It can be difficult to hear that you made a big blunder or didn’t do a job well, but the key to learning from a mistake for pretty much everyone is all in the delivery of the message. Feedback, whether given or received, is one of the toughest assignments that any leader will ever have to master.

Why is it important to give feedback? Well that question, seems a rather obvious one. But in reality it is much more complex and essential than it may appear. So, first, let’s look at what feedback is. I would define it as an important tool used by leaders to provide direction, guidance, and impart wisdom or share experiences. It is also a valuable resource, which when used constructively, can re-direct efforts, show the way on a first-time project, and/or correct misunderstanding.

Isn’t it interesting that the English language is so eloquent and verbose, yet it is clearly subject to interpretation? Let’s test a hypothesis. I point to a wall across the room and tell you to… “go paint it yellow, but don’t ask any questions and don’t do it wrong.” Did I give you the tools that you need to do that job well? Of course not. You can tell someone to paint a wall yellow but you must also give instruction or feedback. Later, when you get a myriad of questions such as how much time do I have to do that, what shade of yellow, and how much area of that wall should you paint - you must be prepared to give useful feedback.

What is the value of feedback? Feedback is the cornerstone for improvement. It is also the basis for all learning. But truly helpful and beneficial feedback, comes from experience - and the heart - and has nothing to do with position in the organization, level of authority, or even age. It really has to do with experience. The “giver” has to have the desire to help another individual grow and learn through information. Ultimately that leader becomes better and smarter by gaining perspective on what people need to be successful. Therefore, in my opinion, mastering the art of feedback is an essential tool of an effective leader.

Useful feedback should be given without malice or provocation. It must be provided in a way that benefits the receiver and clarifies the purpose or the intent. It should never include sarcasm or contempt, because that would not be feedback. Improper feedback is damaging to self-esteem, is judgmental and ineffective, and has no place in a productive, enterprising and creative workplace. You can only discover the best in people if you are willing to share with them the best in you.

I am going to close this article with the following quote… “All effective and engaging learning experiences come from frequent and meaningful feedback. Without feedback on whether or not one is getting closer to a goal, progress is highly unlikely.” - author unknown