How to Give Corrective Feedback the First Time

Don’t overwhelm your staff with constructive criticism once they’re ready for it. Now that you’ve learned to give positive feedback and got comfortable with giving feedback continuously, you’ve focused on catching people doing things right, how and when should you introduce constructive criticism without freaking anybody out?

First, start giving constructive feedback to the people who want it most. Not that ones that need it the most. The people who are most open to getting better at what they do are usually those who are already pretty good. That’s how they got that way. You’re trying to develop your skills too, which means practising first on those that are most receptive will make the learning experience better for you.

If you’re the kind of manager who believes in building relationships with your staff by using regular one-on-one meetings*, then the opportunity will probably come up sooner than later. That means somebody will ask for feedback. If you meet regularly with your staff and watch them in action, you have a pretty good idea of some things you want to share with them.

It’s tempting, or sometimes it happens accidentally, that we over-share at this point. Yes, you want to develop your people. Yes, your staff wants feedback, they’re asking for it, even begging for feedback. This is not the time to pull out “the list” and start reviewing everything they’ve done wrong for the last six weeks.

Start small, keep it casual, and keep it to one thing. You want to see how they handle it. You might want to adjust how you give them feedback in the future. You might have to revisit the same issue a couple of times before it becomes habit. Changing is hard, even for smart people who want to change.

You also want to keep the relationship safe. You’ve spent a lot of time and energy on getting things to this point. Overwhelming somebody with all the things they’ve done wrong in the last six weeks is a good way to sabotage your effort. You’re building a long-term relationship, so patience is a virtue. When it comes to people going slow is the only way to go fast. Discover their style and pace, build up slowly, and you’ll have time to get it all in.

All the effort you’ve put in so far gives you credibility. Spend it wisely. Go too fast, and you’ll spook the horses.

*and if not, why not? Don’t have time to direct, oversee, and develop your staff? Then what are you doing?

Bernie works as a leadership and business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well, and that not to do anything about bad leadership once you know about it is abuse. Check out what he does with


3 responses to “How to Give Corrective Feedback the First Time

  1. Pingback: How to Give Corrective Feedback | Practical Managers

  2. Pingback: How to Give Positive Feedback | Practical Managers

  3. Pingback: How to Give Positive Feedback | Practical Managers

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