No smoking.jpg

How I overcame my reluctance and what happened.

My confession is that I’ve used the feedback model on my mother. 

When I was first learning about effective forms of feedback I thought they were pretty cool. I could see how they would work. But I struggled to get over that first hump of actually using them.

My mother is a lasting smoker. It’s been a constant source of tension for as long as I remember - she’s addicted and I don’t like the effects. In my opinion she smokes a particularly odious brand

That’s my particular personal dislike. Maybe you have a different annoyance - the way someone rolls their eyes, constant sniffing, unwashed dishes etc. The point is I’ve never had a good way of dealing with it.

My mom used to smoke outside but invariably the smoke breezed inside. She thought she was being a considerate smoker and of course she didn’t know that her smoke was annoying people inside.

So every day, several times a day I was faced with a dilemma. Which do I choose?


  • Lack of resolution, tension, negative energy

Passive aggressive behavior:

  • Wrinkling my nose at the smell or
  • Closing doors, opening windows in a huff or
  • Saying “Do you mind not smoking”

Confrontation, personal attack, usually degenerating into an extended squabble:

  • “Your smoke is disgusting!” or
  • “Can’t you be more careful?” or
  • “Do you have to smoke there?”

It can be amazingly difficult to speak to someone about minor annoyances until they bubble up into a larger issue.

One day I decided to cross the chasm and I used the feedback model to carefully construct some simple words and to plan my delivery. I must admit I was pretty nervous. I didn’t want to offend her nor did I want to get into an argument. But I picked the right moment and said the words in a quiet tone: “Mom, can I share something with you? When you smoke there we can smell your smoke inside.”

The effect was incredible, she totally listened to what I said and took it on board with no perceptible offence. A weight lifted off my chest and the interaction was over in under 20 seconds. The problem was instantly solved using just 3 of the 5 parts of the feedback model.

To me the feedback model is a strange thing

  • When you see the words you can instantly recognise how they work, it's not magic but it works almost as well as magic
  • And we do "know" somewhere in our brain that this delivery and these words work when the other alternatives don't work
  • But although we "know" it, the real trick is knowing how to put it all together to solve our problems - this is a problem I've had for over thirty(!) years before finding an effective, pain free solution

If you are like me and have experienced any of the following:

  • Avoiding/ delaying/ dreading giving staff feedback because of the potential for conflict/ disagreement/ effort
  • Only giving feedback when you are sure the issue is significant and worth the pain and effort
  • Having your employees make excuses for their poor performance when you give them feedback. Feeling that they avoid their accountability
  • Wondering why your employees can't solve their own problems when you can easily think of several simple solutions
  • Experience conflict when discussing performance such as argument or an employee crying or otherwise being upset
  • Employees disengaging and seeming to not listening to the feedback you give
  • Employees performing below expectations and failing to improve

Then an effective feedback process will significantly reduce the tension in your life and improve employee performance. 

Here's an interesting fact. Did you know that the typical boss hasn’t had any training in practical people management? Did you know that the typical boss learnt a technical skill that is totally unrelated to managing employees. Did you know that the typical boss was promoted into management not because they were any good at managing but because they were good at doing something totally different. So is it any wonder that the typical boss has employees that don’t respect them and aren’t performing? The good news is that it doesn’t take much to be better boss than the typical boss. As they say in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. That's why I've made the program - so that you don’t become one of those typical bosses. It includes modules on inspiring employee performance using effective feedback.

I’ve found that a feedback model isn't just for employees, it’s incredibly useful in everyday life.

Talking to people about "what they are doing wrong" is clearly a very sensitive topic. You can have the best of intentions but it doesn't matter because it's very easy for innocent words to result in a bad reaction. I have a whole series on feedback mistakes and why some conventional methods (such as the sandwich technique) are ineffective (refer to the box below).

But for now my encouragement to you is to get over the first bump of using feedback - I know that starting it is daunting but the feeling of being able to get what you want is incredibly empowering.


The “Common Feedback Mistakes Series. This series discusses common mistakes that result in ineffective feedback. There is a lot of conventional wisdom and advice that is just plain wrong. As you can imagine telling someone that they are doing something wrong is littered with landmines. It's incredibly easy to make a feedback mistake without realising it and then your feedback is ineffective and may actually be damaging. Other articles in the Feedback mistakes series include:

  1. No-one wants a feedback sandwich
  2. Why you must not ask why
  3. Why managing by exception is making your staff hate you
  4. Giving feedback that is not relevant to the receiver
  5. Giving feedback only after your employees are in trouble (aka the fallacy that performance reviews are for performance management)
  6. Thinking that giving feedback is time consuming, difficult and confrontational
  7. Waiting for the perfect time/ the fallacy over what is privacy
  8. The mistake of thinking you can only fix negative behaviours with negative feedback
  9. Mixing up praise, acknowledgement and feedback
  10. Focussing on the past instead of fixing for the future
  11. Not asking for what you want
  12. Not securing a commitment for improvement

What is Effective Feedback?

Effective Feedback is feedback that is designed to effectively change the behavior of your employees to get what you want. Effective Feedback improves the engagement of your staff and improves retention. Effective Feedback is fast and non-confrontational. To find out more about how you can use Effective Feedback to improve the performance and engagement of your employees refer to the “Management Sweetspot” series or see the Manager Foundation solution FEED101


Do you have any questions, comments or tips about giving feedback? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.

Boss Camp

Want your employees to produce awesome work but don’t want to be the jerk boss who shouts at their staff? Find out about ethical management in WWW.BOSS.CAMP. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to motivate employees,
  • What are bad employee motivators,
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,
  • How leaders get power.