By Cheryl Hyatt

We are all asked to give feedback by others. Some are placators, giving generic praise whether it’s warranted or not. Others have a habit of going on a warpath, finding anything and everything wrong in excruciating detail. It’s understandable why many punt: giving honest, helpful feedback is a lot of work. It requires time, attention, and diplomacy. We have four questions to ask yourself before giving feedback.

What are they asking? Read between the lines to suss out what they are actually seeking. A request for feedback might actually be someone’s asking for permission, help, or approval. If the sender is actually offering a status-update, listing everything you find problematic about a project will not be productive.

What is my most important observation?  We always see a lot of things we would do differently. You gain credibility—and increase your chances of being heard—by editing your list and distilling your message down to one or two key points. Whether criticism or praise, your message will carry more weight when you are thoughtful and selective.


What is my motivation? It is always important to step back and consider why you are reacting the way you are. Are you seeking to show that you’re the smartest person in the department or are you genuinely motivated by a desire to improve the project?

What might be the results of my silence? Sometimes giving negative feedback can be very uncomfortable; however, saving someone from an embarrassing outcome can be the kindest thing to do. Conversely, keeping your snide comments to yourself can help a department function more smoothly. Consider the outcome from the outset.

With over 20 years of executive-search consulting experience, Cheryl Hyatt has been responsible for successfully recruiting senior-administrative professionals for educational and non-profit organizations. Before partnering with Dr. Fennell, she was the President and owner of The Charitable Resources Group and provided not only executive search services but fundraising consulting expertise to the clients she served. Cheryl brings over 30 years of management and organizational leadership experience to her role with clients.

Hyatt-Fennell brings over 60 years of combined highly successful executive search expertise to its clients, a reputation for achieving results on the national and international level, and the ability to place top executives with higher educational institutions nationwide. The Executive Search firms of Gallagher~Fennell Higher Education Services and The Charitable Resources Group merged in 2010 to formalize their partnership and create Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.