Giving Constructive Feedback—Focus on the Goals, Not the Person

October 17, 2017 Joanne Maynard


Most leaders and managers dread giving constructive feedback to direct reports. They are concerned that others will see the feedback as negative or critical of them as a person.

A core concept of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ SLII® model can help leaders and managers get over this hurdle by making sure that feedback is focused on a specific task or goal, not on the person themselves.

Focusing solely on the task will pinpoint the type of feedback that is needed and help to keep an individual’s personality out of the equation.

For example, managers who use SLII® begin by setting clear goals with employees—they identify each specific goal or task and what a good job would look like. With these clear goals in place, during a feedback session the manager can provide redirection if they see a gap between the direct report’s development level on the task and the agreed-upon ideal.  Focusing on the task itself helps the manager determine what the direct report can do to move toward closing that gap. Feedback is then focused on finding solutions to close the gap instead of blaming or attacking the direct report.

There are many benefits to framing feedback this way.

  • Feedback is more easily given, since it is not a personal criticism of the receiver. The giver can be specific about the goal or task and paint an image of the ideal that the receiver can work toward.
  • Feedback is more easily heard. Instead of the receiver feeling they must defend their position or blame others, they are more likely to hear and appreciate the feedback. This improves the chance that they will make a positive change.
  • Feedback presented this way fosters further dialogue. Giver and receiver can fully discuss the task and what a good job looks like so they can walk away with clear agreement of what that ideal is.  When both manager and direct report know what the target is, they are much more likely to partner together to hit it.
  • Providing feedback this way has the receiver witnessing the giver being honest and direct, which often accelerates higher levels of trust, performance, and development.

Have you been avoiding a feedback conversation? Focusing feedback on goals and tasks lessens the pressure on both the giver and receiver.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on providing feedback this way!

About the Author

Joanne Maynard headshot.jpegJoanne Maynard is a senior coach with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.


About the Author

Joanne Maynard

Joanne Maynard is a Senior Coach for The Ken Blanchard Companies®. She is a frequent contributor to Blanchard’s LeaderChat blog. Joanne completed the Advanced Corporate Coaching program at Coach U, and received her Associate Certified Coach credential from International Coach Federation.

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