How to give the gift of feedback

Offering feedback isn’t always easy, but following these five tips can help both you and the recipient see it as a gift.

I first learned about the gift of feedback in grad school. Up until that point I hadn’t thought about feedback as a gift, but it’s just as much of a privilege to offer helpful feedback as it is to receive it.

The key word here is “privilege.” Because feedback is such a special gift, it is critical to focus on the way you deliver it. You have to know how to give feedback in a way that both allows people to appreciate it and makes them want to act 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 just starting out or 20 years in, here are a few quick tips to consider:

1. Point out the positive.

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

2. Be specific, and use examples.

My clients frequently ask me to watch them present, whether it’s for a conference, media interview or analyst briefing. When I review an executive’s speaking performance, I give specific examples of what she needs to adjust. Pinpointing examples and when they occur—from the habitual “um” to inadvertently omitted company messaging—is the only way to let someone know exactly what she needs to correct.

3. Deliver feedback in private and with full attention.

You shouldn’t deliver important feedback on the fly or 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 feedback. Sharing information that affects performance deserves attention and should not get lost in the daily shuffle.

4. Offer ideas and solutions.

Busy professionals at every level of an organization need laser-focused counsel with actionable solutions. If you can break down the solution and provide a clear approach, you make it much easier for the professionals to follow through. People will quickly disregard lengthy feedback filled with complicated suggestions. It’s the streamlined approach and targeted actions that people will implement.

5. Realize people will not put all of your feedback into action.

Remember, 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 honest assessment with a high level of certainty. However, it’s always up to the receiver to put your gift of feedback to good use.

From executive communications and programs to media interviews and analyst meetings, the more you can perfect your gift-giving technique, the more likely people will accept your gift with open arms.

How do you give the gift of feedback?

A version of this article originally appeared on

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