Is Feedback a Gift?

Gerwig 2015-01-19

Do you receive feedback as a gift? Perhaps it depends as there are many types of feedback and many ways in which it can be delivered. Most people like positive feedback, assuming it’s given sincerely (and with no strings attached), personally and immediately. But few people like negative or constructive feedback. Why? Is it because of their ego or the manner and context in which the feedback is given? Perhaps it’s a bit of each.

Top performing organizations the world-over understand the value of feedback (good and bad). Look within any elite military organization or champion-caliber sports team and you’ll see that feedback is present. Lots of it! Feedback in world-class organizations is: 1) Regular, 2) Specific, 3) Immediate, 4) Sincere and 5) Expected.

To the recipient, the feedback may not always be viewed initially as a gift. But over time, world-class performers recognize its value. They crave it. They seek it out. They ask for it. Why? They understand its value. So, let’s take a look at some tips to provide the gift of feedback with excellence.

1. Medicine

You need to understand that feedback is like medicine to the sick or vitamin supplements to a healthy individual. Without the feedback, the individual is headed toward sickness, a less-than-perfect result. The feedback you provide will help them. They’ll improve. They’ll get better. They’ll perform at a higher level. They’ll stay out of trouble. They’ll grow in their development. They’ll succeed sooner. Feedback is a gift in the same way that medicine is a gift.

2. Concern

It’s important that you are truly concerned for the individual, their success, their well-being and their performance. And it’s important for the individual to know that you care about them. It doesn’t have to be a “soft” concern like you have for someone in your family, but you need to have concern for the individual. If you want the feedback to have the greatest impact, you can’t be self-centered. People will work hard for someone they fear, but they’ll go to the ends of the earth for someone they love. And remember, it’s not about manipulation. You must truly want the best for the individual. The more you have their well-being as your motive, the better you can them grow and get well with your gift of feedback. The purer your concern, the purer and more effective the feedback.

3. Role Perspective

Remember that you’re giving the gift of feedback. The individual is receiving it. There are different responsibilities in this feedback transaction. You give the feedback regularly, specifically, immediately, personally and with a pure heart. They receive the feedback, reflect on it, own it and take action. You also own monitoring and observing their performance after giving the initial feedback so you can provide follow-up feedback. Remember, no one said it was easy to be a world-class leader or to develop other world-class leaders.

4. How To

You likely know this already, but a quick review of “how to” is in order: 1) Be as straight with your feedback as the individual can take. Some can take feedback straight, like strong black coffee or espresso. Some need a bit of cream or sugar. Some need both. Situationally adjust how directly you give the feedback to the individual, but don’t beat around the bush. Be direct, honest and clear. 2) By your words, tone and body-language, demonstrate honor and respect to the individual. You aren’t better than they are. You aren’t cutting them down. You’re providing a gift, medicine, vitamin supplements. 3) Encourage the individual to reflect on the feedback if needed (some feedback can be used immediately, but many times it requires time and reflection to be of value). Have a follow-up discussion with them (to review their perspective, discuss their action plan and answer any additional questions).

Feedback, good or bad (positive or constructive) can be an amazing gift when viewed as a gift by the giver and the receiver. Work at it. The better you are at giving and receiving feedback, the better you’ll be, regardless of your role at work, at play and in the community.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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