Do you have a friend that is willing to provide honest feedback to you when needed?

I pray that my friends will provide that for me. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

This is probably not the definition of friend that you normally think of. It might even run counter to the consistent encouragement message that I constantly promote.

But this is timeless wisdom that encouragement without a balance of constructive criticism can be counter-productive. If our life is all kisses and compliments, we can become a twisted, proud, and possibly boastful individual.

Servant leaders know that the ability to both give and receive honest feedback is a very important skill. We all need to understand the “wounds” just as much as we enjoy the “kisses”. When this comes from true friends we know we should heed the advice, as it can be trusted!

Giving honest feedback is actually a gift. The advantage of receiving ongoing feedback is much like the advantage you gain from a GPS device as opposed to a paper map. Both provide directions about where you want to go.  The GPS, however, provides the directions in the context of an accurate assessment of where you currently are. We need to know where we are, including our blind spots, in order to get to where we want to go.

Giving honest, constructive feedback needs to be delivered with a great deal of professionalism. It should include the following key ingredients:

  1. Timely – Communication needs to be timely in order for the recipient to associate the behavior with the feedback.  Waiting until a formal performance review will frustrate the recipient and lessen the impact of your critique.
  2. Specific – The recipient needs a clear understanding of the behavior or approach that they need to improve upon. Servant leaders anticipate many questions and are prepared to give very specific and clear answers to help the recipient receive the feedback in the best light possible.
  3. Relevant – Servant leaders help individuals understand why and how their behavior is affecting the team or company in a negative way.  Sometimes this is obvious, but many times it’s much more subtle and needs to be explained.
  4. Perspective – Is it a really big deal or is just a minor adjustment required?  This is truly significant because if your words and actions minimize the feedback in some way it will not be acted on as aggressively as if you told the recipient their job is on the line.  Servant leaders send the appropriate message.
  5. Desired Outcome – Providing very clear insight and explanation into the behaviors you are looking for going forward is critical so that the recipient is empowered to succeed the next time.
  6. Offer of Help – Providing heartfelt assistance in any way possible solidifies your responsibility as a servant leader to set your team up for success.
  7. Encouragement – Reaffirming the person’s value to the organization assures them of your desire to help them improve and to see them succeed to their greatest ability.

When done well, honest feedback will be received as a gift. It will help people advance their career and become their best self that God intended for them.

Do you have that kind of “friend”?  Are you a servant leader that provides the gift of honest feedback?

Lord, I pray that I would have the courageous love I need to be on the giving and receiving end of this kind of friendship.  Amen.

Mark Deterding

My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12