In business, we all need feedback from our clients and colleagues in order to make improvements to our service.  

Although the following was written mainly for leaders in organizations, the principles are applicable in every situation – large and small businesses, solo enterprises, family, and community.

Here are a few ways to ask for feedback gracefully:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate the quality of our (friendship, service, relationship) over the past (week, month, year)?
  • What would it take to make it a 10?
  • Is our relationship what you expected? What has been your experience using this (product, service)?
  • How have I (we) met your …… needs?
  • What would have to happen for you to …….?

On asking for feedback (based on The Success Principles by Canfield & Switzer)

On Giving Feedback (both positive & negative)

As leaders, we are constantly required to give feedback to our employees and colleagues. “Giving quality feedback doesn’t have to do with a skill or technique, it has more to do with caring enough about people to tell it like it is.” It requires a “generosity of spirit” to give feedback on strengths as well as areas that need improvement. (Masterful Coaching – Robert Hargrove)

  • Take a moment of reflection to view the recipient as a vulnerable person with feelings.
  • Ask yourself how you can make this a learning experience rather than a demand.
  • Be ready to explain that you have some feedback to give and be prepared to jointly explore how to proceed.
  • Be straightforward; speak with honesty and integrity, but do not sugarcoat or use transparent techniques such as sandwiching a negative between two positives.
  • Avoid disgust, contempt, sarcasm, harsh/angry tones, put-downs and blanket statements like “your communication skills need to change.” Be sensitive to the recipient’s feelings.
  • Link your feedback to what the recipient cares about – their goals and aspirations.
  • Be a steward for the organization’s system, knowing that you do not know everything about it. Recognize your own contribution to the system.
  • Be prepared to explore your own assumptions about the situation. Is your opinion the only possible opinion? Be curious about other possible interpretations.
  • Ask leading questions that lead to a discovery of what’s missing rather than what’s wrong. Observe where the breakdown is, separate causes from effects, look for creative solutions.
  • Use specific examples. Describe the situation in objective language. Example: “This is what you said”
  • Explore the impact and consequences of the situation. Example: “This is how it was said, and this is how it landed.”
  • Look for alternate impacts and consequences together. Emphasize potentials for contribution.
  • Collaboratively develop a specific change goal by creating a vision for the future.
  • Discuss what supports and learning strategies are required and where to find them.
  • Consider further and frequent dialogue with the recipient.
  • Recognize people for who they are, not just their accomplishments. “I’ve noticed you are a person of principle.”

Coaching Questions to Stimulate Reflection About Your Life & Work

  1. When was the last time you asked for feedback? What was the quality of what you received? How could you be more specific in your request?
  2. When was the last time you gave feedback? Were you happy with the outcome? What will you try the next time you give feedback?

Photo of author

Lowell Ann Fuglsang

Greetings from LowellAnn,

In my workstyle-lifestyle coaching work I love helping solopreneurs find direction, stay motivated and build systems that both support and promote their business. A great place to begin is the Solopreneur Evaluation Tool that will tell you where you need to put more time and energy.

Leave a Comment