Feedback from people we trust is important. Feedback, whether it comes in a positive or negative form, whether it comes from those in the C Suite, from our peers, or from our employees, can be vital to leaders who want to become better leaders.

A Strong Foundation 

In my company and in many companies within which I work, we have a little code we use if we see someone who might be behaving in a way we know they don’t want to behave. We have given ourselves permission to alert each other, first, because we have already established a social covenant in which we agreed together to treat each other in the ways we all agreed that we wanted to be treated and, second, because we have agreed together that when one of us doesn’t treat someone the way we’ve agreed on, we will go directly to that person one-on-one in love, humility, pre-forgiveness, and truth. Through this covenant, then, we have established a foundation for the culture in which we work and interact and have also given each other permission to speak into each other’s lives.  

Constructive Feedback  

Our company members have also been taught about something we at Transformational Leadership call TFA. We know that feelings don’t just happen to appear out of thin air. They are the result of the thoughts we think, and those feelings fuel our actions. Thoughts create our feelings and feelings prompt our actions. The opposite is also true. Our actions and behavior come from our feelings, and our feelings come from the thoughts we think. Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions (TFA) are an important part of our understanding about the way we act and about the way we respond to situations. When we come to a place where we don’t like the actions we are taking, where we don’t like the feelings we are feeling, where we don’t like our behavior, we have learned to stop and take time to think about what we’re thinking. We identify the destructive thought that is feeding the feelings we feel and the actions we are taking. Then, and here’s the beauty of TFA, since we are in control of what we choose to think, we intentionally change the thought which gives us a different feeling, which gives us a different behavior.  

Sometimes, we realize our old thought patterns are so heavily ingrained in us that it may take some time to transform our thinking in a particular area, but as we continue to practice the new thought, we see changes in ourselves, how we relate to situations and people, and how others relate to us.  
TFA has become such a part of our culture that if we see someone behaving in a way that is not how they’ve agreed to treat others or behaving in a way that we know they wouldn’t want to be doing, we’ll just tap three times on the table beside them or on the person’s shoulder. The taps simply communicate to the person that the way they’re behaving right now is not consistent with who they say they want to be. So, right now, it’s a little reminder to change the thought, change the feeling, and change the action. Those three little taps quickly communicate TFA. 

Many of us, in fact, have cultivated such a relationship that we can just say TFA aloud, which prompts us to pause, change the thought, change the feeling, and change the action. 

Affirmation-Based Feedback 

Some might consider these examples as negative feedback, but when we give negative feedback in the right way, it improves and grows relationships. The most effective way to give negative feedback is to make sure in your relationship that you will have preceded that feedback with many affirmations. Then, when it’s time for some correction, the recipient will be more open to it. If we give negative feedback really well in a relationship that has been built on many affirmations, even the correction can feel like an affirmation because that person is encouraged to be the best version of themselves.  

And I believe that’s what we are trying to do as leaders. We have the opportunity to lead people with whom we have influence to reach levels of potential they would never have thought possible before.  

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.