In a leadership class I teach at UHD, a student recently expressed frustration and indignation about the process they were learning for
giving effective performance improvement feedback. “I shouldn’t have to pussy-foot around. If someone’s not doing a good job, I should
just be able to tell them directly.”
There are two misconceptions in this statement: (1) the perception that direct feedback is not acceptable and (2) the implication that
indirect feedback, or “pussyfooting” as he called it, is likened to being compassionate and preferred. Both are false.
Indirect feedback lacks clarity. Leaving someone not knowing how to interpret your words is the opposite of compassionate. It leaves
them guessing and wondering what, if anything, they need to do.
Direct feedback can be compassionate. It’s about style, authenticity, caring and context. Leaders care about people.
Being firm and direct are not incompatible with caring. The most effective feedback is clear, honest, supported by evidence and
observations, and provides guidance on how to improve.
As a leader, your tone, style and intent matter. So do your words.