When was the last time you felt you learned something from feedback on your performance? Or that you got useful, workable suggestions?
Or that the feedback was actually more like a conversation than your superior just listing all the things you’ve done wrong? Even when feedback is mostly constructive and positive it can be stressful getting it.
...or you dread it? You are not alone.
For instance, in large companies 62% of employees say that they don’t ever see changes occur from feedback they give during reviews. That’s why big companies have been eliminating reports and performance reviews.
Some of this feedback frustration could come from a lack of transparency or consistency, subjectivism and the absence of actionable steps after feedback, and misused or inadequate forms and methods such as the infamous “feedback sandwich”, often referred to as the sh*t sandwich, where you get one positive, one negative and then one positive feedback at the end.
The problem with this technique it that you either don’t take the negative feedback seriously, or you don’t believe the positive ones (thinking they just there to make you feel a bit better for getting the negative ones).
But before you completely abandon feedback, when done right, it is still one of the most powerful tools for, and influences on, learning and performance.
It can provide the opportunity for people, teams, and companies to modify behaviours, go in new directions, reinforce good practices, increase motivation and get recognition.
It also enhances psychological safety which is the most crucial element to have in team settings according to a research by Google.
Interestingly, according to a survey from the Harvard Business Review about performance feedback, people want to hear negative more than positive feedback.
When asked about their preferences for receiving feedback from managers, two thirds of the respondents said that they are more open to corrective feedback as it helps them grow and improve. (However, it’s important to note that humans are wired to choose the answers that are considered “desirable” in any situation even when responding anonymously.)
Below we highlight 3 constructive feedback methods you can try instead of the feedback sandwich. These methods will help you concentrate on specific situations/behaviours, helping you boost your authenticity and avoid generic statements.
Let’s not give up on feedback just yet; let’s fix it!
SBI is an acronym for Situation, Behaviour and Impact. This tool helps focus your comments on specific and defined behaviours and situations and how these have affected others in your environment. Given the objectivity of SBI it is highly likely that the recipient would receive it in a nondefensive manner.
Situation – Start with a situation. Define the exact situation you want to discuss: “Today at the stakeholder meeting you were talking with John…” .
Behaviour – Identify the behaviour you want to talk about. “And you were questioning him on the numbers of our last report..”. The key and challenge here is to not make assumptions or judgements. Don’t listen to gossip or others’ opinions on the matter as these could undermine your feedback.
Impact – Explain the impact another’s behaviour had on you or the environment. “I noticed that all the members who were present at the meeting were listening to you and John arguing about the numbers. I felt embarrassed by this, and I fear that it might affect our team’s reputation in the stakeholders’ eyes.” (As a general rule, always use I-statements when giving feedback to someone.)
Let the other person absorb the information, reflect on it and find actionable steps to improve the behaviour that caused problems.
Another great framework to use when giving feedback is the CEDAR model. What makes the model unique is that it encourages the individual to take the lead in discussing his/her performance rather than just getting “orders from above”. This model is credited to Anna Wildman.
Context – Set up the environment for feedback. Check if the person you are talking with also understands the importance of feedback and sees its place in, and impact on, the work they do.
Examples – Encourage the individual to identify specific examples of when and where things went wrong or not according to plan. Explore the situation(s) and behaviour together.
Diagnosis – This part is about finding out why the person acted the way they did and what could have lead to the mentioned behaviours. Try not to put words in the other person’s mouth or let your assumptions affect their answers. Ask open-ended questions to help identify the root causes of the behaviour.
Action – When deciding on actionable steps to avoid a certain behaviour, let the ideas come from the person who is receiving the feedback. It generates bigger commitment and motivation toward carrying out these actions.
Review – The final step is to check if the person understood both the feedback and the suggested actions.
IDEA is yet another acronym standing for Identify, Describe, Encourage and Action. It has the same essential bricks of delivering effective and constructive feedback as the aforementioned models.
Identify – A specific behaviour that you want changed. We cannot stress enough how important it is to be as precise as possible.
Describe – How the behaviour patterns affected either the environment or the outcome of a situation. Emphasise here how a change or correction of the behaviour would have a positive impact.
Encourage – The change. It is vital for the individual to know that you are standing beside him/her instead of judging. It can boost motivation, trust and commitment and cohesion.
Action – Make sure no one leaves the room without knowing what their next steps are. Again, aim for specific, measurable steps so the next time you meet with the person you can decide on objective indicators for evaluating feedback implementation.
Reading these constructive feedback techniques, some similarities may have caught your attention. The core structure of each of them is naming a specific situation or behaviour, explaining the impact or aftermath of that certain situation and then looking ahead, and discussing actions to avoid or reinforce the behaviours or situations.
This is because the majority of feedback lacks precision, objectivism and system-thinking, and fails to take into consideration the direct environment, dealing mainly with the past instead of looking to the future to make sure bad patterns in behaviour are improved or changed.
Feedback plays a big role in organizations and teams as a primary source of evaluation and performance assessment. When hard work is rewarded and recognized, it helps managers recognize employees and create a welcoming work environment.
That’s why it is crucial to give feedback that is precise, easily understandable, and implementable by anyone who receives it. Implement these models at meetings and one-on-one conversations and you will provide effective feedback, every time.
Have you encountered feedback models you would recommend to the SessionLab community? Which of the presented models would you use? Tell us in the comments!
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