Feedback: A Primary Function of Excellent Leadership

by Scott Airitam


Providing effective performance feedback is a critical part of a manager’s job.  True leaders understand that getting their people what they need to be successful is the primary function of leadership.  Feedback is a huge part of that.  In fact, according to research done by Lois Csoka and highlighted in the book, 22 Management Secrets to Achieve More With Less, by John H. Zenger, 60% of companies sited “poor or insufficient performance feedback” as the primary cause of deficient performance.  Only 8% cited low compensation.  There are endless studies that detail similar findings.  What this is saying is that most companies are hiring people who are able to do the job correctly, but there is something that is preventing them from that.  Perhaps it is their attitude, or perhaps their attitude is caused by something else within the system.  Whatever the case may be, providing accurate, sufficient performance feedback is critical to getting that person back on track.

So how do we provide sufficient performance feedback?  Well, the first step is usually the hardest.  To begin providing basic, but valuable, performance feedback, use the LIPA Method.


I—Identify With

P—Plan The Response


Just because a manager can give feedback doesn’t mean that he or she does a good job at it.  In fact, many people simply skip the first three stages of the LIPA Method and go straight for Advocating.

To be successful at giving feedback, listening must be where everything begins.  This doesn’t necessarily mean spending five minutes listening to the person try to give their point of view.  The listening phase may take days, weeks, or longer depending upon the situation.  Listening incorporates observation to gather all of the information about the situation.  Once all the person can tell you about the situation and all that you can observe or find out in other ways has been uncovered, then it is time to move to the next phase of the process.

Identifying with the person you are going to provide feedback to is not equivalent to agreeing or sympathizing with them.  It is more akin to clearly understanding their point of view.  In order to do this, more observation may be required, questions are asked in a true spirit of understanding.  During this phase you may determine that your original position on the issue was based on bad or incomplete information, you may find that you clearly understand where the other person is coming from and they have bad or incomplete information, or something in the middle.  This process truly allows leaders to get to the heart of the matter.

Planning the response is probably the most important, but most overlooked, aspect of providing good feedback.  Mixing candor and tact is important here.  Planning how to deliver the feedback so that the receiving party does not get defensive will yield the best results and have a better chance at resulting in the desired behavioral change.  Planning the feedback so that the person changes because he or she understand the benefits for both the organization and for him or her will yield the best long-term results.

It is now time to be an advocate of the position that has come from thorough consideration of all information available.  Strive to put the person at ease as you give them the feedback and be firm.  Do be specific as to what you are providing feedback on and clearly identify the undesirable results of the behavior you are commenting on.  Do be specific about how the performance should change and what the benefits are for all. 

By following this process, leaders will put themselves in a position to create good feedback habits and increase performance results as a result.


Scott Airitam is the president of Leadership Systems (, a company committed to providing organizations with new and inventive ways to maximize the "people systems" within them. Scott can be reached at or (214) 507-9700. 


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