Building a truly collaborative working relationship requires the capacity to ask for, give and act on feedback. People and teams who seek to improve ask for feedback and then examine the feedback for useful insights to apply. They work to improve and then check back to assess if improvement has been useful for the other party.

This serves the dual purpose of measuring progress and re-enforcing with the other party that you’ve done something with the (hopefully) carefully considered thoughts they shared with you.

Asking (or not)

Lived experience says that there are some things that it’s hard for me to see about myself. When others have shared their observations, I’ve found that helps to understand how I might be perceived and to potentially adjust my behaviour.

It doesn’t always land as elegantly and tidily as that; some of the most impactful feedback I’ve had has taken a good deal of self-reflection and uncomfortable grappling with myself to acknowledge that there’s work for me to do.

When asking for feedback, it’s sometimes helpful to prepare someone so that they can have some time to think and consider what is working and what is not. You can be general and ask if there’s anything for you to work on, but I’ve found that sharing something that you’re trying to improve can be more useful to you and the other party.

‘I’m working on improving my ____ skills and would like to know if you see anything that can help me in this?’

In some cases, you’ll get feedback whether you’re looking for it or not.

Which brings me to a ‘rule to live by’ (or at least to try) 😊

Assess (examine even poorly delivered feedback for truth)

Physically I can tell when there’s a truth to what someone is saying. I feel my stomach falling away and feel the sweats coming on. When you have a visceral reaction, there is something to look at. It’s the ultimate tell on whether feedback contains truth (however unpleasant) and over years, I have got better at noticing this when it happens.

Even when someone is sharing unsolicited feedback. Perhaps in a tone or manner that you find difficult or inappropriate, if you have a physical reaction to it, take some time to reflect. Is there anything there? Sometimes no, it’s another person venting, and you’re just in the way. Sometimes, there’s a kernel of truth under all the bluster.

Years ago, a friend told me that she no longer wanted to be my friend. She was very clear about why, and she gave it to me straight, both barrels. For me, it was completely unexpected and hard to hear in the moment. I was incredibly hurt and hoped that I could ‘fix’ the relationship. I could not. I’ve spent time unpacking her words over the years and worked on improving on my shortcomings. Hopefully, other friends have benefited from that feedback.

Assess (your own state and the outcome you want)

I really like the way that Brene Brown talks about sitting ‘next to’ the person you’re sharing feedback with. I’m paraphrasing her advice on feedback, but the things that stood out for me were:

Make sure you’re bringing the right intention.

Preparation is key; prepare yourself and the other party.

Self-preparation is thinking about what it is you’re trying to get across and what the desired outcome looks like.

If you need to write it down to help sort through your thoughts, then do that. Try to consider the situation from as many points of view as possible.

If you’re delivering a message that might be hard to hear, let the other person know that something is coming they might find hard to grapple with.

Her advice? Don’t give feedback until you’re ready to ‘sit next to’ the person you’re talking to. If you can’t sit next to them and put the problem in front of you to work on together, you’re not ready. That doesn’t necessarily mean physically ‘next to’ them, but mentally you must be in a state of preparedness that says you’re ready to work together and own the problem.

It’s a simple yardstick, and I am a fan of things that are simple and easy to remember. It’s a great ‘guide’ for my own state of mind and whether I am coming from the place of problem-solving or coming from hurt or annoyance.

If we’re not talking about life-threatening situations where security of state or person is at risk, injecting these conversations with a bit of light laughter at the situation, at ourselves and at the flawed condition of being human can make difficult conversations easier to navigate.

The more we normalise being clear about ‘what’s working/what’s not’ and having conversations directly with people, rather than putting energy into getting agreement from others on what annoys us, the easier it becomes to listen for ‘what’s useful’ and improve our working relationships.


Improvement comes from the act of reflecting and then looking to apply learning to the next time or situation. Take some time to reflect on the feedback presented. Self-reflection comes to me in the form of reading and writing. I often take something with me on a walk or a run to ‘think about’ whilst I’m moving – I’ve found this to be very helpful. Some people prefer to reflect with a swim, a bath, or a wander through a gallery; whatever your place, space, or process, it’s worth cultivating the practice of reflecting. It brings insight.

Here are some questions that have been helpful to me:

  • Is the feedback a ‘shadow side’ of a strength?
  • Are there any themes that come up; have I heard anything similar before?
  • What have I tried previously to improve?
  • How would I like this situation to be/ feel?

There’s nearly always something to write about or understand more. I like to then

  • Consider some changes I can make to make the situation better
  • Take one small change and work on it daily until it becomes embedded
  • Is there anything to follow up on; do you need to apologise, repair or clarify something?

Leonie has IECL coaching accreditation and is offering a limited number of 6-session intensive one-on-one coaching programs. If you’d like to know more express your interest here.