Themes in feedback are amazing ways to provide a leader with a powerful dose of reality. Typically, I provide leaders space and support after delivering difficult feedback, encouraging them to move through their initial reactions, which may be emotionally charged, to a place of reflection. 

I once had to deliver feedback to Bret, a CEO, that his senior team felt he was checked out and mentally, as well as sometimes physically, absent. His initial reaction was defensive and he began to tell me he had the senior team in place to perform day-to-day leadership so he could stay at the strategic level. I suggested he spend the weekend reading the comments and reflecting.

On Monday, he had a completely different perspective. Once he could calmly reflect on the comments, and recognize the strong consistency in them, he realized he had in fact checked out two years prior due to some internal and external challenges which had wiped him out emotionally. Reflection allowed him to come to a place of acceptance and a willingness to grow and improve as a leader. 

When delivering difficult, but important, feedback, allow time for reflection. Understand emotionally charged reactions may occur in the moment, and hold space for reflection and acceptance. Encourage the other person to take time to process and consider before continuing the discussion in a way that focuses on growth.