Giving your lead honest feedback can feel nerve-wracking. You want to help them improve, but the power dynamics can make an already delicate action seem loaded with potential pitfalls.

Giving poignant feedback is a skill that is not necessarily easy to acquire; yet, it can be a powerful and important tool in a professional organisation.

This is especially true for software engineers working in a team. If you see something wrong in a codebase or architecture, and you don’t say something, you will suffer the consequences and have to deal with an unstable system, or bug fixes, for years to come.

You’re also in the trenches with your colleagues – including your lead. You need to trust them. You’ll spend long hours on deployments, finishing important releases. If there are unhelpful interpersonal dynamics that make it hard for you to work with them, you, the team, and the company will suffer for it.

However, if your feedback is productive it leads to growth, of both the giver and receiver, and therefore the company.

Tactfully offering your lead critical feedback requires a mix of communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and situational awareness. In this article, we’ll cover the best tactics for providing your lead with effective feedback.

1. Be Prepared:

Preparation is the cornerstone of effective feedback. Gather specific examples to support your points, ensuring your feedback is grounded in factual observations rather than assumptions.

It helps to keep a running notes document where you can jot down examples as they happen (both positive and constructive) to refer back to when the time comes.


2. Focus on Behaviour and Impact:

When delivering feedback, emphasise observable behaviours and their impact on team dynamics and project outcomes. This approach fosters clarity and promotes actionable insights for improvement.


3. Choose the Right Time and Place:

Timing is everything. Select a suitable time and private setting to engage in a constructive conversation with your lead. This ensures an environment conducive to open communication and mutual understanding.

At Entelect, most teams have a one-on-one with their Team Lead once a month. We also carry out twice yearly reviews (captured in writing and followed by face-to-face meetings). This affords plenty of opportunities for giving this feedback when your lead is expecting it.


4. Use the Feedback Sandwich Technique:

Craft your feedback using the Feedback Sandwich Technique. Start with positive reinforcement, address areas for improvement with constructive feedback, and conclude on an encouraging note.

Some ideas for positive feedback to your lead include commenting on their ability to create actionable goals, the clarity they provide, their motivational character or how they make time for team members.


5. Be Constructive and Specific:

Offer actionable suggestions for improvement, supported by specific examples and insights. By providing clear guidance, you empower your lead to address challenges effectively and drive meaningful progress.


6. Encourage Two-Way Communication:

Invite your lead to share their perspective and insights. Actively listen to their feedback and demonstrate your commitment to collaborative problem-solving. Cultivating an environment of mutual respect and open dialogue is essential for fostering a culture of continuous improvement.


7. Stay Professional and Respectful:

Maintain professionalism and respect throughout the feedback conversation. Avoid confrontational language and focus on finding solutions collaboratively. By upholding a positive and respectful demeanour, you set the stage for constructive outcomes.


8. Follow Up:

After the feedback conversation, follow up with your lead to reaffirm your commitment to growth and development. Offer support and assistance as needed, reinforcing your dedication to collective success.


9. Seek Feedback Yourself:

Demonstrate your commitment to growth by soliciting feedback from your lead. Embrace opportunities for self-improvement and leverage feedback as a catalyst for personal and professional development.


10. Practice Empathy:

Consider your lead's perspective and priorities, demonstrating understanding and compassion. By fostering empathy, you strengthen relationships and cultivate a culture of trust and collaboration.

Put it into Practice



Your senior, Thabo, often jumps in and takes control of code reviews, interrupting you and others, which is affecting your confidence and team moral.


You ask to speak with Thabo one-on-one, in the privacy of a meeting room.

"Thabo, I’d like to discuss something I’ve noticed during our recent code review sessions. I’ve observed that you frequently take over the discussion and make decisions before others have had a chance to fully present their suggestions. For instance, during our last sprint review, you interrupted Fatima while she was proposing an alternative approach to handle database transactions. This made it difficult for the team to consider different perspectives and for Fatima to explain her ideas thoroughly.

I know that you’re really passionate about the project and concerned about our delivery, and I love that you have a clear vision for its success. But I believe it would be beneficial for the team if we all practice listening to each other's suggestions before making decisions. This way, we can ensure that everyone's technical input is considered.

Would you feel open to trying something like this, or is there something I’m not considering? Is there any way we as a team can express our ideas in a way that would be more helpful or constructive?"


The feedback focuses on specific behaviour (interrupting others during code reviews) rather than making general or personal comments. It includes a concrete example of when the behaviour occurred (interrupting Fatima during the last sprint review).

It explains why the behaviour is problematic (makes it difficult for the team to consider different perspectives and for others to communicate their ideas).

It offers a constructive suggestion for improvement (listening to each other's suggestions before making decisions).

It invites Thabo's input and encourages a collaborative approach to addressing the issue.

It makes it clear that the speaker understands that Thabo is passionate about the project and concerned about its outcome.


Giving your lead feedback can be stressful, but it’s providing them with valuable information, and it’s beneficial to you both. They’ll become better at their job, and you’ll be able to better address your needs as their direct report.