Whether You’re Giving or Receiving Feedback, it’s a Gift

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I remember first learning about the “gift” of feedback in grad school. Up until that point, I had looked at feedback differently. I wasn’t thinking about the “gift” part, which means it’s just as much of a privilege to offer helpful feedback, as it is to receive it. The keyword here is “privilege.” Because it’s such a special gift, focusing on the delivery of feedback is critical. You have to know how to give feedback in a manner that allows people to appreciate it and make them want to move the needle forward by acting upon your counsel.

Feedback has always been an important part of my career. With years of practice behind me, the feedback I offer today is for senior level executives. However, whether you are first starting out in your “gift” giving or you are 20 years in, here are a few quick tips for you to consider:

Point out the positive first when you deliver your gift. This tip should always come first because it sets the stage for successful feedback. By pointing out the positive, you can then segue into what needs work. It’s important to have a good balance between the positive performance and the areas needing improvement. Let’s face it, we’re all human and we prefer to hear the good with the bad.

Be specific and use examples so your gift can be fully visualized. I’m frequently asked to watch / listen to my clients present, whether it’s a conference setting, media interview or analyst briefing. When I’m reviewing an executive’s speaking performance, I have to give specific examples of what needs an adjustment. Pinpointing examples and when they occur, from the habitual “um” to important company messaging that’s inadvertently omitted, is the only way to let someone know exactly what needs to be corrected.

Deliver feedback in private and with full attention. Important feedback should not be on the fly and it shouldn’t really be in a group setting, unless, of course, it’s a part of a team building exercise. You want your executive, co-worker, employee, etc., to be fully focused and prepared to receive a gift. Sharing information that affects performance deserves attention and should not get lost in the daily workday shuffle.

Along with the feedback, offer ideas / solutions that are not too complicated. Busy professionals at every level of the organization need laser focused counsel with actionable solutions. If you can break the solution down and provide a clear approach, then you’re making the follow through much easier for them. Lengthy feedback, filled with complicated suggestions may get pushed into the parking lot quickly. It’s the streamlined approach and targeted actions that will get implemented.

Realize not all of your feedback will be set into action. Remember, whatever your critique, it’s not about you or the ideas you present, even if they are all very good.  As a counselor, your role is to offer the honest assessment with a high level of certainty. However, it’s always up to the receiver if your gift is put to good use.

From executive communications and programs to media interviews and analyst meetings, in my experience, the more you can perfect your gift giving technique, the more likely your gift will be accepted with open arms. How do you give the gift of feedback?


8 Responses to " Whether You’re Giving or Receiving Feedback, it’s a Gift "

  1. Super post, Deirdre! One thing I’ve learned is that even if you have several different items of feedback, they are probably easier for the recipient to digest if either they are chunked into broad categories, or you only focus on the top 2-3 things. Otherwise it can be overwhelming. Did you find that?

  2. Hi Shonali, yes and a great point. I usually focus on 2 to 3 items at at time … mostly because meetings are short and targeted with executives. Plus, if it’s overwhelming then it ends up in the parking log 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Frank Strong says:

    I take from this a broader message — its fairly widely accepted we can all listen better, but you touch on something else: we all think we are experts at giving feedback and the reality is we are not. The advice hinges on your last sentence in my humble opinion, “the more likely your gift will be accepted with open arms.”

  4. Hi Frank, I’ve found over the years that the more I practiced the “gift” of giving, the more the feedback was accepted and used. And you’re right, as much as we think we’re experts, just focusing on our own delivery of feedback is a small fraction of what feedback is meant to to do for others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. […] 1. Whether You’re Giving or Receiving Feedback, it’s a Gift […]

  6. Richard says:

    Hi Deirdre

    Feedback is an incredible source of help for me. There would be no progress, if we don`t get and give feedback.
    I just started my own blog and i am really happy about each and every comment and feedback i can get.
    And i agree, that it is important to first point out the positive things, before going into detail about what needs to be changed.
    Thanks for your post!

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Richard. Blogging is definitely an area in which feedback is a gift, both to give and receive. Have a great week!

  8. […] 1. Whether You’re Giving or Receiving Feedback, it’s a Gift […]

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