Say it, but Say it Nicely

This week we had the pleasure of delivering a coaching course to one of our favourite clients. We were lucky to have a fantastic simulation actor from playsThatwork and we facilitated the simulator and a participant in the course through a coaching session.

Discover.Feedback.Difficult Conversations.

Our Coaching Methodology relies on three themes:

1. Discover: Build relationships through kindness and curiosity (leaving no room for anger and resentment) through open questions.
2. Feedback: Give constructive and positive feedback clearly and often, always asking for permission (May I offer you some feedback?)
3. Difficult Conversations: Prepare for these conversations, open with mutual objectives, deepen your understanding, and solve the problem together!

Today I’d like to focus on number two. A colleague of mine found this note in an old archived folder of work stapled onto a report, and when I left my last job, my team had it framed for me because I thought it was so funny.
In our fast paced electronic world, we’re often giving feedback on documents, presentations, or deliverables. How can we do it best in writing when we can’t express or read facial expressions and body language? How can you discover more information from the person you are giving feedback to, so that you understand their intentions?

Have you ever received written feedback that sounds like this?

Dear Barb,
Thanks for your document. See my feedback below:

  • Please change page three, remove capitals, change spacing and remove bullet.
  • Why did you include section 6.4.2? I thought we agreed not to.
  • I changed the entire second paragraph so it reads more easily.

Wow. How do you think Barb feels after she slaved over the document for 3 days, over the weekend?

Want to learn how to give better written feedback? Read on!

It’s all in the subtext…

Here are some tips for giving written feedback.

1. Ask for permission.
Even in an email! People read emails in their voice or your voice in their head! It sets the stage for the person to get feedback and brings their guard down.

2. Reward and Recognition.
Thank them for their efforts, recognize the amount of time they may have taken to do this, or the limited amount of time they had to create the product. Don’t assume what you don’t know. Ask questions. Wow, this looks like a lot of work, how long did this take you?

3. Be clear and clarify.
Say WHY you think the changes might be needed. Ask their thoughts on how the new wording you have recommended will be ‘heard’. Give advice and counsel, not just “DO SOMETHING”. Guide them with clear expectations.

4. Don’t use all CAPS.
It sounds like you are yelling. We all know this now. Stop forgetting.

You’ve all seen people crowded in front of a computer saying “Wow, she said that? You worked so hard? Why is she being so nitpicky”. Fix it. Be a coach and a leader and give feedback so people can learn and grow and feel valued.

Tell us how it works on Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!