How To Power Feedback By Aligning It To Skills

A senior leader at a tech company complained that though they had ‘drilled’ feedback into their team multiple times, performance was not improving. If anything, it was getting worse.

On asking what they would consider changing, their response was, “People’s openness to feedback”.

Stories like this are familiar and common. You would probably be right to believe that the word ‘feedback’ makes people get into fight, flight, or freeze modes. But, data says otherwise.

65% of people seem to welcome feedback and want more of it.

But obviously, no one wants it ‘drilled’ into them.

What is feedback?

It is a two-way dialog through which managers and team members can discuss employee performance. There are two components to feedback –providing an assessment of past performance and creating opportunities to improve performance in the future.

As a leader, you need to create a culture of positive, two-way feedback in your company. Feedback cannot be a post-mortem analysis of an employee’s failings. Instead of dreading feedback, people should be able to look forward to it.

Why does feedback need to be positive?

Research shows that it takes less effort to build up existing skills and competencies than to address weaknesses. Providing feedback using positive psychology techniques makes people feel valued. They open up to suggestions and alternate ways of doing things. Even if their performance is not on track, they are more willing to listen and act.

If you understand people’s competencies with a tool like The TMA Method, feedback conversations can be smoother and more meaningful.

What are some mistakes you may make during the feedback process?

Some managers take pride in being blunt and ‘to-the-point’ while giving feedback. That can be a major source of friction with people. That’s why they say, “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.

”There are common but highly avoidable mistakes while sharing feedback:

1. Not engaging in dialog: Before sharing your own perspective, lead the employee into the conversation and ask them for their opinion first.

2. Making it personal: Even for criticism, criticize an action and not the person. Avoid labeling the person. For example, “One of the documents you sent had a serious error” is more likely to bring change instead of “You are careless.”

3. Being wishy-washy: Techniques like the sandwich method, where you mention a positive in the beginning and the end and ‘sandwich’ negative feedback in between, are outdated. They end up confusing the person and take away focus from errors. Someone getting constructive feedback should be able to understand precisely what they could have done better.

4. Not specifying next steps: The purpose of feedback is to use the past to build better for the future. Without agreeing on the next steps and promising support, you fail in your manager’s duty.

Agree on a timeframe and the frequency of periodic reviewsand document the action planfrom the discussion.

How can you align feedback to skills?

Highlight the key strengths of your people and explain how to use them at work. For example, if someone is creative, allow them to develop and implement new ideas.

Instead of forcing people to develop ‘weaknesses,’ provide tools that mitigate them. For example, if an employee struggles with being detail-oriented, look at what their job is. If they are an accountant, provide them with tools or software that checks the accuracy of their work.

Or else, create an extra step in the process to validate all information before sharing it ahead.


Aligning feedback with skills can make it more powerful, easily understood, and actionable. It can relieve the stress of giving or receiving feedback and strengthen the workforce experience (Wx).To discuss more strategies around powering your feedback, contact us at [email protected].

Sam Reeve
Sam Reeve, CompTeam founder and managing consultant, is a pay and talent performance expert and a certified global compensation professional. His extensive experience with pay programs and competitive compensation analysis, career architecture, and talent management allows him to help clients of rapidly growing firms see accurate, measurable results, including increased productivity and significant pay savings, year-over-year.
As an innovative thinker with practical application, Sam strongly believes that everyone needs to be healthy and happy in their own lives to strive as a high-performing contributor. He is driven to help organizations match their employees with the work they are passionate about and reward their people for outstanding work.
Sumit Single
Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+ years across sectors and verticals and specializes in organizational design, well-being, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.
As Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he recently worked with clients on cultural transformation, HR processes, and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about various topics relevant to HR today.
Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on various HR solution areas.
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