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Making It Stick: Five Rules For Delivering Effective Feedback

by Dave Anderson, author of “How to Lead by The Book: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges

Part of being a leader is telling your team members how their performances are measuring up. Whether you’re handing out praise or facing a you-need-to-improve conversation, here are five tips excerpted from my book How to Lead by The Book: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges that will help you make the most of your feedback.

Rule #1: Don’t delay.

Give feedback as quickly after an action as possible. Delayed consequences lessen the impact of your message and can render feedback as little more than an afterthought.

Rule #2: Be specific.

Be precise rather than general. Jesus did not say, “This guy is impressive,” when speaking of the centurion, who believed that Jesus had the authority and power to heal his sick servant from afar, without seeing him in person. Rather, Jesus specifically pointed out exactly what was impressive: the centurion’s faith. When you are specific, you accomplish two things:

o You let other people know that you care enough about them and their performance to pay attention to precisely what they did.
o When you reinforce someone’s specific behavior, that person is more likely to repeat that same behavior.

Rule #3: Share praise.

Patting someone on the back is not likely to make that person lazy. Sure, there are a handful of sluggards who use positive reinforcement as an excuse to crawl into a hammock and take a nap, but the majority will try even harder to please you in the future and to live up to the expectations they have created through solid past performance.

Rule #4: Know your audience.

It’s important to customize your feedback to the individual, because you’ve got to know people in order to move them to action. Temper the style and tone of your feedback depending on who is on the receiving end—without clouding your message, that is. Paul gives his young mentee, Timothy, excellent advice in this regard: “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father; younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2).

Rule #5: Be consistent.

Failing to confront an unsatisfactory behavior invites more of the same. This is because the absence of a consequence for a derelict act, in effect, reinforces it.


Dave Anderson is author of “How to Lead by The Book: Proverbs, Parables, and Principles to Tackle Your Toughest Business Challenges“, is president of Dave Anderson’s Learn to Lead, and has given over 1,000 leadership presentations in thirteen countries. He is also the author of “How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business“; “If You Don’t Make Waves, You’ll Drown“; “Up Your Business!“; “How to Deal with Difficult Customers“; and the TKO business series, all from Wiley. He and his wife, Rhonda, are co-founders of The Matthew 25:35 Foundation, which helps feed, educate, and house under-resourced people throughout the world.


This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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