Clear Is Kind

Posted by on September 25, 2023

Clear Is Kind

When I present on the leadership skill of feedback, I ask the managers, “who likes to receive feedback?” Almost all the hands go up. (No surprise; high performers want feedback so they know how to improve.)

Then I ask the managers, “who likes to give feedback?” Almost all the hands go down.

Managers often find it scary to give feedback. They are afraid that the employee will get angry or upset or defensive. That can happen. Most employees receive constructive criticism with at least an “ouch,” if not a full blown melt-down (maybe internal, maybe external). But how you give the feedback can help the receiver to be more open and receptive.

Here are a few tips:

  • Give feedback because you care about the employee’s growth and development – not because you are irritated. Feeling hangry? Then go have a sandwich and ground yourself in the desire to help your employee.
  • Be transparent about why you are giving the feedback. Is this just a conversation to help the employee develop in their career, or is their performance off track? If they are under-performing, give them specific examples of what better performance looks like.
  • Don’t assume an under-performer is aware they are off track – or that they know how to fix it. If they seem shut-down by the feedback, you can give them some time to think about what you’ve said and reconvene at a later time for a conversation about how to turn things around.
  • Avoid a feedback sandwich; that is, don’t bury a piece of constructive feedback in-between two pieces of positive feedback. It may make you feel better, but the receiver is likely to be confused.

What I tell my managers is this: clear is kind. In the moment, the feedback may hit the other person hard. But they will remember later that you cared enough about them to tell them the truth. A truth they need to be aware of whether they stay in their current role and develop – or not.

Note that feedback gets easier with practice, and it is a teachable skill. If no one has taught you, check in with your boss, your HR department or an executive coach!

Great feedback is a gift!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at