The Art of Delivering Feedback in a Supportive Way

The two keys to doing it right.

By Amy Vetter

As a manager, it's important to deliver feedback that walks the fine line of being both positive and instructive.

If there's one thing all management experience has taught me, it's that feedback is one of the most important parts of the relationship between an employer and employee. It is also one of the most complicated--especially when it comes to critical feedback.

But constructive criticism is very much a necessary part of work life, so it needs to be handled well and in real-time.

Kim Scott's "Radical Candor" is a great way to think about delivering feedback that might not always be easy to hear but is important nonetheless. Kim, a former Google and Apple executive, often points to an experience during her early days at Google when her then-boss Sheryl Sandberg told her she said "um" too often during an otherwise slam-dunk presentation. Sheryl was clear in her criticism and suggested Kim get a speech coach (at Google's expense) to address the issue. Here is a further explanation of why this works:

Sheryl was being Radically Candid. If Sheryl had tried to candy coat her criticism, she would not have gotten through to Kim. Most bosses would not have pressed so hard for fear of being called "mean," or fear of compromising their work relationship, but Sheryl knew she was being kind with her direct criticism. She showed she Cared Personally, knew what she needed to say to help Kim improve long-term, and she had the courage to say it.