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 | By Dan Cellucci

The hardest gift exchange

‘Feedback’ has increasingly become a buzzword in the workplace and, while it’s meant to be a boon for individuals committed to growth and improvement, it sometimes carries negative connotations, especially when the feedback is critical and unsolicited. Even at Catholic Leadership Institute, where we teach that “feedback is a gift,” we are sometimes guilty of rolling our eyes and wanting to return that gift when it’s something we weren’t looking for in the first place.

Yet feedback is a constant part of our existence as humans interacting in this world. How do we make sure in our giving and receiving that we are doing our part to ensure it is a gift? Consider the three principles below the next time you are in the feedback gift exchange.


Stop, look, and listen

When giving or receiving feedback, pause and check yourself first. What frame of mind or emotional state are you in? What else might you be bringing to this exchange that has nothing to do with the topic or person? Do you have the right information or context? What attitudes, beliefs, emotions or behavioral tendencies might others be bringing to the table? Rooting feedback in prayerful discernment and deep listening before reacting will help any feedback be more fruitful.

Give with grace

When giving feedback, lead with the needs of the receiver. Consider the person’s ability and energy level in their role and their preferred mode of delivery. Assess which type of feedback will work best: pure feedback (nonjudgmental delivery that provides simply the factual “how” or “what” of the situation) or personalized feedback (incorporating your positive or negative judgment about the behavior designed to encourage or extinguish it in the future). As much as possible, assume benign intent and consider what you want for the person and for their future. If their growth and well-being isn’t at the forefront, perhaps you need to think about the feedback a little more before providing it.

Remember it’s better to receive than give

When it comes to feedback, we need to model the vulnerability and openness to feedback by modeling the five “R’s.”

  • Request feedback proactively and often.
  • Reflect on your feelings, attitude and ego toward the feedback.
  • Review the information with the goal of seeking understanding and clarifying specifics and intent.
  • Respond by adopting, adapting or rejecting the feedback after prayerful discernment.
  • Finally, reconnect by thanking the giver and explaining your response.

Embracing a spirit of openness and generosity toward feedback can be an incredible gift for individuals and teams. In both the giving and receiving, may we gracefully welcome all the gifts the Lord is offering to us through others.

Dan Cellucci is the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute.

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