Harness the Power of Skillfully Delivered Performance Feedback

Providing employees with meaningful performance feedback on a regular basis must be at the center of professional and personal development in organizations today. Research confirms that meaningful performance feedback leads to improved job performance and increased motivation and commitment to stay with the job and the organization. A 2021 study conducted by PWC found that 60% of employees who received regular performance feedback from their team leaders were willing to put in extra effort on the job, compared to only 30% of those who had not received regular feedback. Bottomline, ensuring employees know what they are doing well and where they need to improve helps the entire company function more effectively.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

Criticism vs. Constructive Feedback

When providing criticism, leaders often focus on:

  • Identifying employee weaknesses.
  • Pointing out past mistakes.
  • Describing what to avoid in the future.
  • Implying that the employee is the problem.

When providing constructive feedback, leaders focus on:

  • Highlighting employee strengths and accomplishments.
  • Identifying opportunities for performance improvement.
  • Inspiring and motivating future performance.
  • Offering to provide support and guidance as needed.

Three Formats for Providing Performance Feedback

When handled skillfully, each can be a powerful motivator for performance improvement.


Positive reinforcement is the most powerful tool leaders have in their toolbox for establishing supportive relationships with team members and peers. This style is most effective when the recognition is specific and given close to when the positive behavior occurred. For many years studies have shown that when an employee’s effort is recognized, most continue to work hard or harder, and their loyalty to the company increases.


When leaders provide redirecting feedback, they take on a coaching role that offers specific guidance about behaviors that need to change. Tardiness and missing work frequently are examples of behaviors that require redirecting feedback. Avoid blame-placing since it triggers defensiveness. The best approach for reducing defensiveness is for the leader to assume the role of a willing partner in helping the employee make the needed changes – e.g. How can I support you in making the changes we discussed?


Evaluating feedback usually involves comparing the achievements to the expectations. Examples include an unmet business goal or a report that lacked required key data. Evaluating feedback can be a slippery slope because the leader must avoid making the feedback appear to be personal rather than business focused.

When providing evaluating feedback, keep these guidelines in mind:

1) Be aware that underperformers usually know they are underperforming,

2) Be direct and clear about the problems,

3) Encourage self-reflection, and

4) Remain solution focused.

In summary, the ability to provide effective feedback to employees and peers is one of the hallmarks of a good leader. And more broadly, feedback is essential because it clarifies expectations and helps people learn from their mistakes. In my experience, when employees handle feedback constructively, it fosters a culture where disagreements are handled openly and directly, which can lead to improvements in overall organizational performance.