Leadership & Professional Development

Feedback is a Gift

October 17, 2017 2:28 pm

A special occasion is not required, and there are no fancy bows or wrapping paper—just the GIFT. What is the gift? It’s feedback! How is feedback a gift, you may ask? Isn’t it just a form of criticism?

When “feedback” is inflicted on someone else, it’s criticism, not feedback. Criticism is feedback that is unsolicited, judgmental, unhelpful, and the giver doesn’t take into account how it will be received.

Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager and other widely read books on management, calls feedback “the breakfast of champions.” If it’s delivered correctly, feedback is always positive!

Let’s unwrap this gift called feedback and look at what it is, some tools and tips for giving and receiving it, and barriers to properly providing it.

Feedback has been defined and described in a multitude of ways. Here are two common ones:  

  • Feedback is a mechanism for conveying to people how they are perceived by others. It provides the recipient with an opportunity to evaluate his or her behavior, consider changes to it, and contemplate the consequences of making or not making such changes.

    Feedback is fundamentally a conversation, one that provides relevant information that helps a person make informed decisions about how to behave, as well as issues for stakeholders to consider. It is more common to receive feedback on “what” we did, but it is equally important to seek feedback about “how” it was done to understand the effect we have on others.

The following commonalities exist between the two descriptions above:

  • Mechanism: Conversation
  • Perceived by others: Personally relevant
  • Helps: Provides opportunity
  • Evaluates: Informs decisions
  • Behavior: “What” we did; “how” it was done
  • Impact: Consequences

I would summarize feedback this way: It’s a dialogue in which I share with you my perspective about something you did and how it was done in an attempt to positively influence your future choices. Does that sound like criticism? I hope you are beginning to look at feedback in a new way, as the gift it should be.

Feedback techniques to change behavior include:

1. Praising and reinforcement

2. Teaching

3. Correcting

You need to be invited in to teach or correct. When a person is hired, he or she is giving you permission to give them feedback when they say, “I want to do a good job,” or, “I want to learn to do a better job,” or, “I didn’t know that,” etc.

Because feedback is a dialogue, both the giver and receiver have responsibilities.

Giving Feedback

  • Timing is everything! Make an appointment at a mutually convenient time. Don’t spring or inflict your feedback on your receiver, or you risk it coming across as criticism, or worse. Try this: “I’d like to meet with you and offer you some feedback. When might be a good time?” This should be done as close to the behavioral situation as possible. 
  • Be clear about your goal. Jot your notes down on paper. Follow the basic steps outlined below. 
  • Communicate your intent: “I would like to give you some feedback, and here is my intent…”
  • Accept ownership by using “I” statements, such as “I see…,” “I heard…,” “I think…,” etc. Remember, this is your perception. You are speaking only for you and not the proverbial “they.” Who are “they” anyway?!
  • Use clear language and state your feedback while keeping the receiver’s perspective in mind.

  • Focus on the behavior, not the individual or his or her personality. 

These are the four basic steps to giving feedback, and an example:

1. Describe the current behavior: I really appreciate the effort you put into researching and creating that report. It was well written and notated. The Executive Summary was particularly beneficial because it summarized all the key points in the report. The board members were very impressed!

2. Identify the situation: I needed the report to be on my desk by noon on Tuesday so I had time to read it before presenting it to the board on Wednesday morning. I received the report an hour before the board meeting on Wednesday morning.

3. Describe the impact and consequences: The timing of the report did not allow me time to adequately review it and understand all of the good information in it. I’m afraid I didn’t represent our department as well as I could have.

4. Identify alternative behavior: In the future, please make me aware as early as possible if you are struggling to meet a deadline. Letting me know in advance will allow me to help you or identify alternative ways to get the work done. In the case of this report, I could have started reviewing it electronically while you were putting the finishing touches on it. 

Receiving Feedback

The receiver of feedback has responsibilities, too, but they are different from those of the giver. 

  • Breathe! Seriously; get comfortable, relax, and breathe.
  • Assume good intentions and that the person giving the feedback values and wants the best for you.
  • Listen, open your mind, and try to see the situation from the giver’s perspective. Don’t interrupt or respond defensively. Accept the impact of your behavior as reality for the giver. You don’t have to agree with it.
  • Paraphrase the feedback to the giver by saying, “I hear you saying…,” “Do you mean…,” “Here’s what it means to me…”
  • Explore, and ask questions.
  • Set boundaries for yourself as to how much feedback you are prepared to take in, and let the giver know.
  • Thank the giver. Remember, you are assuming that he or she values your contributions and wants the best for you. 

Receiving feedback can be a challenge for some people. Receivers have three options when it comes to feedback:

1. Accept it/own it.

2. Ignore it (can’t own it).

3. Evaluate it (need time to think about it).


Barriers exist for both the giver and receiver. Guess what they all have in common? Fear! 

Giver Receiver
  • Fear that I won’t be liked
  • Fear of looking stupid
  • Fear of looking or feeling stupid if I’m wrong
  • Fear of not knowing how to respond
  • Fear of being rejected
  • Fear of appearing ungrateful
  • Fear of being put down by another
  • Fear that I later won’t measure up
  • Fear of being or feeling humiliated
  • Fear of being or feeling humiliated
  • Fear of making a mess
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of looking bad
  • Fear of looking bad
  • Fear of becoming inappropriately angry
  • Fear of becoming inappropriately angry
  • Fear that I will be laughed at
  • Fear that I will be laughed at
  • Fear that I will be misunderstood
  • Fear that I will be seen as weak


What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Shanna Hanson, FHFMA, CHC, CC, manager of business knowledge for Human Arc leader, is a leader with responsibility for research and reporting to executive staff about all legislative and environmental changes and trends affecting the company’s healthcare markets, services, and product-development initiatives.


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