9 Tips for Giving the Gift of Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback is one of those things that we all know is important, but in practice, can be daunting and uncomfortable—for both the giver and receiver.

So how do you deliver feedback, especially corrective feedback, in a positive and constructive way? Here are 9 best practices:

  1. Be timely. “Timeliness is critical in order for the recipient to associate the behavior with the feedback.” – Lisa Petrilli
  2. Do it privately. “[This] allows the employee to focus on the work they need to do, not what their coworkers think about them. Speaking privately also gives employees a chance to ask follow-up questions and bring up any issues affecting their performance.” – Allison Gauss
  3. Watch your tone. “Tone and phrasing are everything when giving feedback. Watch your tone for whining, sarcasm, judgmentalness, and other undermining messages.” – Adele Margrave & Robert Gorden
  4. Be specific. “[Feedback] must be specific so that the recipient has a clear understanding of the behavior or approach that they need to improve upon… Leaders should anticipate many questions and be prepared to give very specific and clear answers to help the recipient receive the feedback in the best light possible.” – Lisa Petrilli
  5. Avoid exaggerating. “[A] key mistake is using language like ‘always’ or ‘never.’ Hearing these words, people naturally get defensive as they can remember plenty of times when they did not do what you claim they did.” – Center for Creative Leadership
  6. Keep it in perspective. “Always describe behaviors, not traits. Don’t dwell on the past; instead focus on what the employee can change in the future.” – Amy Gallo
  7. Keep it brief. “Oftentimes when people give other people feedback, they don’t know when to stop. They give advice, describe personal experiences, and try to solve the other person’s problem. People receiving feedback need time to digest and assimilate the information they have just received.” – Center for Creative Leadership
  8. Offer help and support. “We have a duty to help our staff develop and progress. We can do that by focusing on the way forward and on which steps they can take to improve—rather than criticizing them. If a team member is not performing according to the goals you have both set, DO be honest, but don’t linger on the negative aspects. Help provide the stepping stones for the team member to progress instead.” – Susanne Madsen
  9. Reaffirm their value. “Reaffirming the person’s value to the organization assures them of your desire to help them improve and to see them succeed to their greatest ability. In the end, isn’t that what we all want for our teams, peers and the organization as a whole?” – Lisa Petrilli


When done well and offered consistently, honest feedback is one of the most effective tools for facilitating growth and further empowering those you lead.

How about you, which tip do you think is most important when giving feedback to those you lead?

This article is adapted from Chapter 14 of my book, Be An Inspirational Leader.

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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