Time and Place

Today I'm excited to introduce guest blogger, Martin Fenwick, to The Leader's Digest. Martin is an executive coach at Altris - a leadership development and executive coaching company based in Auckland, NZ. Martin is also a regular contributor to the Altris leadership blog.


My mum used to say "there is a time and a place for everything".

This was her way of letting me know I had chosen the wrong time or place, following whatever I had just done.

The thing is, she didn’t always tell me (if at all) when the right time and place was. So, most of the time I was left guessing the appropriate alternative or outcome myself.

Feedback in the workplace is often similar.

You might not get told until it’s too late. You might never get told at all. And, you may get told what’s wrong but not what’s right.

My mum’s adage is a sound reminder of two key tenets of feedback - that of time and place.

Some feedback is not delivered at all because the 'giver' is worried about the 'giving'.

Thoughts such as...

Will this make them dislike me? Will this cause an argument? Maybe they worked it out themselves?

...and other such concerns, can delay feedback at best and stop it at worst.

When it comes to time, late feedback is better than none. But, timeliness makes the feedback more useful.

Feedback on the spot is often just a symptom of annoyance. Irritation and lack of thought will come across in immediate feedback.

Feedback within a couple of days is still feedback.

Think about it, structure it, and make sure it’s clear, specific and unemotional. Ask if you can give it first, then the receiver will be more likely to value what you are presenting.

Add the element of place and the benefit of feedback is improved.

Never in a busy corridor or open environment. Never in front of other people (that comes across as point-scoring). Don’t summon them to your office (that’s a power play). Don’t email them out of the blue (it’s not permissive). Don’t email your boss and colleagues to tell them first (that’s setting up a whole environment of self-justification or damaging someone’s reputation).

Keep it just between the two of you.


Try and find a neutral location, with plenty of time (don’t keep looking at your watch) and  quiet surroundings (no distractions), before going through your well thought out unemotional feedback.

Then, listen to what they have to say. You have set up the time and the place and they get to seize the opportunity too.

They may not agree, and you may even find you were working through your own lenses and perceptions a little. But if done well, the relationship you have should be improved by the time and place for good feedback being adhered to.

Click here to read the Altris blog.

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