“Will you be wearing a suit jacket when you give this presentation?” I ask the CEO.

“Yes.”

“Great”, I continue… “That’s a good thing because you tend to pull up your pants about every other minute when you present your message. By wearing a jacket you won’t be able to do this.”

Is this useful information for the CEO to hear? Yes.

Did this organization hire my company to coach their directors just ahead of their annual meeting? Yes.

Is it appropriate for me to share this feedback to this CEO? NO.

Fast forward. Their annual meeting goes well and I’m now taking the Person Who Hired Me For This Work to a “thanks for this business” lunch. Before we order our beverage she says, “CEO told me what you said about pulling up his pants. He then told me, ‘I don’t ever want to see her (me!) again.”

Yikes!

What went wrong?

Feedback is a funny thing. Even when you’re paid to share your expertise, there are some rules to follow. Here goes:

  1. Get a gut feeling about the person you’re advising. Does the person want the cold-hearted truth? Does the person need this info?
  2. Praise more than criticize.
  3. Begin with an authentic compliment.
  4. Listen and empathize from the other person’s point of view.
  5. Figure out your timing – don’t give feedback just after a huge failure or a huge win, or in the middle of a stressful time. Too much is going on.
  6. Be mindful of your verbiage and tone. There is a way to share your point without being rude verbally and/or vocally.
  7. Don’t forget to give positive feedback!
  8. Be specific. Rather than “You gave a great speech”, say, “Your opening story engaged your crowd.”

Which of these rules did I break regarding Pants CEO? He didn’t need this info (#1) and my timing was wrong (#5).

The End of The Story: You’ll be happy to know that I have worked with this client two more times. I stay clear of Pants CEO at all times!

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Karen Cortell Reisman, MS, Executive Communication Author & Speaker

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