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During my leadership days in several global financial institutions, I noticed that a formal appraisal or development conversation was one of the most uncomfortable experiences for both managers and direct reports alike. In fact, I have found in my experience that managers and leaders frequently struggle with how to give direct and constructive feedback.

Sometimes this struggle may be due to conflict avoidance, fear of rejection or resistance to feedback from direct reports. Alternatively, some leaders and managers may be concerned about increasing attrition rates as a result of their feedback.To maneuver around these obstacles, a growing trend amongst leaders is to stop giving negative feedback and instead “feed forward.” Simply put, this means focusing on progressing the relationship by constructively working on development areas rather than carrying out an investigation of the past.

While this kind of constructive feedback can be very helpful, more often than not, this kind of “feed forward” is delayed beyond a reasonable time. In addition, the delivery of the feedback often sounds more like an announcement than a celebration to the recipient. Both of these patterns can ultimately cause the conversation to be painfully uncomfortable, let alone ineffective.

As a result, it is critical that these kinds of development conversations be both timely as well as direct and honest. In other words, how this feedback is given is often times just as important as what is said. In order to maximize the impact of your feedback as a manager or leader, here are 6 tips for delivering feedback effectively:

1. Whenever possible, do not delay important conversations.
2. Try to establish and understand the level of self-awareness of your direct report before giving your feedback.
3. Focus on what has been working well, in addition to what needs improvement. Both are important.
4. Don’t generalize. Be as specific as you can with your observations and instances.
5. Be fully present. Make a point to listen just as much as you speak.
6. Do not wait to give your compliments all at once at a later time.

Learning to give direct feedback without judgment is a skill that takes time to learn. But it is worth the effort as it can lead to increased respect for your leadership as well as an effective change in those following you.


Rajeev Raju, Executive Coach and head of AIIR India, resides in Mumbai, India. His full biography can be found here.