Feedback – How to do it and why it matters

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us! (Scottish dialect)” — Robert Burns

“Oh would some Power the gift give us, To see ourselves as others see us. (Modern English)” — Robert Burns


Feedback is not merely someone’s opinion. Rather, feedback tells you how you are doing.  It is the cornerstone of leadership because it steers improvement. True, most of us dislike unfavorable feedback, especially if it is unjustified.  Nevertheless, if we treat feedback as information, rather than judgement, it is the foundation of our own transformation. The goal is learning. And improvement means adjusting our behavior, and techniques, based on performance.

Some guidelines:

As Andrew Bass explains, there are a handful of practical guidelines:

  • Be clear on your goals.  Exactly what do you want?
  • Develop a clear scoreboard of success?
  • Get feedback as quickly as possible.  If the information is too stale, it loses relevance.
  • Be objective. Address three questions: What worked? What worked better than before? What can improve?
  • Remember all learning must be applied to worthwhile goals.  Theory without application is not productive (except in academia).

Anecdotally, I spent many decades, running investment banking operations in seven different countries. Whenever I arrived in a new location, I individually met members of the team. I asked three questions: What works? What doesn’t work? What must be changed?

It was amazing. I got priceless insight on my new team. Many had excellent ideas on how to improve the operation. Often the interviewees remarked that no one had ever requested their feedback, before. What a surprise! If you want to improve, everyone is your mentor.

Structure & Timing:

“What gets measured, gets managed.” — WILIAM THOMSON, LORD KELVN

Record the feedback.  There is no magic format, but Andrew Bass suggests a grid:


Which Goals?

How many priorities can we have?  People are neurologically wired to focus on one thing at a time (or at most a few things).  Steven Covey had a definition of ‘wildly important goals’ or WIGs (Covey, 2004, pg. 281).  What makes up a WIG?  There is one test:

WIGs must carry serious consequences, and failure to achieve a WIG makes other goals irrelevant.  For these reasons, it makes sense to have a limited number of WIGs – perhaps three, but no more than five.  To conclude, feedback won’t let us “see ourselves as others see us”; however, feedback is fuel for personal, team and organizational improvement.


Use the 3Q Formula to build on strengths (from Andrew Bass).  Retrieved from   

Covey, S. R. (2004). The 8th habit: From effectiveness to greatness. New York, NY: Simon Schuster Ltd

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