Holding the Salt or Piling on the Spice: Adjusting Your Recipe for Effective Feedback – Part 2 of 2


Written by Stacey Chazin

August 8, 2023

Welcome back to our discussion of the “secret sauce” for giving effective, motivating feedback to others. In the first installment of this two-part series, I talked about the past struggles I had in this space. I then shared that my discovery of one key truth completely transformed how I thought about and delivered feedback.

To be effective at providing feedback, each person’s approach should reflect their preferences and tendencies for processing information, solving problems, communicating, and directing and receiving energy from others.

In short, we each have our own recipe for being strong (perhaps even rock stars) in this space.

As promised, part two of this series is focused on a second key truth: you’ve got to know your audience! This means considering the preferences and tendencies of the person receiving your feedback when deciding the what, how, when, and even the where of your delivery. Revisiting our “secret sauce” metaphor – while the recipes coming from the kitchen are a reflection of the chef, she may need to adjust the plated meal for each patron to suit their taste (think, “hold the salt,” or “add more spice”!).

Preparing to customize your feedback

Just as building self-awareness of your own preferences and mindsets was the first step in designing effective feedback strategies, the process of tailoring those strategies even further begins with recognizing these characteristics in others. There are a few ways you can do this.

To begin, your direct experiences working with individuals over time will – whether you realize it or not – give you insights into the types of communication, information, and relational engagement to which they respond best. For example, you may witness tendencies toward extroverted or introverted behaviors; fact-based or theme-based thinking; formal or informal communication; and longer or shorter conversations.

For individuals to whom you have provided feedback in the past – whether formally or informally – you will also have first-hand experiences with how they respond to your approaches. For example, did casual, informal feedback motivate them to improve their performance, or did they dismiss it? Did their eyes glaze over during a lengthy feedback conversation, or did they seek more detail and discussion? After each experience, capture reflections in a journal or spreadsheet so that they can inform how you approach that person next time.

And lastly, in some organizations or teams, you may have the benefit of learning about individuals’ tendencies and preferences through formal assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Enneagram. These tools support individual self-understanding and growth and can enhance an understanding of differences in others. With permission of the person completing the assessment and/or through facilitated workshops to discuss the findings within a group, a supervisor or manager can also glean insights into an individual’s preferences.

Using awareness of others to hone your feedback

Revisiting a few of the preferences and tendencies we considered in ourselves in part one of this series, here are some ways that you can tailor your feedback for different individuals:

  • Introverts: For introverted team members, creating a comfortable and private space for feedback is crucial. Avoid putting them on the spot in group settings. Give them time to process information and consider sharing feedback in written form before a one-on-one discussion. Allow them to respond in writing as well, as introverts often feel more at ease expressing their thoughts this way than verbally.
  • Extraverts: Extraverts tend to thrive on social interactions and appreciate immediate feedback. Engage them in face-to-face discussions, providing ample opportunities for open dialogue. Recognize their enthusiasm and energy and be sure to highlight their strengths and achievements. Encourage extraverts to vocalize their ideas and action plans during the feedback process.
  • Rule Followers: Individuals who prefer to “go by the book” generally appreciate structured feedback. Be clear about the performance expectations and use specific criteria to evaluate their work. Offer them a step-by-step plan for improvement, highlighting areas where they excel and those that need attention. Acknowledge their commitment to meeting expectations, while also encouraging creativity and innovation when appropriate.
  • Peacemakers: When giving feedback to those who value harmony and peace, create a supportive and non-confrontational environment. Recognize their unique talents and artistic abilities and encourage them to express their ideas and opinions more assertively. Highlight the positive impact of their contributions to the team’s dynamics.
  • Casual Communicators: For those who prefer a more casual approach, create a relaxed atmosphere during feedback sessions. Start with a friendly conversation and gradually transition into feedback. Use relatable examples and casual language to maintain their engagement. Avoid rigid structures and allow the conversation to flow naturally.
  • Those with Shorter Attention Spans: For these individuals, think about ways you can keep feedback sessions especially concise and focused. Identify key points and deliver them in a clear and straightforward manner. Use visuals and interactive elements, if possible, to enhance their understanding. Consider providing written feedback with bullet points for easy reference.
  • Helpers: When offering feedback to those who are driven by the desire to help others, demonstrate appreciation for their supportive nature and highlight the positive impact they have on the team. However, be cautious not to avoid necessary constructive feedback, as they might prioritize maintaining relationships over addressing issues.
  • Perfectionists: Feedback for perfectionists requires sensitivity and support. Recognize their high standards and commitment to excellence, but also acknowledge that perfection is unattainable. Encourage them to celebrate successes and learn from mistakes. Emphasize continuous improvement and provide constructive feedback in small, manageable steps.

Check, please!

As leaders, our ability to adapt and tailor our feedback can strengthen our relationships with team members, foster a culture of continuous improvement, and ultimately contribute to the overall success of the organization. As laid out in this two-part blog post, awareness of your own leadership mindsets, strengths, and challenges, as well as those of the person receiving your feedback, is fundamental to that process.

For sure, this can be a difficult balance. However, over time and with practice, you will likely grow more comfortable with how you show up in the feedback space and recognize what strategies work most effectively for you. You’ll become more familiar with how each person on your team responds best to feedback. And ultimately, you will build your “feedback muscle” so that with each new person or circumstance, you’re able to adapt your approach more quickly and impactfully.

I encourage you to experiment with the recipe that works best for you and the individuals you support with your feedback – ultimately building a motivated, empowered, and successful team. Bon appétit!

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to receive future resources to help build your organization’s capacity to effect social change, or you would like to explore how we can work together on leadership development, meeting design & facilitation, collaborative learning, or strategic communications, please email us. We also welcome you to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, where we promise not to overwhelm you with meaningless chatter.


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1 Comment

  1. Steve Geiermann

    Appreciate the thoughtful article. As someone who appears to be extroverted, I have very strong “walls” that protect that “introvert” portion of my personality. It is a delicate dance to celebrate both aspects of who we are. I fully agree that this is only one piece of the puzzle that makes us “who we are.” The more we grow in self awareness, the better we will be and the better that we can interact with others.

    Keep up the good work!


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