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Council Board Member Pearl Chu, Schlumberger, Addresses Managing Feedback in Leadership Forum

Council Board Member Pearl Chu, Director, Technical Domain and Knowledge Management, Schlumberger, shared tactical recommendations on giving and receiving positive and negative feedback during a leadership forum on November 11.

Chu began the event by asking the attendees to reflect on a time they had received positive feedback. Several participants responded, sharing stories about receiving recognition in a positive way. Chu pointed out that not everyone wants to receive positive feedback in the same manner, and the way you give feedback should depend on what drives the individual and what they are comfortable hearing.

“Understanding the people within your team as unique individuals is critical. Different people link their own value to different things, and you have to keep that in mind.”

Council Board Member Pearl Chu, Schlumberger

Chu also discussed the importance of delivering feedback in an effective manner. She shared that giving praise should not be forced and scheduled but rather something that is given frequently and genuinely. How can leaders do this on a regular basis and deliver the sentiments with authenticity?

“Link the positive feedback you are giving to a unique strength or personal trait of that person,” she said.

She said one of the biggest mistakes leaders make when giving feedback is following the positive with a negative.

“If you are going to give positive feedback don’t start with something positive followed by a ‘but’. Give the positive feedback and be done with it, “ Chu said. “Otherwise only the negative will be heard.”

Providing Negative Feedback

Chu discussed both giving and receiving negative feedback, as well as the process for both people in the conversation. She first addressed what the person giving the feedback might want to consider in advance.

“Think about the person who is on the other side of the table listening to what you are saying. Just like when you give positive feedback, it’s important to be aware of how prepared that person might be to hear what you have to say.”

For the person receiving the negative feedback, Chu recommended, “After you have had time to digest the feedback presented to you, apply what you have heard and use it to accelerate your performance.”

“It’s our job as leaders to inspire others to do better. Those who apply negative feedback quickly, advance the most quickly.”

Referring to a study published in Harvard Business Review, Chu cited the average ratio for positive comments to negative comments for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 to 1 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). She noted this to emphasize not only the value of positive feedback (motivating people to continue doing what they’re doing well with determination) but the importance of negative feedback as well.

“Positive feedback makes you feel good, negative feedback can hurt. The proportion of both can make people understand it’s all to help and improve performance,” she said.  

Chu closed the forum sharing her personal take on negative feedback and how in the past it would take her several days to a week to get past the “sting.”

Leadership forums allow Member Company high performers to interact with industry executives through open dialogue structured around a targeted theme. Check the Council’s Upcoming Events to see when the next forum is scheduled.


Peggy Helfert, Vice President Programs and Events, writes about the Council’s sector-specific best practices and leadership. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights industry practices, workforce development, Council activities and more.
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