Give Better Feedback: 5 Tips that Motivate

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Leaders regularly deliver feedback to their team members, but how valuable are those conversations? Eric Johnson, MBA’01, executive career coach and executive director of the Kelley School of Business Graduate and Career Services, believes a person’s professional growth is directly tied to the extent they allow feedback to guide them in their journey.

With feedback having such a vital role, Johnson offers five tips to hone your delivery:

1. Give the benefit of the doubt

Think about a time when you’ve critiqued a person’s actions: Did you assume the intentions were bad? Often, we base our comments on an assumed perception of the person’s intentions, and this leads to a poor reception of our feedback. By showing more empathy and withholding judgment, your conversation will be more specific and helpful.

2. Don’t get personal

When people are upset with each other, the feedback shared between them is not well received and almost never accepted. Focus on the task or the action, and not on the person. When the feedback needs to be personal—for example, about hygiene, attitude, or a values violation—it’s important that it be given by someone the recipient trusts. Importantly, it must be clear that it’s coming from a place of care and not of harm.

3. Be positive!

Feedback doesn’t have to be negative, even though the word itself has taken on a negative connotation. Make sure you let people know when they do something well or when you spot one of their strengths in action. Offering kudos builds trust and establishes a foundation for when constructive or personal feedback might be needed in the future.

4. Be forward-looking

When you take the time to focus on how to help someone succeed in the future rather than criticize their past, the feedback comes across more positively and is better received. A subtle shift toward constructive, actionable recommendations will coach people to better handle similar situations.

5. Tailor your approach

Individuals accept feedback differently depending on their personality type. If your organization offers a personality assessment like Keirsey or Myers-Briggs, you can use an individual’s personality type to better frame your feedback. A direct, less emotional approach might work well with one person, while another person might respond better to idea-oriented and example-driven conversations.

Putting these tips into action will not only strengthen the quality of your leadership, but it will improve both your and the team’s performance throughout your professional journeys.


This story appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. To view the current and past issues of the IUAM, visit MyIU.org.

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Written By
Lacy Nowling Whitaker
Lacy, a Bloomington native, earned two degrees from IU Bloomington (BA'08, MA'14) and is a senior content specialist with the IU Alumni Association.