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Feedback is not a gift

Unsurprisingly, I’m a big advocate of feedback. The perspectives of others, especially from those that truly care, adds something to our understanding that we just can not add ourselves. There is indeed something giving in feedback which is possibly why feedback is often described as a gift.


… I’ve yet to hear a contributor or recipient of feedback describe the feedback they have given or have received as a gift.

… I’ve yet to hear of a 360 feedback survey that kicked off describing the unknown “gifts” that were yet to come.

Something freely and gladly given. A perspective. Valuable insight. Trusted sharing. All yes!

But a gift? No…

So I wonder if this language of “feedback is a gift” is something we tell ourselves in organisations without thinking – a dressing up of reality. Has this language of “gift” come about to counter the “hand-grenades” that perhaps we’ve seen lobbed into feedback requests in the past? Curiously both passed without expectation of return…

More to the point does the language of “gift” actually help us? I wonder.

What if we were to look at feedback not as a gift but as insight for both the contributor and the recipient? 

What if we were to look at feedback not as a gift but as a narrow signal that needs to be broadened and reflected back?

What if we were to look at feedback not as a gift but as a part of a dialogue that needs to continue?

Take those themes even further with an organisational development perspective…

What if those 360 surveys that you run across cohorts in your organisation looked at feedback as having two “ends”:

  1. One “end” accumulated provides insight from many to a recipient on how they  may be perceived.
  2. The other “end” accumulated provides insight to the contributor on how they describe their perceptions of others.

Each “end” is facilitated to help people understand themselves, their perceptions and their relationships better. Not idealism. Not gifts. Just using insight to develop the organisation.

I’ll continue to advocate feedback. I’ll continue to help people give, listen and utilise feedback and the insights it creates. I’ll continue to advocate it’s something we should all help each other do well. I just suggest we stop talking about feedback as a gift because as lovely as it may be, feedback is not a gift.

Feedback looks at the past. The present is the gift. What we do with it is the future.


One thought on “Feedback is not a gift

  1. Another great post David. I often hang my head when ‘Feedback’ is used to vent frustrations and is given and received with emotion which is damaging to both parties and to the notion that feedback enables us all to do better next time. Thanks Natalie

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by nharris1612 | January 16, 2017, 4:40 PM


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