Feedback is a Gift

01 May 2016
Posted by Shira Ronen

The idea of feedback all too often stirs up a range of negative feelings, whether you are giving it or receiving it. When I was a young consultant at McKinsey, my first feedback experience left me disappointed when I was told I had ‘development areas,’ even though I had also been told I had a great start. Thankfully, soon after that first project review, I had another feedback experience that completely changed my view.

Susan Lynch, my engagement manager for my second project at McKinsey, opened our session by saying, “One of the partners told me that he wants me to be successful and is giving me feedback to help me be even better. So now, I am telling you the same – I want to help you, so please accept my feedback with that perspective.”

Hearing that from Susan was a game changer – it made me realize that feedback was not a time to feel down on myself, rather it was a time to get support from my manager to help me get better at my job. (And many years later, is how I frame my coaching work – I help my clients become even better at what they do).

Later in my career, my trusted colleague and mentor Mary Herrmann, Managing Director, Executive Coaching at BPI group, phrased it beautifully saying that ‘feedback is a gift’ and I wholeheartedly agree. (Thank you Susan and Mary!). 

My hope is that you have realized that if you haven’t been viewing feedback as a gift, you’ve been missing out an easy opportunity to become even better at what you do. Please use the tips below to instill this mindset in your reports as well as to enjoy giving the gift of feedback so you can help others become even better at what they do!

Tips for giving the gift of feedback:

1. Set the stage for the feedback conversation. Begin by letting the receiver know that your intention is to help them become even better at their role. Doing so will allow them an opportunity to get into a receptive mindset, which is crucial for a productive conversation.

2. Prepare

  • Always make sure that the point of feedback is something within the person’s control.
  • Think of examples you can share of your first-hand observations and how their actions are being perceived.
  • Plan to open the conversation with a question that allows you to understand how self-aware they are. Examples: How do you think we did at the client pitch? How do you feel the quarter has gone?

3. Deliver

  • Make sure you are communicating with care and confidence.
  • After sharing examples, give actionable insights: “When you do X, people may perceive it as Y. Consider doing (this) instead.”
  • Check for understanding so they have received the gift in the manner which you intended

Here are a few things to keep in mind when giving feedback:


  • Give feedback when it is something the individual has the power to change or control
  • Share your own observations and perspectives
  • Communicate with care and confidence
  • Check for understanding
  • Calibrate development issues as either big or small areas
  • Provide real-time coaching
  • Reframe the issue so that it can be presented in the most positive light
  • Empathize with why the person shows that behavior and offer ideas to change to more productive behaviors
  • Ask: what can I do on my end to help you? Acknowledge that you are not perfect either!

Avoid giving feedback when:

  • You are angry, aggressive, or otherwise emotional
  • It is an inappropriate time, place, or circumstance, such as immediately after a presentation. Wait until the next day.
  • You are unable to do it in person. Do not give feedback via email or other electronic means.

I’d love to hear how these feedback conversations go for you. Please email me to share!

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