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ATD Blog

Feedback Fix: Kill the Lists and Keep It Light

Friday, July 5, 2019

The call to fix feedback is loud and clear. Data confirms that fixing feedback is good for your business, good for leaders, and good for your people. I think most of us who’ve been lucky enough to experience helpful feedback also recognize that it’s good for the soul. Regardless of whether you’re offering or receiving feedback, when we get it right, feedback can touch us deeply, changing who we are and who we’ll be. Simply put, great feedback can shape our trajectory and those of the people around us.

Great feedback experiences are anchored in three Fs: fairness, focus, and frequency. In my previous blog post, I explored the relationship between fairness and trust; now let’s focus on, well, focus.

I love the concept of focus for fixing feedback. Why? Because focus makes everything easier. It’s a simple idea with a huge impact. It releases us from the heavy burden of overstuffed reviews and assessments while at the same time freeing us to bring clarity and specificity. Adopting focus as a feedback fix means we step away from the lists of strengths and weaknesses, the ups and downs, the longwinded reviews, and the multidimensional assessments. Instead of these exhausting and largely despised mechanisms, we zero in on what matters—the one thing that’s meaningful, most important, most relevant, and, quite likely, most interesting.

Here are three simple ways to let go of the overstuffed and overdone feedback format of the past and get focused:

Focus Your Ask


When seeking feedback, don’t use the open-ended, “How am I doing?” Not only does that question create stress for the person you’re asking, it also means the feedback you’ll get could be about anything. It’s like feedback roulette—what you get might have little to do with what you truly care about.

Share the Specifics of What You Noticed


If you want to tell someone they rocked it, tell them something specific you noticed at which they excelled. Similarly, if you witness someone struggling to achieve their full potential, ask if you can share one change that you think could lead to greater impact.

Focus on What Matters

A feedback conversation should be about what matters to the receiver. When seeking insights, it’s important to focus on what you need and from whom. If you’ve been asked to provide feedback, ensure you understand the future to which the seeker aspires. That allows you to share feedback in the context of their desire—feedback focused on what matters.

About the Author

Tamra Chandler is founder and CEO of PeopleFirm LLC, one of Forbes 2018 "America's Best Management Consulting Firms." Tamra spent her 30-year career developing effective ways for people and organizations to perform at their peak. She is a nationally-recognized thought leader and speaker and author of How Performance Management Is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It. Her latest book, Feedback (And Other Dirty Words), was published June 2019.

Tamra started PeopleFirm with a vision to deliver measurable, meaningful results using people-centered solutions. PeopleFirm has become a go-to partner in its field and consistently earns local and national recognition as a top place to work.

Previously, Tamra was managing partner for Arthur Andersen's PNW Business Consulting practice, and executive in charge of People and Solutions at Hitachi Consulting. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Montana State University and a MBA from the University of Washington.

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