what you want to learn, is incredibly important. This is a key step in the process of opening yourself up to the benefits that feedback can offer you.


Make sure that you're fully prepared, and at the very least, have considered what you want to achieve when seeking feedback and why you are doing it.


Make informed, conscious choices as to whom you're going to ask for feedback; know why you have selected a particular person and what you would like to know. Make sure they have the information, exposure, and competence they need to answer effectively. Asking for feedback from a range of people will help you identify trends and give you a more balanced picture than just relying on your boss or your immediate friends and colleagues.


Timing is paramount. To get well considered feedback that is specific enough to be helpful, you need to ask for it when someone has the time and mental space to do this well, and if you are looking for feedback on a specific project, you need to make sure that you follow up as soon as you can while memories are fresh.

Choosing the right moment and investing time in building relationships with the people you approach for feedback will ensure that it's honest, well thought out, and well intentioned. Even better, get into the habit of asking people before a specific event whether they would be happy to give you feedback afterwards so that they can be prepared to do this really well; this will also go a long way towards dispelling any awkwardness.


One of the key aspects of helpful feedback is that it is specific. Using the right words and asking the right questions will help you to get good quality feedback that you can use. Opening the conversation can sometimes be a challenge, so the following are some constructive opening phrases you could use or adapt:

"It would really help me to hear your thoughts about how I tackled X."

"Could you spare me a few minutes to let me know what you thought about Y and what I might have done differently or how I could improve next time? I really appreciate your insights."

By framing the requests as something that will help you and that you welcome, you will give the other person permission to be honest and give full, balanced feedback.


Receiving feedback constructively and gracefully

The way you respond to feedback, both in the short term (during the conversation and immediately after it) and the longer term (how you adapt your behavior) sends a powerful message to other people about your self-confidence, professionalism, interpersonal skills, and commitment to improvement. Some situations will be more challenging than others depending on the skill of the person giving the feedback, your relationship with them, whether you've requested feedback or whether it's unsolicited, and of course, the sort of mood you're in at that particular time. We all have days when we feel more self-assured and upbeat and others where we are more sensitive and self-critical. These tips will serve you particularly well if you're feeling less than "bombproof" when you get feedback.

Whatever the circumstances, following these steps will allow you to create a positive impression and learn about yourself and the other person. If, for some reason, you have made a mistake or have misjudged or overlooked something, handling feedback well can do a lot to rectify your reputation. Remember how our perceptions of people can be turned around if a problem or misunderstanding is swiftly and artfully handled and resolved.

Here is a suggested approach and an outline of the most helpful behaviors to use:

Listening calmly, neutrally, and attentively

Consciously relax your posture by lowering your shoulders and breathing steadily and slowly. Tilting your head to one side slightly indicates to the other person that you are listening, as does nodding, but don't get carried away nodding and appear to immediately agree to everything that is being said. Maintain a neutral facial expression as far as you can. Screwing up your face and frowning can be powerful non-verbal signals that show that you don't agree with what is being said.

Maintain eye contact, but make sure that it's natural and that you do move your eyes if you want to, especially when you're thinking and processing information. Rolling your eyes, however, is not helpful (unless your aim is to look like a stroppy teen rather than a professional woman). Taking notes can be a useful strategy to show that you are listening and can also be a handy distraction if you feel yourself getting upset.

At this point, stay quiet and try not to make any assumptions or jump to any conclusions. Aim to cultivate a state of curiosity and learning. Listening means just that, so put your focus on the other person rather than on what you are going to say next; refrain from interrupting, making excuses, or providing justifications. Really listening is not the same as waiting for an opportunity to jump in or interrupt. This can be very challenging if you do not have a high opinion of the person giving the feedback or if you fundamentally disagree with the way they see things or what they think is important, but these are often the times you can gain a really key insight or learn something new about yourself and the effect you have on others.

Train yourself to reserve judgment and not immediately to discount information that seems contrary to your interpretations of the way things are. In the wise words of Stephen Covey:

"Seek first to understand and then to be understood."

It may take a while to get comfortable with this approach as you will need to resist the automatic fight or flight response that is activated in the face of any threat or criticism (however constructive it might be). Keep control of your emotions by breathing slowly or counting to 10 if you need to. Remember you can choose a calm, considered reaction instead of just jumping to your own defense or trying to justify your actions or intentions.

By practicing self-control in these situations, you will develop the critical ability to be responsible for your own feelings.

Asking questions and reflecting back what you've heard

Once you have heard what the other person has to offer, asking questions is a powerful way to show that you are interested and listening and helps you to ensure that you have really understood the message.

Reflecting back is a great technique for testing your understanding and letting the other person know that you are listening, for example:

"What I'm hearing is that you liked my presentation, but you felt that I left too quickly and didn't take advantage of the networking opportunities afterwards—is that right?"

"Can I just check that I've understood what you're saying? You think that I put too much emphasis on our smaller customers at the expense of our larger, more profitable ones. Have I understood you correctly?"

Once you are confident that you have understood the key message, you can also ask questions to establish the facts, the potential consequences of your behavior (why it matters), and to get ideas as to how you might improve or what you could do differently. Asking well-formed questions can help you to turn even badly prepared or vague feedback into something you can work with.

Regardless of whether or not you initially agree with the feedback, remember that this is a valuable opportunity to understand how others see you, how your actions are perceived, and at the very least, how other people might see things differently from you.

Questions to establish facts

Closed questions requiring yes/no or quite specific answers work well here:

"Was I definitely invited to the networking event?"

"Can I just establish whom our smaller customers are to make sure we are on the same page?"

Questions to establish consequences or why something matters

Using more open questions will allow you to find out more about someone's views or opinions:

"What would you have liked me to achieve at the networking event?"

"What is the strategy for developing our smaller customers?"

Questions to identify what you need to do to improve

Probe by asking for more detailed or specific information on how you can improve:

"Can you give me some advice as to how to get the most from networking?"

"Can you tell me how I might be able to deal more quickly with some of the smaller, more demanding customers, or where I might be spending too much time?"

"Please can you help me understand what I could do differently in the future?"

"Do you have any ideas as to how I can improve my skills/behavior to become more effective in this area?"

Asking questions like these will help you get more out of any feedback you receive; it will also ensure that you are not left feeling confused or as though something has not been sufficiently explained. Even if you are the one who is receiving feedback, you can still take control of it and make it work for you.

Taking time to process what you have heard

Do not feel under pressure to respond straight away. It is fine to say so if you need some time to take the information in and reflect on it, especially if you do not necessarily agree with what you've heard. Some useful phrases could be:

"Thanks for bringing that to my attention; I'd just like to take some time to think about what you've said and then perhaps we can meet again to follow up."

"I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me about this, and once I've had a think about your feedback, I'd like to get back together so I can discuss this further."

If the feedback is a real shock, buy yourself some time. Keep calm and say something like:

"Thank you, I am surprised to hear that and I'm not sure I agree with you, but please give me some time to think about what it might mean. I'll get back to you in a couple of days once I have thought this through properly as I'd like to explore it further."



Be aware of your body language and the non-verbal messages you are giving at all times. Keep your arms by your sides rather than crossing them and remember to maintain a neutral facial expression and to keep breathing!

When you are processing feedback, keep it in perspective, particularly if it upset or annoyed you. Feedback is just someone else's view. It's not factual, right, or wrong; it merely represents what is true for them. You always have the power to choose whether to accept their views, reject them, or continue to consider that they might hold something that you can learn from.

You might want to discuss the feedback with a trusted friend, colleague, or coach to work through your feelings and make more sense of what you have heard. You do not need to take all feedback on board. Some of it will be inaccurate, irrelevant, or obsolete, so make sure that you give yourself permission to evaluate the feedback as objectively as you can and then decide what is valuable and what you want to work with. If the feedback is very disappointing or feels like a rejection, for instance, if you are passed up for a job, a promotion, or a pay rise, it may be quite painful at first, but using the strategies outlined and giving it a bit of time will also help you to regain a sense of perspective.

Saying thank you

You know yourself that giving feedback can be quite challenging, so make sure that you show your appreciation for someone giving you their time, perspective, and opinion as well as for their honesty. If you want the feedback to keep coming, you need to recognize and reward the right behaviors and make it easy for people to give.


Learning from feedback

Having worked so hard to get feedback and receive it professionally, it would be crazy not to use what you have found out to your advantage. Work out what the key messages are for you and what actions you want to take. Here is a worked example of a simple five-step development process you can use:

  1. Evaluate the feedback and identify what is it you want to change. Do you need to learn a new skill, adapt your approach, get to know someone better, or improve your knowledge of a product or customer? For example:

    • The feedback I received was that people were falling asleep in my presentation. It was boring and too long, so I need to improve my presentation and engagement skills.

  2. Describe what your outcome will be—what you want to be able to do differently. For example:

    • Create clear, simple, engaging slides; make my presentations shorter and punchier; use more visuals and learn to project my voice more effectively.

  3. Decide what action you need to take to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be and commit to when you are going to do this. For example:

    • Find someone who's really good at presenting by the end of this month and ask them to give me some coaching; attend an advanced PowerPoint course in June; find a voice coach and set up a meeting by the end of next week; volunteer to present at the next team away day.

  4. Take action and put your new skills and behavior into practice.

  5. Get feedback to see how you are doing. Rinse and repeat!

Follow these steps and you will begin to see that you can take even the most disappointing feedback and transform it into something positive. Remember, one of the most valuable aspects of feedback is the power it gives you to address any gaps between your goals, intentions, and results:


Case study

The following case study provides a great example of how feedback can be used as a productive tool for improvement:

Jane was heading up a team during a big organizational change. Processes were being centralized. Jane's team needed to adapt their working practices to become less administrative and focus more on giving customer advice. Jane was very frustrated as the team was not being proactive around the change. She wanted them to see how this could benefit them, release them from some routine tasks, and give them more time to focus on their customers. She set a deadline for a handover as they'd been dragging their feet and called a team meeting to explain her thinking and expectations.

The team sat quietly and barely engaged in the conversation. When Jane asked if there were any problems or questions, nobody spoke, so she concluded the meeting expecting the handover to happen while saying to herself, "Why don't they seem happy about this?"

After the meeting, Jane asked Anna, one of the team, for feedback. She was initially resistant, but Jane persevered and started using open questions such as "Please tell me how you think people are feeling?" and "What do you think might be causing concern?" Anna finally opened up and reluctantly said, "People don't think you understand what's really involved and how risky it is. The central administrative team is rubbish and they don't know what they're doing. We're worried about how this will affect our customers when we've worked so hard to get things right for them." Jane listened, didn't interject, and then asked if there was anything else she should be aware of, and Anna replied, "I don't know about the others, but with all the changes going on, I don't want to let part of my job go. How's that going to look? And, I've just taken out a new mortgage."

How might you react to this feedback?

  • Call another meeting and tell the team that they need to make the change happen, that it isn't straightforward, but it's what they're paid to do and it's their jobs to make it happen.

Alternatively, could you:

  • Ask follow up questions and really consider the feedback.

Jane did this and learned that:

  • She hadn't actually understood what was involved and it was very complex

  • The central team was inexperienced and her team members were worried about mistakes being made and the impact on customer satisfaction

  • Her team members were all worried about their job security and how it would be perceived if they had fewer obvious administrative responsibilities

Finding these things out helped Jane learn about what she did that was effective and what hadn't worked so well and allowed her to try a different strategy to achieve her goal by altering her behavior. She realized that the way she had delivered the message sounded flippant because she hadn't understood what was really at stake even though she'd thought she was being enthusiastic and encouraging. It just wasn't what people wanted to hear or how they wanted to hear it. They felt threatened and needed to know that Jane was in control, was aware of the risks, had considered them, and was taking action to address them. Jane also realized that talking to everyone in a meeting wasn't the most effective way to get everyone to agree with her. Individual meetings would have allowed people to share their fears more readily and given her the opportunity to address personal concerns.

The feedback Jane sought out allowed her to re-engage with her team in a more productive way, get some more training for the administrative team and a phased approach to the handover, and allowed her to avert customer dissatisfaction on a major scale.



When you receive feedback, it may initially clash with your view of what happened or annoy you because your intentions were misunderstood. Feedback is the key to unlocking unhelpful, unproductive patterns of behavior, and the insight it gives you allows you to address issues and continually improve your performance and effectiveness.


Using feedback to accelerate your learning and success

By now, we have seen how we can use feedback to develop ourselves effectively. It doesn't require permission, a large budget, or any external consultants—just a change of mindset and commitment.

If you're now raring to go, the following are some of the ways you can jumpstart your own personal feedback program:

  • Review your last appraisal and look at it with fresh eyes to see if there is anything that you have overlooked or any messages that your manager is giving you that you have not been ready to take on board before.

  • Start to ask your colleagues and staff for feedback on a more regular basis and let them know that you're open to feedback. In one-to-one meetings with your staff, you could add the following questions to your agenda:

    • In what ways do I help and support you most in your role?

    • Is there anything you would like me to do more of, less of, or differently to help you succeed?

    • Is there any other feedback you have for me that will help me improve my effectiveness?


Make a note

If you are really keen to use feedback, you may want to explore 360° feedback.

360° feedback is simply a structured process for seeking feedback from people who relate to you in all directions in your role. It includes feedback from your manager, your peers, your employees, and your customers, and also incorporates you own views. Importantly, it should be facilitated independently, which means that the feedback is anonymous. This gives people the confidence to be honest regardless of their relationship with you. The power of 360° feedback is that a well-structured program will provide a wealth of data, which will allow you to see trends, identify where you are doing really well, and where you might need to make changes. You will know that this is based on a range of responses so is less susceptible to any individual biases. It is particularly good at helping us understand our personal blind spots—the things we don't know or can't see about ourselves but that others can. This could include how confident we appear, whether people think we are proactive or reactive, or whether our exacting standards are intimidating or inspiring.

We may also become more aware of the depth and potential of our strengths and what people really appreciate about us such as empathy, creativity, or tenacity. Discovering how others perceive you and what they really value from you can accelerate your personal and career development if you act on it. If, for example, you discover that others recognize your leadership potential and great problem solving skills, this will boost your self-esteem and give you the confidence to step up, speak up more, become more visible, and get more involved when there are problems to be dealt with. You may also learn some less palatable truths about how your behavior impacts others, for instance, that you are not a great listener and that you interrupt and make assumptions. Once you have accepted that this has some resonance for you, you can integrate this information into your personal development planning to ensure that it does not become a career derailer.

Find out whether your organization uses a 360° feedback process, and if it does, aim to get involved. If you do not have access to a structured 360° feedback program, it may be worth speaking to your manager, HR department, or a coach to explore whether you could set one up for you or for your whole team.



In this chapter, we learned:

  • Why women have a complicated relationship with feedback

  • How to distinguish between the neurological levels, particularly behavior and identity

  • How to use feedback effectively for our own development

  • How to identify areas where we can accelerate our success

Being able to use feedback effectively when you receive it and developing a rounded view of feedback are important steps in learning to give feedback in an effective and successful way.

In the next chapter, we will start to explore giving feedback to others and breakdown the skills, behaviors, tools, and techniques that you need to deliver feedback to benefit you and those around you.

"And would some Power the small gift give us

To see ourselves as others see us!"

—Robert Burns

About the Author

  • Katie Botten

    Katie Botten is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and coach, who specializes in helping individuals to bring out the best in themselves at work, and to improve their performance and results for more success and satisfaction.

    Katie has a degree in Psychology, a Postgraduate Diploma in HR Management, is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and a Master Business Practitioner of NLP. She has been running her training and coaching business, Engaging Performance (www.engaging-performance.com), for over 10 years after gaining 20 years of experience in HR and Change roles in a variety of financial services and public sector organizations. Katie is also a co-founder of Women's International Career Reinvention (www.wicrhub.com) which provides high quality, accessible, and affordable career insights, resources, and support for professional women dealing with, or seeking, career change.

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