In this season of gift giving, we all struggle with what to give co-workers? Does the boss get a gift? (No thank you is the answer here at Double Forte – I don’t want people to feel they need to, what a stress ball waiting to happen.) Direct reports? Colleagues?

Everyone needs to find what works for them — and do it in such a way that doesn’t create the expectation of reciprocity in gift giving. Sheldon Cooper, although a genius, is wrong on this one.

We forget the best gift we can give our colleagues all year long is constructive feedback to help them capitalize on the great things they’re doing and to improve on those things on their growing edges.

Earlier this year I had my business coach conduct a 360 review for me — a bit different since I’m the boss. We asked my direct reports, colleagues on non profit boards on which I’m a director or trustee, and then clients who know me best to evaluate me on a spectrum of criteria in The Leadership Circle model.

I was a bit wary — the last time I had a 360 the results spun me into depression when I realized that while my superiors and my reports scored me very high, my colleagues did not (in fact I scored lowest in the cohort). But leadership often puts you in a bubble of “yes” and leaders get no feedback on how they can improve – so into the depths of the 360 I went, voluntarily, mind you.

My 360 was the biggest gift I got this year (apologies to my husband who rocked it in the gift department this year). Here on a single chart I can see where I can double down, where I can lighten up and where I can keep on keepin’ on. Only with honest input can I make adjustments in my language, behavior or habits to become a better me. I’m very thankful for all of the people who participated in my anonymous survey – the feedback is so very helpful.

And feedback does not solely belong to the realm of management — everyone, no matter what your title or role, can provide constructive feedback through the day.

“Great job! I like the way you wrote the recommendation.” “Good stuff. Next time, you might  focus on how you stand, you swayed a bit while you were talking.” “Be careful of your cadence — you slid into uptalking a bit.” “Lee, when your eyes bug out it looks like you’re really mad.” (I’m usually not.)

The worst thing we can do to our colleagues is to let them swim in ignorance. Giving feedback – positive and negative – in a constructive manner that can be heard is the ultimate gift to your colleagues, and one that generates reciprocity the way it’s meant to me.

And for a break in your day, Sheldon Cooper’s alternative take on gift giving:

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