Giving Feedback Well

By Nick James Smith

When you’re giving feedback that is negative, however small it seems to you, you need to do it face to face, not by phone or message. And definitely not via social media.

The world’s number 8 golfer, Bryson DeChambeau accepts he sometimes takes more than his allotted 40 seconds to play. After a tournament recently, he was slammed on Twitter and elsewhere for it, and responded by saying, “When you start personally attacking people on Twitter, it’s like, come on, dude. Speak to me to my face about that.”

If you have to give feedback then the simple rule I read from Craig Chappelow of the Center for Creative Leadership is ‘Situation-Behaviour-Impact’.

1. Start with the time and place where you observed the behaviour, to put things in context. And make it as quick after the event as possible.

2. Talk about the actual behaviour you noticed and the facts of what took place. Facts can’t be debated and argued with, simply accepted, however grudgingly.

3. Explain the impact that the behaviour resulted in.

Not judgements, just clarification and explanation.

It’s easy for people to become defensive and reject the feedback at the best of times. And one of the worst-case outcomes is for the team to become polarised as people take sides for or against the person fed back to.

It’s definitely worth doing everything in your power to make sure that the feedback and constructive comments you give are presented in the best way for the recipient to hear them, and therefore take them on board.

Ultimately our aim in feedback is for change to result, but for that it needs to be properly heard. If you just want to get something off your chest then write a journal instead.

About the author

Nick Smith is a Team Coach and Trainer. Within his company, Square Pegs Coaching, he uses outdoor experiences to help people develop themselves and their teams. Through reflecting on this, people discover how they can take further steps in their journey together. Although working mainly in Glasgow and the West of Scotland where he is based, Nick also travels around the UK – if you want to talk about improving your team then then get in touch through his website at