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The Coaching Dept. Blog

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Spring is in the air. It brings forth opportunity for growth in nature… and in leadership.

In our recent conversations in the club industry and beyond, there has been a reoccurring theme of opportunity—giving and receiving feedback.

Maybe you are the young leader recently promoted to a leadership role, and your two former colleagues who wanted your job now report to you. Or perhaps you are the seasoned leader who is resetting the culture of your organization. Possibly you are the leader who needs to give your manager some valuable feedback so that you can be successful in your role. Wherever you find yourself in leadership, with or without a title, opportunity exists to hone your skills in giving and receiving feedback.


What is feedback?

The word “feedback” is so often overused and misunderstood. Part of the “uncomfortable” is that we make feedback mean difficult, challenging, negative, constructive… uncomfortable. What if you were to change the meaning of feedback to “critical and important information delivered for the purpose of helping someone else be successful and to create the best possible work relationships”? What if feedback has the intent of requesting a change in behavior, or continuing a current behavior—all to be in service to the other person? That changes everything.

Let’s get completely clear about what feedback is and is not. Feedback is a way to let people know how effective they are in their positions or what they are trying to accomplish. It also lets others know how they affect you and the world around them. Extraordinary leaders give much more positive feedback than negative feedback. They understand what Ken Blanchard means when he says that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

We believe that feedback is not criticism or judgment. It is not about appraisal forms or raises. We do believe that feedback should be regular and is essential for people who want to have honest relationships and be extraordinary leaders!

Here are our four steps in giving feedback:

  1. Your Intent—What is your intent going into the conversation? Share why you are giving them feedback—usually it’s to help them be successful in their role and to enhance your working relationship. You might also acknowledge the discomfort. This step is crucial. It sets the stage, builds trust, and puts others at ease.
  2. The Behavior—Describe the specific action or behavior whether it is effective, acceptable, or not. The key is to separate the person from the behavior! Do your best to keep your emotions appropriate. Stick to the facts versus your perception and opinion.
  3. The Impact—How does the behavior affect you, others, and the work environment? What has happened as a result?
  4. Future Behavior Requested—Let them know of the specific action or behavior you are looking for in the future. Why is it so important? Then, when appropriate, encourage further conversation.

When delivering critical feedback, be mindful of the word “constructive”. Most people hear “criticism, punishment, and negativity. Instead use words like “important, crucial, and helpful”. Remember to let the other person know that you care. Help them see that in delivering this information you are not doing something to them. Instead, you are doing something for them. That simple shift can change their response.


What about receiving feedback?

It’s human nature that our automatic reaction is often to get defensive, blame, and even play the victim. Instead, we suggest an attitude of accountability. Avoid getting defensive. Listen to it. Hear it. Receive the intent and the message. Say the simplest and most effective two words, “thank you”. You might thank them for the information, for the courage they have shown to deliver it to you, and for caring about your success. Decide what part of it is true (or partly true) and how you can take it on and grow from it. Most of the time if we look hard enough, there is a gift—an opportunity to learn, develop, and build relationships.


How are you doing at giving and receiving feedback?

Who needs to hear from you in your organization, your family, your community? Who needs to know what you appreciate about them, and how they are doing?

How can you ask for feedback from your colleagues and your manager? How will you receive it?

How could you be part of creating a culture of feedback?

Get comfortable!


If you would like more information or a coaching session to support you in giving and receiving feedback, please reach out to your coaches. We would be delighted to support your success.

Kevin MacDonald and Shelley MacDougall are the coaches for CMAA. If you would like to take advantage of your CMAA Coaching benefit, call toll free 1-866-822-3481 or email them to set up a coaching session at or

About the author

Shelley MacDougall

Shelley MacDougall is dedicated to creating leaders in life! Whether she is coaching one on one, facilitating learning for groups, or delivering keynote presentations, Shelley’s dynamic style and compassion for people are undeniable.

Since 2006, Shelley has been coaching CMAA/CMAC and club industry professionals, supporting them to reach new heights in their careers and in life. Along with her business partner, Kevin MacDonald, they have coached and worked with thousands of industry professionals in their combined 30 years of coaching. Their popular program, The Extraordinary Leader Program, continues to develop leaders at all levels of private clubs and beyond.

After obtaining her business degree at The Ohio State University, Shelley has invested the past 30 years in training and leading others. Fifteen years of experience inside the private club and hospitality industries equipped her to venture out to connect with organizations from a different perspective. As a coach, Shelley’s passion is developing leaders and creating cultures of elevated service. You can find more about her work at

Shelley believes that “Success is on the Inside”! She is committed to Elevating Lives and Organizations… Every Connection, Every Conversation, Every Day.

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