May 2024

LEADER PRACTICE No. 14: Sharing the Gift of Feedback

Effective leaders understand the value of feedback—and readily share it. Yet many of us are reluctant to give the gift of honest assessment. Offering feedback often makes us uncomfortable. The word itself, feedback, can trigger a threat response. With practice we can learn to offer feedback that supports learning and minimizes reactivity. When preparing to share feedback, it is important to pause, center, and check-in with ourselves. Before making an offer, we assess our emotions, intention, and available facts. We ask recipients for permission to share feedback with them. And we deliver the information at a time when the receiver will be most receptive to it. (e.g., “I have a few observations for you. When would be a good time to share them?”)

The SBIR feedback model developed by the Center for Creative Leadership provides a framework for organizing feedback:Click to view largerMake sure the observed behaviors you share are facts, not interpretations. (e.g., “Didn’t show up to three meetings.” versus “You are unreliable.”) Pause and ask questions between the Impact and the Request steps, like “What’s your perspective?” or “What recommendations do you have?” Remember to actively listen.

Many of us refrain from offering feedback, deterred by concerns about the person’s feelings or anticipation of a strong negative reaction. If that happens you can try using ACT, a three-step method for working with strong or emotional responses.Click to view largerThe space you need to create may last for a few minutes or several days. Ideally, you and the recipient of your feedback will commit to resuming the conversation on a specific date and time. We can’t control people’s reactions, but we can offer feedback in a way that is intentional and increases the likelihood of professional growth.


  • Consider some of the following questions as you prepare:
    • What are my intentions for this feedback?
    • What do they need to hear for their learning and growth?
    • Is this fact-based or my interpretation? What stories might I be making up about this?
    • How will I ask permission to share?
    • How will I stay curious?
  • Script and deliver your feedback using the SBIR model.
  • If you get a strong reaction, try using ACT: Acknowledge, Create Space and Transition.

The following video from The Annie E. Casey Foundation describes how to do the S B and I portion of the SBIR model.

Until next month…

Dana's signature

Founder and Principal Coach