How not to give feedback to your team when they give a presentation

Your team will feel attacked if (especially your first) questions or statements during (and even after) their presentation sound like this:

✓ why would you do THAT?
✓ you are going to create X problem with this approach
✓ your plan won’t work
✓ you’re focusing on the wrong things
✓ this is wrong, I wouldn’t do it this way.

Remember: everything you do or say as a leader makes a real emotional impact on people because you have status, power and authority over them.

If you approach feedback in the wrong way, people will react with fight, flight or freeze.

As CxO, you are (often unconsciously) setting the bar and tone of “how things are done around here”.

I understand that you are anxious to get things moving and it’s frustrating when your team clearly “didn’t get it” and you see it reflected in their presentations, but giving feedback like this during a presentation will make them scared to come forward openly with their plans and ideas in the future.

What you can do instead of interrupting their presentation is:

✓ ask them for a 3 min (or even 5 min) presentation and say you’ll expand on it with 15–20 min of discussion / questions as needed.

Once it’s question time:

✓ become curious about their reasoning rather than judging it — say “what was it about X that made you plan to do it this way” instead of “your plan won’t work”

✓ don’t make statements like “you are going to create X problem with this approach” even if it’s true — it’s scary for people when someone in the C Suite says something negative about their work/approach, especially in front of others.
You have to *considerately* question their thought process and, if you are indeed right, reach the same conclusion.
You can say things like: “what risks do you foresee with this approach?”

✓ Same goes for “you are focussing on the wrong things” type statement — replace it with “what made you focus on X and perhaps not Y”? Or “What was it about X that became higher priority than Y for you”?

✓ remember: questions that start with “why” trigger people into a “justify, defend or explain” mode rather than a looking to be corrected mode. “What was it about X” sounds less aggressive.

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Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer

Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer

Helps Engineers who are Leaders (CEO/ CTO/ VP) get buy-in from their peers/teams/investors by transforming Communication techniques into Algorithms