Effective leadership involves providing clear and constructive employee feedback that fosters positive change without damaging relationships. Using a structured 9-step model can help leaders deliver feedback that is specific, supportive, and solution-oriented. This approach includes describing observed behavior, soliciting input, sharing feelings and impacts, asking for needs, offering support, getting commitment, and ending on a positive note. Practicing this method can enhance feedback delivery, minimize hesitation, and attract top talent.

    Effective leadership is not just about delegating tasks and making decisions; it also involves the crucial skill of providing constructive feedback to employees. One of the core skills of a great leader is the ability to provide constructive feedback in a way that is clear, concise and well received.


    The 9-Step Feedback Model

    Too often messages are either vague and unclear or delivered as an emotional blow to an employee’s ego. One way to ensure that your employee feedback is going to lead to change, and not have a negative impact on your relationship, is to have a roadmap for approaching feedback.

    As a leadership coach, I have been using a 9-step model, and sharing it with coaching clients, for many years. Reports back are that the approach removes the hesitation to providing feedback and helps leaders avoid blaming employees. By following these steps, leaders can deliver feedback that is specific, supportive, and solution-oriented.


    Giving Constructive Employee Feedback

    1. Describe the behaviour you observed: “You missed the meeting we had scheduled this morning.”
    2. Solicit input: “What happened?
    3. Share your feelings about the behaviour“I’m disappointed because…
    4. Tell why you feel that way, your thoughts or judgments: “… it makes me think that you don’t give my project much priority.”
    5. Share the impact: “Without your input, we could make a big mistake on our program requirements.”
    6. Ask for what you need: “I need you to attend these meetings and give your input.”
    7. Show support and solicit solutions: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
    8. Get a commitment: “So, you’ll be there for our meeting next Monday?”
    9. End on a positive: “I’m glad we had a chance to talk about this. We really need your experience to win this one.”

    Developing Your Feedback Skills

    Try it out. Practice it. Find a feedback roadmap that works for you. You don’t need to use all the steps all the time. In fact, steps 3 and 4 should only be used if you have strong feelings that will get in the way of the relationship if not shared.

    By practicing this feedback model, leaders can enhance their communication skills, attract top talent, and create a culture of growth and development within their teams. Over time, mastering this skill can make you a magnet for talented individuals who value leaders committed to their personal and professional growth.


    [FROM THE ARCHIVES: This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated with new content.]