19 October 2017

feedback in businessGiving feedback is one of the greatest challenges faced by leaders. Receiving honest feedback can be a positive thing for employees – highlighting success and celebrating the behaviour and actions that you expect from your teams drives positive behaviour. But what happens when it comes to negative feedback and areas for growth?

It’s a skill that I am still learning, and will continue to develop for many years to come. Every person responds differently and every approach needs to reflect this difference. I have learned a few valuable lessons in the 30 years’ business experience. Here they are:

Never give negative feedback in front of others

There is little more embarrassing that being given negative feedback in front of other people. The Apprentice and Alan Sugar seem to have created a generation of business leaders who think that it is appropriate to be rude, brash leaders who shout people down and show them up.

To me, that’s the worst thing you can do! It’s a sure-fire way to create negative energy and ruin someone’s confidence. It also promotes bitterness – a leader should be a supportive team member who people can turn to for advice and help, not someone who makes people afraid or angry.

Instead, take the person to one side and have a chat with them. An honest and open conversation can do wonders to turn a negative into a positive. Negative feedback can actually become a great lesson and an opportunity for your employee or colleague to grow.

Find the positive

It is worth noting that negative feedback doesn’t need to be a criticism. More often than not you can find a positive in a negative situation. There’s the old “sandwich” approach, where negative feedback is bookended by two positives. Whilst that’s a fairly transparent and aging technique, it is valuable to genuinely remind people just how great they are. This way they are less likely to obsess over the criticism.

I remember some of the brutal feedback I’ve had before. Although it was a great motivator, not everyone has the resilience or rhino skin that I have. Being told that I would never make it as a businessman could easily have knocked my confidence and sent me off course. It’s a lesson I learned early on in my journey and I knew from that point on that I would never be responsible for making someone feel the way that I felt that day.

Don’t take credit for others’ work

There is nothing more frustrating than someone taking credit for your work. It doesn’t matter how humble you are as a person, you still deserve the recognition for your own achievements. I have been on the receiving end of this. Many years ago, before the days of UKFast, I worked with a manager who would take all of my ideas into the boardroom. I won’t name any names but it was certainly a challenge to bite my tongue listening to that person reel off every one of my ideas as their own.

It was one of my most valuable lessons. I knew at that moment, sitting around the boardroom table that I would remember that forever. I would always give credit where credit is due, and expect the same of my management team.

This is one of the most important lessons that I include in my management training across every business in my portfolio.

The ‘glass wall’ principle

When a manager or team leader comes to you as a senior leader to help with one of their team members it is essential you handle it with discretion. Just as it is essential for negative feedback to be given behind closed doors, there’s no room for throwing managers under the bus!


I have seen all too often when managers go to a senior leader for advice only for the senior leader to tell the employee exactly what they’ve heard. Whilst transparency is essential, it is incredibly important for team members to trust their team leaders, and for the team leaders to trust the senior management. Both need to feel that they have someone to turn to without the risk of an awkward situation!


That’s why any discussions between the management layers at UKFast are always done behind what we call a ‘glass wall’. That means that everyone conversation is confidential.


Spread the word!


Finally, if you’re giving positive feedback, shout about it! Celebrate!


Create opportunities to celebrate success and fantastic feedback with the rest of the business. We have our Monday Morning Meeting and team newsletter magazine in which we name the week’s / month’s superstars and reward awesome feedback.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to give feedback. Have you ever been on the end of poor feedback? What are your best tips for giving feedback?


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