Peer Advisory & Executive Coaching Blog

Do CEOs Know the 8 Words to Avoid When Giving Feedback?

Whether your the CEO, the owner, or just the Boss-  sooner or later, you're going to have to tell someone that their performance isn't what you expect.



Do you know the 6 Best Practices for Giving Feedback?

Communicating feedback can be a minefield.  One mis-step and you can blow up a relationship that took years to build.  And it's not just employee feedback.  Sometimes you have to deal with peers and even bosses who need a little change in behavior.

By using the best practices for giving feedback, your constructive suggestions will help your team reach higher levels of performance.  You will be able to position your feedback in a helpful, insightful way.

These are the 6 Best Practices for Giving Feedback

1.  Ask Permission.

"Are you open for some Feedback?"  You may not actually want permission, but even a simple, "Hey, do you have a second for some quick feedback?" will go a long way to preparing the receiver to be mentally ready for it, be it positive or negative.

2.  Say what you observed or heard.

Use specific examples and avoid being judgmental.  "You really piss-people-off!"  is not as helpful as "I noticed that Joe reacted really badly to your report."  

3. Explain the impact.  

Point out the direct consequences of the behavior (and unintended consequences), and again be as specific as possible.  Saying, "it made me feel you don't value my ability" or "it makes people get upset" are difficult to argue with.  It keeps the session from turning into a debate.  Feelings and judgments are real whether they were unintended or not.

4.  Pause.  

Ask for their reaction.  Give them time to think through what you've said and react to it.

5.  Offer only one or two suggestions.  

Give them actionable ways to change their behavior in the future. 

6.  End on a positive note.  

You might say, "Thanks for listening."   

Watch Out For The 8 Words to Avoid in Giving Feedback

  1. You
  2. Always
  3. Never
  4. However
  5. You're
  6. Why
  7. Should
  8. But

Using these words is like "spraying lighter fluid on the fire."  Any one of these words can ignite anger and defensiveness- and true listening will be impossible.  

It may seem un-natural to exclude these words from your conversation.  You might consider writing out exactly what you are going to say so you can edit out the 8 Words to Avoid.

The best way to be sure you do a good job communicating your feedback is to Role Play before you actually confront the other person. If you can't find anyone willing to practice with you, you could just record yourself on your smart phone or computer.  Listen carefully to see if you are conveying the message you intend.  The words often sound different out loud than they did inside your head.


This all may sound like a lot of work- especially if you're the Boss and the other person works for you- but the reward can be worth the effort.

Giving feedback is a "real life" management issue that we discussed in our Seacoast Vistage CEO Peer Group monthly meeting.  One of our NH CEOs raised the problem with a poor performing manager.  This article is the result of the ensuing discussion and suggestions from the other CEO members.

The group meets monthly to help one another grow our businesses.  
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