Tag Archives: relationship building

Want Better Feedback Conversations? Prepare the Receiver

Third in a 3-Part Series on Feedback

Giving feedback is not a technical solution. Simply following the steps for delivering feedback will not suffice. One must also employ an adaptive process to manage emotions and behaviors.

The unusual approach for training around delivering feedback is focused on the giver – even though it is the receiver who determines the outcome. If the receiver is unable or unwilling to absorb the feedback it matters little how technically skilled the giver is. Data shows that reducing the fear and stress for the receiver has nearly three times more impact than improving the skills of the giver. How can you help the receiver? By creating a feedback-friendly environment and providing training for the receiver.

If feedback is delivered in a comfortable environment and at a pace the receiver is comfortable with
then the receiver is more likely to absorb the message and understand why it is beneficial.

Creating a Feedback Friendly Environment

Given that feedback is inherently uncomfortable and emotional, it makes sense that an environment where people feel safe to talk about emotions will alleviate some of that stress. Also, when feedback interactions happen often, they become less of a big, scary monster.

Steps for Creating Feedback Environment
  1. Be aware of positive and negative emotion attractors and the impact of both.
  2. Deliver reinforcing feedback at least 7 times more often than corrective feedback.
  3. In reinforcing feedback conversations, focus on a specific action, event, or behavior. Praising talent and ability in general terms can result in risk aversion and heightened sensitivity to setbacks.
  4. Get to know each other as individuals. Build relationships.
  5. Occasionally talk about your own experience with negative emotions, embarrassments, disappointments, anger. Doing so will make others feel it is safe for them to feel those emotions.
  6. Have shorter, more frequent conversations. Several small conversations have a bigger impact than one big feedback session.
  7. Have informal conversations through weekly check-ins.
  8. Don’t call the conversation FEEDBACK. Never say I want to give you some feedback. Instead choose words that describe your intent; for example: I want to discuss progress or performance, describe the impact of your behavior, share positives, or open a dialogue.
  9. Institute the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (below).
Training for the Receiver of Feedback

The main objective of the receiver is to manage emotions and social threats so that they can hear what is being said. The adaptive process of giving good feedback involves allowing the receiver to control the pace of the feedback. Much like health professionals delivering stressful information, leaders should only give feedback as fast as the receiver can absorb it. Instituting the Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights will help with this process.

Feedback Recipient Bill of Rights (with sample script)
  1. You have a choice whether to receive the feedback at this time. “Now is not a good time. Can we do this later?”
  2. You can choose to suspend the feedback conversation if you are unable to continue. “I can’t hear any more right now. Can we finish this later?”
  3. You should restate and validate the reason for the conversation. “So the reason you are sharing this is because…?”
  4. You should test the giver’s assumptions“This is what I am hearing… Is this what you are getting at?”
  5. You have the right to request some time to reflect and schedule a follow-up conversation before any decisions are made. “I need some time to think about this before I respond. Can we finish this conversation later?”
  6. You should reflect back on the conversation when your emotions have subsided. “Ok. (Deep breath.) What does this information mean for me… Can I use it to help me…?”
  7. You should share your insights when you reconvene, without being defensive. “I thought about what you said… It made me feel… This is what I think…”
Questions to Deepen Thinking

What is keeping you from changing your work environment to make it more feedback friendly?
What might happen if you allow a person to postpone or suspend a feedback conversation?
What are the consequences if you don’t allow the receiver to step away from the conversation until emotions subside?

Batista, E. (2013, December). Building a feedback-rich culture.
Batista, E. (2015, February). Make getting feedback less stressful. Harvard Business Review.
Beatty, R. (2015). Feedback: Navigating for individual and organizational effectiveness. Talent Quarterly(5), 51-56.
Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2005) Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion. Harvard Business School Press.
DiNisi, A. S. (2015). Does feedback really work? Talent Quarterly(5), 45-49.
Heen, S. &. (2015). Don’t blame HR if your performance evaluation system doesn’t work. Talent Quarterly(5), 21-24.
Rock, D. (2015). Time to rethink the concept of ‘feedback’. Talent Quarterly(5), 41-44.
Zenger, J. &. (2015). Feedback: The leadership conundrum. Talent Quarterly(5), 31-38.


Related Posts

Feedback: A Dirty Word?
The Two faces of Feedback: Reinforcing and Corrective
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference
Build Empathy Into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations

Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 3: Deconstruct Your Conversations

In our last 2 posts we explored the concept of empathy, why it is important for leaders, and how to invite empathy into your interactions. In part 3 of our empathy series, we will describe how to practice empathy on the back end of interactions by deconstructing your conversations.

Even if you are intentional about building empathy into your interactions, it may not truly blossom in the moment. Critical conversations need to be deconstructed. Once you step aside and ask yourself deconstructive questions, you may uncover more feelings and perspectives from the other person that need to be acknowledged. Deconstructing goes beyond ‘reflecting on’ or ‘evaluating’ a conversation: it provides you with rich data and direction on how to proceed in your follow-up conversation. For example, you can say, “I heard where you are coming from… I appreciate… I see an opportunity to…”

If you deconstruct your conversations, then you will deepen your relationships.

Use the following deconstructive questions to ask yourself, “Did I practice empathy? Did others understand me?”

Did I set the stage for the person to reflect?
Did we schedule a follow-up conversation?
Did I seek to understand the other person’s perspective?
Did I understand what the other person was feeling?
Did the other person understand my perspective and feelings?
What opportunities became apparent?

Write your answers to each of the deconstructive questions. Have new perspectives or insights emerged? Share a summary of your answers with the other person then inquire about their thoughts:

“How do you feel about the previous conversation?”
“Do you have a different view than before?”
“What is your conclusion?”

If you deconstruct your conversations, then you will deepen your relationships.

 Questions to Deepen Thinking

What would listening deeply to others get you?
How is sharing your perspective with others working for you?
What could happen if you don’t deconstruct your conversations?


Kegan, R., & Lahey, L.  (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kofman, F. (2010). Advocacy and Inquiry: Combining the basic steps of the dance of communication. Retrieved March 6, 2011, from Axialent.com.

Related Posts

Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 1
Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference

Build Empathy into Your Interactions Part 2: Climbing the Ladder of Inference

In our last post we looked at the concept of empathy and why it is important for leaders. In part 2 of our empathy series, we will share the first of 2 ways to structure empathy into your interactions.

The Ladder of Inference is a useful tool for practicing empathy and inviting the other person to be empathetic. How does it work? Start at the bottom of the ladder with data. Get all the facts out on the table. As you proceed up the ladder, follow the script as you share your perspectives and feelings. Encourage the other person to do the same. As the conversation emerges and you reach agreement after each step, both of you will understand each other’s perspective. Before taking action, set aside time to deconstruct the conversation.

If you invite empathy into your interactions, then you and the other person will understand where each other is coming from.

Follow the script in the Infographic to build empathy into your conversations:


Questions to Deepen Thinking

What will making a conscious effort to understand another person’s perspective get you?
How is ensuring the other person knows your perspectives working for you?
What would happen if you set aside time for you and the other person to “think about it” before taking action?


Argyris, C. (1982). Reasoning, Learning, and Action: Individual and Organizational (1st ed. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Pub.
Senge, P. Kleiner, A., Roberts, C., Ross, R., Smith, B. (1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. Strategies and Tools For Building a Learning Organization. NY: Doubleday.


Related Posts

Build Empathy into Your Interactions: Part 1 (of 3)

The concept of Empathy is one of the basic components of emotional and social intelligence. It is a critical part of self-awareness, relationships with others, and is key to successful leadership. Empathy is an attribute that consists of three interrelated parts:

  1. understanding another person’s perspective,
  2. considering how that person feels, and
  3. telling the other person you are aware of 1 & 2.

Even for those who excel at this attribute, it is easy to lose sight of empathy in daily interactions. Leaders swim amid a sea of data and emotions, sorting through it all with their own filters and biases. When they are not mindful of empathy, opportunities to build relationships are lost and relationships may even be damaged.

If you build empathy into your interactions, then you will establish trusting relationships.

We have found 2 techniques helpful with empathy:  The Ladder of Inference and Deconstructing Conversations.

(Read how to practice empathy using the Ladder of Inference and Deconstructing Conversations in our April 2015 posts.)

If you build empathy into your interactions, then you will establish trusting relationships.Questions to Deepen Thinking

What will practicing empathy get you?
How are your professional relationships working for you?
What would happen if you built deeper trust into your relationships?


Goleman, D. (2013, December). The Focused Leader: How Effective Executives Direct their Own – and their Organization’s – Attention. Harvard Business Review.

Related Posts

Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of Your Thank You

We cannot underestimate the ‘value of being valued.’  Saying thank you strengthens the bonds between people and re-emphasizes the personal relationship. But a thank you can be even more powerful if it contains the language of ongoing regard. Whether written or spoken it can be transformative for both the sender and receiver. Not only does ongoing regard make both parties feel good, it provides a deeper understanding of the behavior or action being recognized. That recognition is apt to inspire more of that same behavior in the future.

If you make another person feel valued, then they are more likely to support you and your work.

Be Direct.  Deliver your message directly to the recipient. Use the words thank you instead of I’d like to thank…
Be Specific. Describe the precise action you are thanking them for and not personal attributes like generous, helpful, and hard-working.
Reveal Impact. Describe the impact the action had on you, for example: it helped, added, enabled, made better. Avoid using feel-good phrases like, “always there when I need you” or “you did a great job.”

Boast the power of your thank you by describing the impact of the other person's action.

In preparation for delivering your powerful message, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to thank this person?
  • What service/skill/behavior did they exhibit?
  • Why is it valuable?
  • How did their action impact my goals and commitments?

 Use the following 5 steps as a script to keep your thank you short and powerful.

  1. Greet. Spell or say his or her name correctly.
  2. Express gratitude. Start with the words, “Thank you for…” naming  the action/behavior you are thanking them for.
  3. Discuss impact. Describe a positive impact their action/behavior had.
  4. Make reference. What did their action/behavior mean to you? How did it make you feel?
  5. Give regards. Write or say, “Thank You” again in closing.
Things to Avoid

To ensure sincerity, stay away from the following:

  • Don’t use general phrases like, “Nice Job!” or “Thank you for all you did.”
  • Avoid the just writing trap. You are not “just writing to say”– that’s stating the obvious.
  • Don’t share unrelated news. This isn’t the time. This is exclusively about thanking someone for their actions or recognizing their behaviors.

 Questions to Deepen Thinking

  • How is ‘making your employees feel valued’ working for you?
  • What might happen if you start giving unexpected ongoing regard messages?
  • How might people feel if you regularly tell them the positive impact of their actions?


Kegan, R., & Lahey, L.  (2001). How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Related Posts

Networking: 4 Steps to Making Strategic Connections