February 19


Leadership hack 019 – feedback

Anders Ericsson found that truly world class performers invested more time in deliberate practice (see his seminal paper) than their less successful peers.  Anders defined deliberate practice as:

“repeated experiences in which the individual can attend to the critical aspects of the situation and incrementally improve her or his performance in response to knowledge of results, feedback, or both from a teacher.”

The importance of feedback is also supported by Daniel Kahneman in his bestselling book Thinking Fast and Slow. Who argues that intuition is simply pattern recognition, developed through repeated practice with high-quality feedback.  Therefore, to become a world-class leader, you need to get high-quality feedback from your team, peers and leader.

Receiving feedback is hard, it makes you vulnerable.  Negative feedback can undermine your confidence and make you hesitate, while positive feedback can make you overconfident.  Here are some tips to make it easier:

  • First – create a culture where open feedback is possible (see here)
  • Give feedback your full attention – delay if the time is not right
  • Ask questions – use open questions to undercover the root cause
  • Watch your body language – try to have neutral body language, with arms and legs uncrossed
  • Say thankyou

As a leader, you also need to give feedback from your team, peers and leaders.   Giving feedback is an art, it is very easy to come across badly.  There are several tips to help you give better feedback

  • First – create a culture where open feedback is possible (see here)
  • Ask permission – ‘If it’s ok I want to talk about yesterday’s client presentation.’
  • State what you saw – ‘I noticed that the changes we agreed were not made to the presentation.’
  • State the impact – ‘This meant that we gave the wrong presentation to the client, who noticed the errors’
  • Find their perspective – ‘It would be great to get your perspective so that we can ensure that this does;t happen again.’
  • Admit everyone’s contribution (as a leader it is a least 50% your fault) – ‘ok, so my guidance could have been clearer and you could have checked with me.’
  • Agree on a way forwards – ‘In the future, let’s have a final check before we send the material to the client.’


Feedback is an essential tool to make yourself and your organisation.  As with any tool, it needs to be used carefully, repeatedly and well.