Feedback that Actually Works

Feb 2 2016

by Laura Mixon Camacho

questioning girl 650x445

Okay. Who likes to tell people how they did it the wrong way [again]? Or better yet, who likes to be called out when you make a mistake?

For many, a colonoscopy is preferred to receiving or giving corrective feedback. These folks often wait until they’re tottering on the absolute edge of that last frayed nerve, and [over]react with a simmering meltdown, their raucous rantings completely disregarded as incoherence from some mad asylum escapee.

Feedback that actually works is something to love and cherish, much like you value your dental floss.

How can you or anyone get better if you can’t see the missing pieces?

Like overprotective helicopter parents, leaders who fail to correct, or at least question certain behaviors, hold back their people from their greater potential.

Would you hire an athletic coach who only gave pats on the back?

It is your opportunity and privilege to set the boss example by seeking the kind of feedback to constantly up your own game. Similar to how retail operations seek customer feedback, you can proactively solicit suggestions from people you work with.

Here are 2 performance improvement questions you can ask your employees, reports and leadership (also spouses and other family members). Not only will you shock their socks off, always a fun moment, but once you get used to asking, you stop getting stomach pain when corrections or suggestions come your way.

Bam. That ball is in their court. I bet you $5 no one tells you anything the first time you ask that, as the experience for them is far too overwhelming.

However, by the 8th time, you might get a request to actually do something differently. Best of all, and this is so important, you create space and openness in the relationship which only makes it stronger.

I can tell you from personal experience, inviting someone to criticize you does not feel warm and fuzzy. It feels more queasy and sick-like. But much like a workout feels great only after you finish, your self-confidence explodes once you face this dragon mirage.

I can also tell you from personal experience that unless you’re dealing with a total wacko psychopath, the feedback you eventually get will be delivered with care and respect. You will learn things of immense value that you could not have imagined. And that, dear readers, does feel amazing.

There are other things you can do to encourage that “kaizen” or constant improvement at your office or business.

Constantly communicating expectations is the best way I know to set the stage for high performance.

Marketing professionals know that people have to hear a message at least 7 times before it registers. It is not until you are sick of hearing yourself say something that others may actually hear it.

That’s why parental units often begin their rants with “How many times have I told you….?”

Constantly communicating expectations helps, but is no guarantee of top performance.

The second approach is to intervene early and lightly…..long before you get miffed. One phrase that helps a lot with this is

Please help me understand…..

Another tool for you is to ask Why questions!

By asking questions, you get a better idea of what someone was thinking in choosing certain actions. Maybe they had a great idea, but it just didn’t work out properly. Maybe there are training gaps you failed to see before. You don’t want to quash all efforts to try something different.

Put the focus on you. Tim Gunn, the star of Project Runway, used these 2 lines for negative-but-helpful conversation starters.

Here Mr. Gunn in a way, deflects the negative focus to himself and puts the focus on WHY he thinks it’s not working.

And best for last….ask the other person for suggestions. In other words, ask the person to coach him- or herself. Now that’s feedback that pays off big time.

To recap the skinny on helpful negative feedback:

Communication quality is a holograph of relationship quality. And what better asset to cultivate than your relationship capital?

Please let know how I can communicate better with you.


Laura Mixon Camacho View More Blog Posts from this Author

Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and imagination. And public speaking is just a special sort of conversation. Laura creates quirky communication workshops and she does private one-to-one coaching. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills to move your business or career forward with more confidence, more impact and less stress. Read more at

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