No Surprise Feedback

“Where’s this coming from??” 

“Why didn’t you say something before??” 

“I’m surprised by this feedback, I thought things were going well…” 

For some reason or another, feedback tends to get bottled up and saved, only to be delivered at a time when it’s too late to take action. When the lines of communication are jammed up like this, it’s hard for a team to achieve their goals. 

No Surprise Feedback 

Is a framework that helps teams help each other by opening the lines of communication. It creates frequent touch points for feedback. It’s a strategy that helps teams avoid the “surprise” that occurs when feedback is held back for too long. It creates an environment where consistent feedback is the norm. When feedback, both constructive and positive, is part of a team’s culture - leads, individuals, and teams thrive. 

No Surprise Feedback is simple, but it’s not always easy. It’s a commitment to:

  • Collaboration in service of reaching goals. 
  • Candor over perfection.
  • Cadence over convenience. 

Collaboration in service of reaching goals.

This might strike you as obvious, but feedback is all about collaboration. It’s about working together with the intention of improvement. When you approach feedback from a place of collaboration, there’s an understanding that feedback (especially critical feedback) isn’t shared to be punitive or manipulative. It comes from a place of care and a genuine desire to support and encourage. When you know the person giving you feedback has your back, what they’re saying carries a lot more weight. 

Candor over perfection.

Delivering feedback can be intimidating. It’s easy to think, “If I say this perfectly, they’ll understand and agree with me, so it won’t be so hard.” From there you tap into some feedback templates, script out what you want to get across, and read it verbatim at your next meeting. 

This approach takes time and lacks authenticity. Two things that diminish trust and limit the impact of your feedback. 

Feedback models like SBI or EEC are great. They are tools to help you craft effective feedback, but they shouldn’t take away from your authenticity and they certainly shouldn’t be used to craft an essay. 

For the person delivering feedback, committing to candor over perfection means sharing feedback even if it’s not fully ironed out. For the receiver, it means putting in an effort to understand what the person giving feedback is trying to convey. 

The result is more time actioning feedback and less time planning feedback. 

Cadence over convenience.

Think of a colleague you work with. What’s one piece of feedback you can give them that would help them reach their goals? Have you given them that feedback? Why not? 

Chances are we’re all holding on to feedback we could be sharing that would help people we know. Cadence over convenience is committing to giving feedback when it’s relevant instead of holding onto it until it’s convenient to share.

Establishing a good cadence for feedback means making time to give feedback when it’s timely and setting tripwires to prompt feedback regularly. 


We say that No Surprise Feedback is a commitment, and that’s the real key to putting this framework into practice. It starts with leads committing to Candor, Collaboration, and Cadence in their performance feedback. Through modeling these actions and inviting the same in return, leads create a new expectation within their team where feedback is anticipated and welcomed, not dreaded and avoided. Feedback is often cited as one of the things leads struggle with most. Take the pressure off, stop striving for perfection, strive for a shared commitment to No Surprise Feedback. 

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