Feedback is a Gift


License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0; Creator attribution: Nick Youngson – link to –;

In my Toastmaster club we often say,” Feedback is a gift”. I would qualify that statement with a resounding yes, as long as it is delivered with positive intent. And even then it can go wrong. Often the way we deliver feedback can trigger a negative or defensive response if we are not careful. Consider the way we often provide generalized feedback.

General Behavioral
–          You are being stubborn –          You have said no to each idea I have offered
–          You are disrespectful to others –          You were looking at your phone for the entire meeting
–          You are not very confident about your idea –          The way you used “Uhms and Ahs” in you presentation made it seem like you were unsure of yourself.


When we are in generalities, we are not really helping the person we are giving feedback to. There is really nothing to hold onto that helps them know how to modify their behavior. All too often as leaders, partners, and friends, we don’t slow down enough to get specific.

Another way feedback goes wrong is in the way we focus our attention. We focus on the negative. You may have heard the saying, “Energy flows where our attention goes”.  So when we are focused on what is wrong…we get more of what is wrong. When we focus on what is right, or even the desired state, we get more of that.

Negative Positive
–          Quit being surly with customers –          Greet each customer with a smile
–          Quit complaining –          Find something to compliment them on
–          Don’t do… –          I like it when you…


The brain has a part of it called the Reticular Activating System. It operates like a GPS guiding us towards what it perceives to be our goals. And it doesn’t hear the “no”. How many of you have said, “Don’t spill the milk?” What happened?

There are a lot of good models for feedback out there. A simple approach is:

  1. Let the team member know you are going to deliver feedback
  2. Let them know it is for performance improvement
  3. Tell them what went well
  4. Ask them what they would improve
  5. Share your observations
  6. Reach an agreement on next steps

I have been a Toastmaster for 16 years now. And I am in awe of the power of feedback when it is delivered in a way that demonstrates that the evaluator cares about the speaker’s improvement and there is real care and concern for progress. When it happens in the workplace, you will be pleased with the improved performance.

If you would like to learn more about how communication can help your teams align, engage and execute please send me an email at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *