Some leaders are blunt when giving feedback. Very blunt. So blunt that recipients become defensive, develop grudge, and get demotivated. Not the best recipe to get teams to full potential.

Other leaders feel un at ease with giving feedback. They worry recipients would get demotivated, and thus prefer to shut up (with problems continuing to linger). Not a great recipe to get teams to full potential either.

Now think about the best leader you ever had. A leader who helped you step up, and become better and better. A leader that got the best out of you. Who was this leader? What was so great about him or her?

When we ask people to describe such leader, 3 phrases come back over and over again: ‘they believed in me’, ‘they were demanding’ and ‘they were supportive’.



Step up from setbacks


In this article we share a powerful feedback formula. One that will allow the ‘blunt leader’ to say what needs to be said, without demotivating the team. One that will allow the ‘soft leader’ to get to results while ensuring a positive relation.

The formula consists of 3 parts: like, concern and suggest.


1. Like

When people do too much or too little of something, usually there’s something good as well. It could be the effort made, the progress realized, the good intent, … When leaders recognize these positive aspects, the entire feedback scenario changes. Rather than feeling ‘wrong’ and ‘attacked’, recipients feel ‘trusted’ and ‘appreciated’. Rather than feeling they have to defend themselves, they consider it is safe to listen. Rather than shutting off emotionally, they open up to the conversation. That’s the power of starting with an appreciative comment.


2. Concern

Here we get to the core of the feedback: expressing what’s not yet good enough. Beware though. When recipients don’t agree with the concern the way you express it, your feedback won’t have any impact. For example – if you tell overanalyzers “you spend too much time on your files”, your feedback will not be heard. Deep inside, the overanalyzers don’t agree – otherwise they wouldn’t have spent so much time on those files! Our suggestion: use considerations the recipients will likely agree with. Also, highlight the costs of the ‘unwanted situation’ on the recipients and their environment. That’s how you can motivate recipients to change.


3. Suggest

You have now made your point. But let’s be honest: very often, the recipients already knew about the issue you just stated. If the concern is still there (and you still need to make your feedback), either they weren’t motivated to change, or they didn’t know what to do … They didn’t know where to start. That’s the reason for this third part of the feedback formula: make a specific suggestion forward. Recipients will appreciate it. More often than not, they need your guidance and support. Also, once you have made your suggestion, expectations are clear, and you can consistently provide feedback (as suggested in our previous blog).

Imagine Sophie elaborates too much when making her point during meetings. David wants to give her feedback on this topic. The ‘like concern suggest’ formula could sound as follows: “I love your passion, and your desire to convey that passion to others (LIKE).  There’s just one drawback: as you elaborate so much on the points you make, there’s often no clear main message. As a result, you tend to lose your audience, and you are much less convincing than you could be (CONCERN). I would suggest, from now on, you aim to get your point across in 30 seconds. I know it will not be easy. But I know, with practice, you’ll get there. ” After this exchange, David can congratulate Sophie when she managed to get her point across in 30 seconds. Or give constructive feedback when she didn’t.

To conclude – remember the 3 typical descriptions of great leaders: ‘they believe in me’; ‘they are demanding’; ‘they are supportive’. The formula ‘like concern suggest’ allows to display these 3 characteristics in one setting:
  • Your ‘like’ shows you believe in the other party
  • Your ‘concern’ shows you’re demanding
  • Your ‘suggest’ shows you’re supportive

So go practice this great feedback formula, and see the boost on your leadership effectiveness.

If you want more information about our leadership trainings and coachings, don’t hesitate to contact us.