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The last time you provided difficult feedback, how did it go?

The last time you provided difficult feedback, how did it go?
(Image credit: SmartBrief)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 200,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

The last time you provided difficult feedback, how did it go?

  • The reaction was much better than I expected. 36%
  • The reaction was about what I expected. 54%
  • The reaction was much worse than I expected. 11%

It’s not as bad as you expect. While many of you got pretty much what you expected the last time you delivered difficult feedback, more of you were positively surprised by the reaction than negatively surprised. That’s not surprising. Giving feedback is a stressful process. We don’t like delivering tough messages and we mentally prepare ourselves for conflict going into the conversation. Recognize that people appreciate being told when something isn’t going well. The vast majority of people want to do better and are happy to hear ways they can do that. To get more comfortable with delivering tough feedback, use a standard feedback model that provides facts first, then interpretation, then a call for action. By starting with the facts, you remove emotion from the situation and people are much more willing to hear what you have to say rather than getting defensive and debating it.


Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN — the firm’s e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West Point graduate and author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”

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