January 3, 2018

7 Ways Conscious Leaders Give Feedback From Presence vs. Reactivity

Giving feedback from presence. Here's how.

One of our MergeLane portfolio CEO’s -- Nadya Nguyen of Hidrate -- recently sent me this generous text:

“You’re the best person at giving feedback I know.”


“Can you give me some pointers on how to deliver feedback well?”

Nadya Nguyen, CEO of Hidrate

Let’s see if you think I’m any good at this (many of you have probably had some positive and the inevitable, hopefully occasional, not good experience of receiving feedback from me).

Here’s what I wrote:

Hi. Thanks for the compliment. I’m not sure, but here are the best tips I came up with for giving feedback from presence:

  • I ask the person to whom I’d like to give feedback if they are available to hear it. I want to be sure they don’t agree just because they’re accommodating or because they report to me. I really want them to check if it is a good time.
  • I check to see if my heart is wide open before giving feedback. I’m a challenger by nature (Nadya is too), and when I go south with feedback, it’s usually delivered with more intensity or edginess than is required.
  • I check to be sure there is no urgency in giving the feedback. Urgency is a sign for me that I’m too wrapped up in the issue and my emotional reactions to give quality feedback as a conscious leader.
  • I share my intention in giving the feedback, which often is something like “I want to strengthen our relationship” or “I want to be fully revealed to you” or “I want you to know me better” or “I want our company/relationship to be more successful."
  • Before giving the feedback, I own my own projections or my own bias in seeing the situation the way I see it. I take some responsibility for how the situation was created, or I mention that I might be over-sensitive to the issue because I’ve been hurt in the past by a situation that reminds me of this one. Perhaps I have a similar issue myself and therefore feel more triggered by the situation than I might otherwise. I wonder about this myself, and I share what I come up with at the start of a feedback session.
  • I endeavor to be VERY mindful of giving positive feedback when I have THAT. I try to give “positive” feedback with as much detail and care as I give “negative” feedback. I do not buy into the notion of a “feedback sandwich” -- positive, negative, positive -- in one sitting. I simply pay attention to ensure I’m sharing feedback or withholds in close to real time. The most commonly withheld feedback often is positive.  
  • I work to give the feedback without attachment to the outcomes.

When I’m in a situation where open feedback from presence is encouraged -- with friends, partners, or colleagues -- there usually is one additional practice. When someone gives me feedback, I work to hold back responses. Responses might be defensive reactions, rapid disagreements, or quick “fixing.” I want to stay present as a listener, and when the speaker giving the feedback is complete, I simply say “thank you.” I might return hours or days later to offer some response, but I give us both space to ensure that any response is offered from choice and not reactivity.

Do you have any tips for giving quality feedback? I’d love to hear about them.

If you think this is interesting, get the full range of actionable insights to transform your leadership and your life at a 3-day MergeLane Leadership Camp. 2018 Camps are scheduled for women and for men and women together. Learn more and grab your seat today.

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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