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Leaders: Can I give you some feedback?




When coaching leaders who manage a multitude of complex challenges every day of their working lives, many of them tell me that one of the tasks they find most challenging is giving ‘negative’ feedback to their direct reports.

Negative Feedback vs Constructive Feedback

I say ‘negative’ because that is the way it is often framed to me. However personally I prefer the word constructive!

The feedback I get from leaders is that their level of concern around this task often leads them to either avoiding giving the feedback altogether or actually handling it pretty badly and making the experience negative when it doesn’t need to be.

Feedback is the Lifeblood of Service Industries

As someone who spent 18 years in a service industry I know only too well that feedback is the lifeblood of any service organisation. It therefore stands to reason that it’s vital for those people providing the service too.

If you don’t get feedback how on earth do you know if you’re doing a good job or not?

And if you’re not doing a good job how on earth can you learn/grow/improve if no-one tells you that in the first place!?

It’s a key part of the learning cycle and process. We can only improve if we review our performance and often external feedback is the most valuable due to our own blindspots be they because we undervalue ourselves or indeed overvalue ourselves. Hence the enormous benefit of 360 degree reviews when the feedback is handled well.

Giving Feedback is your Responsibility

The fact is that as a leader you owe it to your people to give them constructive feedback. You are currently responsible for their career progression and professional development. It’s actually unfair not to.

So how to go about it?

Caring Candour

I often talk about Caring Candour in my Coaching sessions. You do need to be candid with your people; you need to be open and honest with them no matter how hard that is. However if you give them that feedback because you care about them as individuals and because you care about their personal and professional development then actually it’s much easier for them to hear and take note.

The SH1T Sandwich

Back in the day the cop-out for this was often what we called the SH1T sandwich – and that is a 1 and not an I!

It went something like this:

“I think you’re great…

There was just this one thing…

But you’re great anyway”

Then leaders wondered why their people didn’t get the message and thus change their behaviour!

The fact is that the constructive feedback was buried because the leader didn’t have the courage to give it to them straight.

The key word is candour. You need to be candid and you need to ensure that the right message has been received.

Two great models/frameworks I often share with my coaching clients are the AID model and the BOOST framework.

The AID Feedback Model

AID stands for:



Do/Desired Outcome

So in a one-to-one where you’re giving constructive feedback you keep it really simple and factual:

This is what happened (the Action)

This is what the Impact was (and on whom/what)

This is what we need to Do about it/What do we need to do to ensure we get a better outcome next time?

The BOOST Feedback Framework

The BOOST acronym is the framework by which to give the feedback. It isn’t a model or a process but more a set of principles behind giving good constructive feedback.

So ensure it is:

Balanced – fair and even-handed

Objective – rational and unemotional

Observed – what you personally witnessed

Specific – as specific as possible

Timely – as close to the event as possible

Stick to these principles and it’s hard to go wrong.

Personally I might also add a P and that’s for Privately. The worst kind of feedback is the emotional outburst given in the heat of the moment at someone’s desk! A sure-fire way to destroy trust and undermine your credibility as a leader.

Thus whilst the AID model and BOOST frameworks seem ridiculously simple, many of my Coaching clients find them invaluable for making the process a little less onerous and a lot more effective!


So do your people a favour. Try out these models and frameworks, use caring candour and ensure they get the feedback they need to learn, develop and grow both personally and professionally.

Oh – and take note of this feedback!

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