How To Give Feedback Effectively Using the C.L.E.A.R. Method


How do we give feedback effectively as leaders?   

We have a great framework for this, called C.L.E.A.R.  

C.L.E.A.R. is just a super simple acronym to help you remember how you should give feedback.   

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How to Give Feedback Effectively

How do we give feedback effectively as leaders?   

We have a great framework for this, called C.L.E.A.R.  

C.L.E.A.R. is just a super simple acronym to help you remember how you should give feedback.   

Tips on Giving Feedback

If you follow this acronym, you’re going to be doing good.  

C stands for concise.   

The number one thing that feedback or coaching should be is concise.   

Shorter is better.   

If you’re typing out an email that’s five pages long, that is not it. Never once in the history of humanity has somebody read a five-page email and declared that they now see how were wrong and you are right.   

It’s not how it happens.   

It must be short. It must be concise.   

If it needs a long explanation, you’re doing it wrong. You waited too long.   

Break it apart and just do it short. Address one issue at a time. That’s a safe bet.  

No dumping.  

You don’t want to dump a thousand things on somebody.   

Just be short and concise.   

It’s quick. It’s concise. It’s indisputable. It’s unemotional.   

It’s not a criticism; it’s feedback.  

It’s feeding back to the person something that they did.  

L is logical.  

Emotions are not welcome at a feedback party.  

No name-calling, no profanity, or no yelling.   

If you’re doing name-calling, profanity, or yelling, you’re doing it wrong.   

That means you’re not giving feedback.   

Feedback isn’t loud. Feedback is very even-keeled. It’s very straightforward.   

The other thing is to do, when you’re doing it logically, is celebrate people in public and critique them in private.   

One reason why for that is that it is hard for them to have a logical response if they’re in front of a group of people. Even if you deliver very logical feedback, if a bunch of people are copied on the email, it’s one of the worst things you can do for your relationship.  

It is one of the most damaging things to your trust as a leader when giving feedback.  

It’s not about making them wrong. It’s not about making them look bad. It’s not about pushing them down. It’s about helping them get better at which is not of anybody else’s concern.  

You celebrate in public, but you critique in private.   

There’s simply no reason or advantage to doing it in front of a bunch of people.   

They’ll have an emotional response, whether they do it in front of you or not, but it will be very emotional if you do it in front of other people.   

Do it in private. This is logical.   

Here’s one that I am the captain of screwing up, specifically in my marriage. Never give feedback to someone in response to them giving feedback to you.  

This is not something that I have historically been good at practicing. When someone gives me feedback, my immediate response is to reply with, “That might be true but let me tell you about you…”  

That never goes well.   

It’s never once worked out.   

Hopefully, that’s not y’all but that is me.  

Delivering feedback in response to feedback is a way of deflecting. It is a mechanism of deflection.   

We just need to learn to be humble.   

Just receive it and take it.   

Sometimes it hurts, but if you’re married to someone who also does this, or you’re coached by someone, or your manager is someone who does this, it won’t be such a big deal.  

You’re not having blowout fights about stuff.   

“Hey, by the way, don’t forget that after you rinse the spoons, you need to turn them upside down so that water doesn’t sit in them and rust.”  

Little things like that. It’s just like coaching. You’re giving feedback. It’s not criticism. 

Make sure it’s concise and logical.   

The next one is the E which stands for explicit.   

The more specific, the more terrific it is.   

You want to be explicit and cite specific examples.   

Relatedly, do not speak in generalizations. Don’t say things such as “You always are mean.” “You always are late.” “You always yell.” “You never consider other people’s feelings.”   

Somebody can’t own that feedback because it’s not true inherently when you’re giving it. It’s impossible. 

What you want to say instead is, “Yesterday this happened…”.   

It’s not a thousand examples that we’re all doing at once.   

We’re doing it in real-time. Just like a basketball team and the coach is giving them instructions. “When he’s over there, make the pass.”  “You missed the pass. You should have looked for that passing lane.”  

It’s very specific.   

It’s not an “always”.  You “always”, you “never”, etc.   

You’re just not going to win with that.  

The A in C.L.E.A.R. is the actionable point out which behavior was unacceptable.   

Notice you’re not critiquing a person’s character.   

Character conversations are much more complex.   

Those are much different.  

Those are much deeper.  

These are just like instructional, coaching types of things, which are very behavior-based.   

When you did this, you should have done this instead.   

But just to say, “You’re a liar, first, it’s not super actionable because it’s not logical and it’s not explicit.   

I want to be able to say that you told me you would have the report on Tuesday. It’s now Thursday and you haven’t sent the report. I need you to send me the report when you say you’re going to because I need it to do these other things.   

That’s actionable. That’s behavior. It’s not a character trait.   

When we coach, we are coaching on behaviors and actions.   

As a result, we will be shaping the character.   

Character conversations are a little bit different.  

But if you do this, if you catch behaviors and you give them to people, it never gets to be a big deal. You are course-correcting along the way.   

In terms of actionable, do not just point out what they did wrong.   

You have to tell them what your preferred behavior is.  

Example: When you talk to me, it would help me if you asked me to do something that you want me to do versus telling me what you want me to do.   

It’s coaching somebody on their communication to you.   

It’s specific and it’s actionable.   

And ask if they need additional training to know how to do what you’re asking them to do.  

Never overlook that idea as many times, if they’re not doing something, it is because they might not know how to do it.   

Sometimes that is your fault as you may haven’t actually trained the person how to do it due to busyness. You do not have time to stop and slow down and then they do it wrong.   

Ask them if they know how to do it. It may be as simple as that.   

Then R is real-time.   

Do not wait for a formal review to dump a bunch of stuff on somebody. Do it in real-time.  

The more time that passes between the incident and the feedback, the less effective the coaching will be.  

It also erodes trust because it makes me as the receiver feel like you’ve been counting my mistakes for a long time and not sharing them with me.  

That is really hard because they are questioning how long you have been bottling this up. Why haven’t you told me? There is this gap in our relationship that I did not even know was there.  

We should have enough mutual respect and trust that it’s not about making you wrong. I’m making you better. It’s not about me being right; it’s about you being better.   

This is really important.   

The sooner you share your feedback, the sooner you see a behavior change.   

Feedback is a gift. 

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