Sometimes I ask for feedback and other times I feel I can serve someone by providing feedback. Also there may be cases where you are taking on a new role and you may “shadow” someone to see how they perform the job so you can learn from them. In all of these cases, I have found Gifts and Greats to be a useful technique.
Here are some conditions to keep in mind for Gifts and Greats:
- Always ask permission. Before providing feedback, you should ask, “Would you like some feedback after the session?” I may still capture some notes like I describe below, but I’ll not share with them if they don’t want it. They may be having a bad day.
- Be very clear that you are doing this to serve them. If you can’t feel you can help them with the feedback, then decline providing feedback. It is better to decline than to rush through feedback and possible do harm instead of good.
- Try to balance the Gifts and Greats. No magic formula here, but I don’t feel you are serving anyone if you don’t tell them what they are doing that is already great.
- Do not use this technique as a corrective measure. Gifts and Greats are intended as a learning opportunity and should be delivered with trust. If you need to “call someone out” for something they have done that requires corrective action, this technique will appear artificial and even manipulative. Don’t go there. Just don’t. This is why I emphasized that Gifts and Greats are for “true feedback”.
Here is how it works. First, ask permission as I described above. During the session, take notes on what they did well (Greats) and things they might do different (Gifts). For Greats, I always include WHY it was great for me. It may not be great for someone else, but it gave me value and I should explain why. For Gifts, I explain that these are gifts that they can choose to receive or not. It’s up to them. Then I share gifts on things like:
- What I might have done different (and why) – be very clear whether you feel this is an improvement to what they did or just an alternative; it may not work for them
- What was missing – if you feel like they skipped something
- Logistics – something that may have made the meeting or session go better
It’s up to them if they want to dive deeper or just say “thanks” and move on. I usually give this explanation when I ask the first question “Would you like some feedback?”. After I shadow them, I try to find a quiet spot with uninterrupted time to share the gifts and greats so we have time to discuss the ones they are interested in diving into.
I find that Gifts and Greats can be as beneficial for the reviewer as well. For me, it helps me think of what I would do in the situation/meeting/event. I might even think of how I liked something they did differently and in my “great” to them I would say how this was a “gift” for me. So gifts and greats can be reciprocal.
If they already know Gifts and Greats, then I’ll ask “would you like some Gifts and Greats?”. If done well, the answer is almost “yes”.
Jean Tabaka taught me this technique while we were colleagues at Rally and it was one of the most valuable “gifts” I received during my time there.
Let me know if you have more questions.