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How do you provide feedback on poor leadership without negative repercussions?

As with any feedback: the intent should always be to build awareness in an effort to improve things, never to complain.

The key to feedback is building awareness, both for yourself and for your team or partners. Feedback is valuable in that is exposes gaps in knowledge either you or others might have. To build that awareness you'll need to: come to a shared understanding, be specific, ask questions, and share possible solutions.

With difficult feedback you'll want to provide it in person so your intentions aren't mistranslated.

Action Items

  • 1. Define what good leadership is, together

    If your organization hasn't yet: work with leaders and their teams to define what good leadership looks like, then write it down and share it with everyone. One person's idea of leadership may be different than others, and you can't agree on what poor leadership is if you haven't first developed a shared understanding of what good leadership is.

  • 2. Be specific

    Before you provide feedback, know what it is you're explicitly referring to. Real-world examples are helpful in creating a picture of the problem in the receiver's mind. If you have several examples, or several different issues, consider focusing on the most pressing ones so the feedback can be oriented around improving it rather than overwhelming the receiver.

  • 3. Propose solutions

    Feedback without exploring solutions is simply complaining. You don't have to have the right solution or resolution to a problem when you provide the feedback, but by asking HMW—How Might We—questions you ensure action can be taken on the feedback. An example might be: "How might we ensure leaders are guiding teams but that employees feel empowered to make decisions?"

  • 4. Ask questions

    The best feedback is first investigative. Investigative feedback presents itself in a way that opens a dialog with those receiving it, rather than pointing out an issue and expecting them to immediately fix it. Statements with "I feel" or "I think" are personal and tie you to the feedback, instead what you want to do is isolate the behaviors you're seeing. If your problem is leaders are micromanaging based on their beliefs, you might try questions like: "What percentage of a leader's time do we think should be spent delegating tasks to others?"

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