Giving Constructive Feedback—Focus on the Goals, Not the Person

Most leaders and managers dread giving constructive feedback to direct reports. They are concerned that others will see the feedback as negative or critical of them as a person.

A core concept of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Situational Leadership® II model can help leaders and managers get over this hurdle by making sure that feedback is focused on a specific task or goal, not on the person themselves.

Focusing solely on the task will pinpoint the type of feedback that is needed and help to keep an individual’s personality out of the equation.

For example, managers who use Situational Leadership® II begin by setting clear goals with employees—they identify each specific goal or task and what a good job would look like. With these clear goals in place, during a feedback session the manager can provide redirection if they see a gap between the direct report’s development level on the task and the agreed-upon ideal.  Focusing on the task itself helps the manager determine what the direct report can do to move toward closing that gap. Feedback is then focused on finding solutions to close the gap instead of blaming or attacking the direct report.

There are many benefits to framing feedback this way.

  • Feedback is more easily given, since it is not a personal criticism of the receiver. The giver can be specific about the goal or task and paint an image of the ideal that the receiver can work toward.
  • Feedback is more easily heard. Instead of the receiver feeling they must defend their position or blame others, they are more likely to hear and appreciate the feedback. This improves the chance that they will make a positive change.
  • Feedback presented this way fosters further dialogue. Giver and receiver can fully discuss the task and what a good job looks like so they can walk away with clear agreement of what that ideal is.  When both manager and direct report know what the target is, they are much more likely to partner together to hit it.
  • Providing feedback this way has the receiver witnessing the giver being honest and direct, which often accelerates higher levels of trust, performance, and development.

Have you been avoiding a feedback conversation? Focusing feedback on goals and tasks lessens the pressure on both the giver and receiver.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on providing feedback this way!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard headshot.jpegJoanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.

4 thoughts on “Giving Constructive Feedback—Focus on the Goals, Not the Person

  1. I appreciate the shift in focus when giving feedback. Often as an employee or (as a husband seeking to manage all there is to do at home) I mean to do better than I do, but get lost in the attempt because of so many competing priorities. When my boss (or my wife) sits down to talk with me about how I am missing the mark, it makes a huge difference to simply focus on what needs to be shored up and how, rather than shaming me for my poor performance. I already am frustrated at my performance – what I need is a re-direct in my focus and help in knowing how to get there. Thanks Joanne!!

  2. Thank you Mark! Appreciate your transparency. I too do better if people discuss what they would like to see me do – versus just telling me where I fall short.

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