Feedback is an important process in relationships. The emotionally intelligent leader knows how to give and receive feedback.


As we have seen as we looked at the JoHari Window, feedback is important in helping us develop self-awareness, awareness of others and in growing relationships with others.  As leaders we will we often be called upon to provide feedback to others. In fact this is an important tool for the Christ-centred servant leader whose goal is to grow others so that they can fulfil their full potential.

Sharing feedback, especially negative feedback, is a delicate matter and empathy is crucial. As the giver of feedback we need to put ourselves in the other person shoes so that we can be effective in our Christ-centred goal of helping them benefit from it and grow some more.

  • Giving Feedback:
    When you give feedback we are communicating to a person or group as to how their behavior is affecting or influencing you.

  • Receiving Feedback:
    When you receive feedback from others you have the opportunity to learn how your behavior is affecting or influencing them.

Feedback may be verbal, non-verbal or both, so learning to read body language is important. We all have that skill to some degree but we may not be conscious of it.

Because the feedback process can be emotionally sensitive our empathy with the other person is vital to its success. Without it we will lack some crucial guidance as to how we should interact with the other person as we give and receive feedback.

Giving Feedback

One of the guides to giving feedback is the BOOST model, which highlights five aspects of giving feedback:

  • Balanced
    The feedback needs to be focused on both the receiver’s development needs and strengths, the positive and the negative. Development needs may be either negative or positive. The negative aspects are things that need correction but when there are positives these also need to be built upon.  Where feedback is negative then it’s good to include positives. Remember the goal is the benefit of the receiver, helping them to achieve their full potential.

  • Observed
    Feedback must be based on the observed facts not our thoughts, feelings or opinions.  Remain aware of the Ladder of Inference and its implication for our perception and interpretation of events. When the receiver begins to work out how to respond we will have the opportunity to sensitively coach them and help them identify suitable development actions.

  • Objective
    It is important not to focus on the receiver’s personality only but on their behavior. It’s easier to adjust behavior, especially where it is a matter of training or practice and experience. Therefore be objective, be factual and focus on actions and outcomes. Be descriptive not evaluative and judgmental.

  • Specific
    Support and illustrate the feedback with specific examples of observed behaviour. It’s hard for the receiver to work with generalities and much easier with specific issues. 

  • Timely
    Being timely means giving the feedback as soon as is reasonably possible.  Why reasonably?  Well the other person’s actions may have made you angry or upset, in which case it’s better to say nothing until you have regained your equilibrium.  In any event, the feedback needs to be given sufficiently close to the issue under consideration for the details to be remembered.

Additionally, if the feedback was not solicited but the initiative to provide it is yours then, remember to gain the receiver’s agreement. Avoid just dumping it on them. It’s also good to make sure that the feedback session will take place somewhere that is conducive to the process and free from distractions, such as the telephone.

Receiving Feedback

The goal of feedback is to enable the receiver, potentially you, to grow and develop in order to fulfill their (your) full potential, therefore you need to be prepared to receive it.  There is no point in asking others to give you feedback unless you are prepared to be open to it and to consider comments which differ from your own perceptions.

The following five points are intended to help you be effective in receiving and benefiting from feedback:

  •  Be explicit about what you need and why you want feedback.

    When you solicit feedback, be clear as to what you are seeking, what kind of feedback you want and what you want achieve from it.  Unless your requirements are clear, the other person is unlikely to be able to fulfill your expectations.

  •  Be attentive; listen carefully and seek to understand, ask for clarification.

    When receiving feedback give your full attention to the task and work to achieve understanding. This may mean that your need to ask questions to clarify what has been shared and you need to reflect back what you have heard, paraphrasing the feedback to confirm understanding.  It is important to focus on what the person wants you to know, not on what you would like to hear.

  • Be aware of your own reactions, remain objective and avoid rejecting and censoring the feedback.

    This is where self-awareness comes into play; notice your own emotional and intellectual reactions to the feedback and the person giving it. Be careful that you do not filter what is being shared because you reject or censor it. If the other person has a perspective of events that is not aligned with yours, don’t dismiss it but recognise the difference, it may be no less valid than your viewpoint.

  • Be silent; avoid responding, except to clarify, and avoid both preparing your response and the temptation to explain.

    When receiving feedback, especially negative feedback, one can be so tempted to take on the debate, to explain or justify your own actions. Doing this will minimise the value of the feedback so refrain from making a response. Don’t even begin to frame a response in your own mind until you have listened carefully to what has been said and have considered the implications. Don’t use the excuse of correcting factual errors to avoid hearing and resonating with the substance of what has been said. If you need to explain, wait until the other person has completed their feedback.

  •  Be reflective; at the end seek recommendations if appropriate, then review the feedback and work out your action plan to benefit from it.

    Once you have received the feedback, honestly and openly consider it with care and then formulate your action plan. Remember, the JoHari “Bull-in-the-Chins-Shop”. Their Blind Spot was huge because they never took any notice of the feedback that was given. If the feedback raises issues and you find difficult then talk it through with someone that you trust.

The Spiritual Dimension

With negative feedback it is possible that we become offended or feel hurt and so respond with anger and unforgiveness towards the giver. Sometimes the feedback may make us anxious.  If this is the case we need to recall and work through the Biblical injunctions before God:

  • To not let the sun go down on our anger. Ephesians 4:26

  • To forgive. Matthew 5:14&15

  • To not be anxious but bring the issue to God. Philippians 4: 4-7

We need not address the issues raised through feedback on our own; we can work these things through with God in prayer. We can also engage the help of  a trusted confidant.

  • Take a Moment: Plan a mock Feedback Session for someone (You won’t have to deliver it unless you use a real, live situation)
    • Identify the purpose of the feedback.
    • Make notes against the BOOST model points.

  • Take a Moment: If you can, solicit some feedback from someone – it could be to open up your JoHari Window with them.
    • If they are not used to giving feedback then explain the BOOST model to them and ask them to try to use it.
    • Plan the feedback session.
    • Use the 5 receiving feedback guidelines.