Yes, it needs to be done. Yes, it needs to be done now. And yes, it's your job to do it. You already know that. I'm talking about what can be a difficult conversation with a member of your staff. I'm talking about that feedback session you have been putting off.

None of us like to do it. I can't make it easy. But, I'll share how to make it suck less for you--and for the person on the receiving end.

What follows is your pre-flight checklist. Check every box before engaging in that feedback session, and you and the feedback recipient will come out unscathed.

1. Right person.

First and foremost, make sure you're talking to the right person. It's way easier to talk to Bill about Bob's performance (or lack thereof). But that's gossip and gossip is the most destructive force in any organization.

Gossip is when you talk to someone about someone else in a way that diminishes that person in the eyes of the group. It's destructive. The only person to talk about performance with is the performer. Make sure you're talking to the right person.

2. Right time.

"Hi Kathy. Do you have a few minutes right now? I'd like to talk about your performance." Red card. You shouldn't determine the time. They should. It can't fit into your schedule. It needs to fit into their life.

Try this instead: "Hi Kathy. I'd like to find some time to discuss how things are going for you and provide some feedback from my perspective. Do you have an hour next week that works for you?"

Notice the control offered to Kathy, the respect embedded in the request, and the assumed value placed on her time. Make sure the person you are giving feedback to has control over when this happens.

3. Right place.

The office may or may not be the right place to deliver feedback. You have a multitude of other options including coffee shops, benches in parks, a walk around the block, or a conference room. The place matters, so consider the feedback you plan to give and how the environment could impact the person on the receiving end of the conversation.

Context is decisive. This will likely be an emotionally charged experience for the person on the receiving end of your feedback, and they have to get up and walk into something at the end of it. Consider this. Or ask them.

In my experience, two places to avoid are bars and restaurants. The right place is the option that makes them feel most comfortable--not you.

4. Right manner.

I'm a father of six kids. Parents give feedback to their kids because they care about their kids. Parents learn quickly to adjust their style to the child. I have one child, who will go nameless, who had to be hit with a proverbial two-by-four to get him to notice. I have another child that would react to a whisper.

When you provide feedback, your preferred style is secondary to the receiver's preferred style. Before you give feedback, carefully consider what style suits their personality best.

Some people like a lot of context and others like to get right to the point. Some folks appreciate nuance and examples, while others like direct and to the point. Some people like specific examples as opposed to more general information. Some folks are open to feedback and, for others, any feedback kicks up ghosts from their past. So modulate your style to the person.

As a rule of thumb, distinguish between the behavior and the person when you give feedback. A person is not rude. A person is not defensive or argumentative. These are behaviors a person does. It is not who a person is.

The right manner is any manner that is designed for the receiver. The right manner distinguishes who a person is from what a person is doing.

5. Right reason.

There's only one right reason to engage in feedback. It's intended to provide an opportunity for someone to notice behavior about themselves. They should understand the consequences of the behavior continuing and the choices they can make to become their best self.

Feedback isn't problem solving, where you engage with a person to change their behavior because their behavior is causing a problem. The distinction is made clear in the intent: Problem solving is for solving an issue, while feedback is for providing someone with information so they can become their best self. Ensure you're giving feedback for the right reason.

Feedback is an outward expression of love. It's difficult to give, but we give it to those we care about. Following these five best practices, you'll be effective in providing feedback--and thus caring for those around you.

Published on: Jul 21, 2017
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