coaching & common mistakes

How to Give and Receive Feedback

Jonathan “JP” Pokluda (Dallas Campus Pastor) and David Marvin (Young Adults Director of Programs) join Adam and John to discuss the importance of feedback. JP and David lead one of the largest young adult gatherings in the United States and believe feedback is crucial to that success. One of the fastest ways to grow as a leader is to give and invite feedback humbly, consistently, and lovingly.

Podcast Link

Introduction: Why Feedback Is Important (1:25)

“Feedback is uncomfortable, but if you’re not uncomfortable, you won’t grow.” - JP

Feedback is free continuing education on how to improve in your skills. For the rest of your life, you can continue to get better through feedback. It makes people more excellent. David recommends asking people for feedback since it’s often not something that people will simply give. Leaders must seek it out and give permission to receive it.

12 Questions About How to Give and Receive Feedback


1. How do most people view feedback? (2:28)

Most people hate feedback, at least at first. David explains that he has to train his team to think critically in order to give quality feedback. JP and David’s cycle of feedback for the Porch, Watermark’s young adult ministry, is to ask trusted leaders to give a grade for the message and event on a scale of 1 to 100. Seventy is passing; 100 is the best message ever heard. Although most people hate giving this feedback, Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Scripture calls us to receive feedback in order to not be stupid.

John McGee encourages listeners to give feedback from a place of love. Many people often recoil with feedback because of past bad experiences. Healthy feedback comes from a high place of trust. At Watermark, leaders strive to have other’s best interests in mind by saying, “We love you, and here are a few ways I believe can help you get better.”

2. How do you help people see the value of feedback? (5:04)

The best way David and JP raise the value of feedback is with their weekly feedback requests. Each leader sends an email by 10 AM the day after the Porch with a number grade, as well as things they believe could be improved. Each email is sent individually so that a leader’s opinion isn’t tainted by another opinion. This is an excellent way to coach people how to give feedback well.

3. How do you coach people to give and receive feedback? (6:37)

“Feedback is developing people.” - JP

Many people often fear giving feedback to those who might not want to hear it or fear receiving it. JP shares that a helpful way to give humble feedback is to simply ask, “May I give you feedback?” If they say “no”, then you don’t have to share.

JP also shares the acronym “P.A.R.” as a guideline to giving constructive feedback. First, share what you perceive to be the problem; second, offer an alternative solution; last, give your recommendation on what you think would have made it better.

Adam explains that coming humbly to give feedback can go a long way. Saying, “I perceive that this is the problem, but I could be wrong,” helps soften any hurt and gives the hearer room to examine the feedback.

4. What’s the difference between helpful and unhelpful feedback? (8:53)

“The most dangerous words are ‘good job.’ It’s a half-hearted pat on the back because it helps no one.” - JP

Offering feedback that follows the “P.A.R.” (perceived problem, alternative solution, recommendations) guidelines is an example of helpful feedback. Unhelpful feedback, according to David, is one that offers no solutions. It’s an unclear complaint about a problem. Unhelpful feedback is also discouraging and doesn’t move the hearer to something more excellent.

John challenges leaders to encourage others in their strengths when giving feedback. This helps to propel them and leaves them excited to keep moving forward.

Adam also shares that actionable, specific feedback is helpful. Leaders may feel pressured to be “nice” when giving feedback, but real helpful feedback is specific, tailored to propel the receiver forward in their strengths and talents. Leaders can say, “I loved it. And here are four reasons why…”

5. What are some common mistakes leaders make when giving feedback? (12:46)

JP believes the most common mistake is not giving feedback. Although leaders may have opinions, they do not know how to package them. They may err too much on being negative or positive. Leaders should strive towards always being excellent and always trying to improve.

John shares another mistake is to give feedback out of emotions. He encouraged leaders to think objectively and not lay an unnecessary emotional weight on a volunteer or staff member. Step back and evaluate first.

6. What about mistakes when receiving feedback? (14:00)

David explains that leaders don’t invite feedback enough. Leaders have to ask for it and go out of their way to receive it. They have to be willing to lean in and ask questions to be developed. Leaders may have to train their team to give helpful feedback, but it will be worth it.

Critical thinking is also invaluable to the health of a feedback-oriented staff culture. One way to train your team to think critically is to ask, “What is one thing I did well and one thing I should improve?”

Leaders should also not get defensive when they receive feedback. If a leader invites feedback, but then shuts it down, especially publicly, he sends a mixed message to the team.

Adam shares that the most important 30 seconds of a team’s culture is after feedback is given. If a leader responds well in those 30 seconds, it sets the tone for the rest of the team. Staff watch a leader for his response and gradually become more comfortable in giving feedback if the leader responds appropriately.

7. What are tips for dealing with discouraging feedback? (18:13)

It’s not wrong to give feedback on other people’s feedback. Leaders can thank people for their courage and then share with them why that feedback is discouraging.

When giving feedback, remember to do so humbly by starting with your perception, acknowledging that you could be wrong.

8. What are tips for waiting for the right time to give feedback? (20:48)

JP answers that it depends on the nature of the feedback. If the feedback is of a moral fault, Ephesians and Matthew 5 encourage believers to approach them immediately. David shares that it also depends on the nature of the relationship. Some feedback should be given face to face, while email is acceptable for others.

9. What should leaders do when they receive crazy feedback? (22:24)

JP laughs about the time his “jeans came under fire” for having designs on the pockets. On a more serious note, nearly a decade ago, when he was considering church planting, a friend told JP he could not follow him because he was not in shape, which made him breathe heavily into the microphone, and his wife would not make a good senior pastor’s wife. God changed his friend’s heart and he would now follow JP and his wife anywhere. But it was difficult feedback for him to hear.

Leaders can most likely identify with receiving difficult and sometimes even crazy feedback. John shared that sometimes paraphrasing crazy feedback back to the person helps to bring clarity.

It’s also important for leaders to remember that not all feedback is worth acting on. Adam used an analogy of feedback being like buying someone a shirt with a receipt. You can go home, try on the shirt, see how it feels and talk to other people about it, and if you don’t like it, you can return it. Feedback is the same way. Talk with other people about the feedback and if it doesn’t feel right, it’s OK to “return it.”

It was a lightbulb moment for David when he realized that he doesn’t have to apply everything his team says. Sometimes feedback conflicts with other people’s feedback or doesn’t make sense. It’s OK for leaders to not implement every piece of feedback.

10. Should leaders give feedback about every little thing? (29:09)

JP strongly urges leaders to overlook small offenses. Leaders should ask, “What would be helpful in this situation?” and commit to follow up with it.

11. What should leaders do if their church or non-profit doesn’t encourage feedback? (29:35)

If you’re a leader, ask for feedback about a meeting, a message, or an event. Ask your staff to email you one thing that was great and one thing that needed to be improved. Encourage people to write their opinions privately so that their answers aren’t tainted.

Grades are helpful for JP and David because they frame the feedback. If someone says that JP wasn’t clear and graded the message as a 60, JP knows that he really wasn’t clear. If, however, someone says that he wasn’t clear and graded the messages as a 98, he knows that he was sufficiently clear.

If you’re not in a leadership position, ask your boss if you could give him feedback. He may be resistant, but if he experiences the fruit of your feedback, he will see you as a catalyst for growth in his life. Alternatively, you could ask your boss for feedback. Ask him how he believes you could grow in your position. No boss will be put off by that question and will hold you in a better position in his mind.

This same principle applies for volunteers. Volunteers can ask their leaders how they can improve in serving.

John also encourages people who believe they are in a feedback-resistant culture to examine their own hearts. Before giving feedback again, make sure to point out things leadership is doing well. Ensure that you are not a constant critic.

12. Which is better - giving or receiving feedback? (34:21)

JP and David jokingly give Adam feedback on this question, saying they can’t choose just one. Both are equally important.

To Round It All Up

“Feedback matters because the mission matters.” - John McGee

Feedback should come from a position of love, encouraging the receiver to keep going. Lives, ministries, parenting, and marriages can all grow stronger because of healthy feedback.

Upcoming Event

From May 25-27, Watermark will host the Awaken Conference for anyone ages 21-34 who want to see the church thrive in their city. Happening at the Dallas Convention Center, the conference will inspire you with amazing teaching, world-class worship, and discussions on what it means to be and mobilize the church in your city. Visit awaken.live for more information.


Questions or comments? Email clp@watermark.org