How to Deliver Critical Onboarding Feedback That Works for New Leaders

How to Deliver Critical Onboarding Feedback That Works for New Leaders

While organizations should give all new employees early feedback about their behaviors and how they’re perceived, it’s IMPERATIVE to do so for new leaders.

Effective onboarding feedback empowers new leaders at your organization to align more quickly around the organization’s culture and expectations .Failing to provide it results in more leaders who don’t understand how to lead in their new role, and who can do far more damage than non-leadership employees. Examples of the consequences of poor leaders, as Zenefits notes in a blog post on the cost of bad hires, include:

  • Entire departments can be disempowered
  • Failure to determine or achieve goals
  • Entire teams can crumble

Effective, early feedback requires identifying areas for improvement, but also delivering it properly so that recipients can understand it and then act on it. In this post, we’ll look at situations where you should provide early feedback, and show some examples of phrases you might use when delivering the feedback.

What Type of Early Feedback Should You Provide? 

The situations where early feedback about behaviors and performance can help new leaders at your organization are almost limitless. Examples include when leaders are:

  • Rushing decisions
  • Not building important relationships
  • Not delivering on commitments
  • Not showing appropriate humility
  • Not fitting in with peers
  • Not delivering expected early results
  • Not managing time effectively
  • Not seeking input
  • Not understanding the expectations of their roles
  • Not understanding or respecting the company culture

How to Help Leaders Interpret Early Feedback

When leaders receive early feedback, it’s important to help them interpret it. This helps get them thinking about the issues involved, and to take positive corrective actions.

Let’s take a look at some actual questions that you can ask leaders as they interpret early feedback, and to help raise their awareness of onboarding pitfalls. These represent only a tiny subset of possible questions to ask, but they should help you in coming up with other relevant questions.

For People New to Leadership Roles
  • Are you taking the time to accurately size up the problems you face, and are you delegating them in a way that maps them onto the skills of your team and/or their developmental needs?
  • Do you think certain problems are “beneath you”? As a new manager, you might be missing key opportunities to learn the work and develop or strengthen relationships.
For General Leadership Issues
  • At your level, most results are delivered through your team. How well do you understand their work and how it fits with your key deliverables?
  • What gaps exist?
  • Have you sized up your team to understand their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What have you done to validate this information and understanding?
  • What do you need to do to close the gaps?
For Issues with Organizational Politics
  • Many new leaders dislike organizational politics, but they are a fact of life and represent the unique needs of all your work relationships.
  • Do you understand your key stakeholders’ “hot buttons,” and are you willing and able to navigate in a way that takes their perspectives into account?
  • Are you able to step back from situations and see them rationally, even if your colleagues or direct reports may make it challenging?
  • Do you respond rather than react, addressing the business’ needs while also addressing their concerns?
  • Do you communicate if you are unable to address their concerns while serving the business’ needs?

The Immense Power of Feedback

The power of early feedback cannot be underestimated. In most cases, new leaders (and new employees in general) are focused on proving themselves, which can leave them unaware of problems. Feedback allows them to recognize these problems and address them, while not providing feedback often causes the problems to fester.

Do yourself—and new leaders—a favor: Don’t make the mistake of not giving early feedback because you don’t want to create conflict. Feedback is a gift, and can “save” new leaders in their new roles. Plus, when you provide it consistently, it can make a tremendous difference for your organization.

For more information on delivering onboarding feedback, read “Perfect Phrases for New Employee Orientation and Onboarding,” a McGraw-Hill book written by Connect the Dots managing directors Brenda Hampel and Erika Lamont. To see how Connect the Dots can help with your leadership onboarding, contact us at or 855-316-8161.