The Safe and Effective Feedback Model


The six words that generate fear and anxiety, "Can I give you some feedback?", in 85% of human beings. The words go through a translator in our brain and come out as, "Can I completely tear you down?", "Can I tell you what you are doing wrong?" or "Can I tell you why you are a bad person.?" It can be perceived that the person giving the feedback is somehow superior to the person receiving it, putting the receiver on the defense. The point here is not, don’t use those six words, it is understanding what the cause and effect are when you start with those words. Until your team gets used to hearing those words positively try some of our examples below.

For example:

I have a concern about. I have some thoughts about… I want to discuss… I have some questions… I noticed… I would like to know about…

Could I give you some feedback about…(this one is about adding a specific action or behavior) This last one I use because it brings a smile to receivers face and it puts them in the right frame of mind. “Riddle me this…?”

The Simple Feedback Model. ( Not my model I can't remember where I read about it so I can't give the proper credit for it. if you know please comment.)

Creating the feedback is pretty easy

“When you do that behavior, this impact happens.” Positive or negative

Here are some examples:

  1. When you do such a detailed analysis on the rejected parts we had, it really helps us figure out how we can improve the process for the next time we create this product.

  2. When you come late to meetings, it throws things off and we get behind.

The key to understanding Feedback is to remember, feedback is not judgment, it is only insight. Feedback is not about punishment.

Punishment is ineffective; it does not change the behavior, it causes future avoidance of punishment. It is about covering up mistakes.

Praise is not effective as well. ( Yes, I said it!) Praise is designed to make people feel good; it is about generic things and not specific.

Example of Praise: You ask an associate/employee (Carol) to run a budget meeting for your team. She starts the meeting on time and finishes it on time with little to no divergence from the topic by the team. She lead the meeting very effectively and you can’t believe how much got accomplished. At the end of the meeting you say, “Great meeting everyone, well done Carol!” That’s praise and everyone feels great, but did you tell them why it was a great meeting? Did you express she did well on something that is repeatable?

Now your team walks out thinking, “ S/He really like the colorful PowerPoint or we got a lot done.” The truth, maybe you hated the PowerPoint and now you get to see that bright yellow PowerPoint every meeting. Maybe, you love the fact they didn't divert from topic and got done on time? They really don’t know why they are getting the praise; they just know if felt great.

To avoid general praise, you need to ask yourself the following:

Is my statement (praise) to have people feel good or is it something positive they can repeat. There is no right or wrong answer here, this just about intention.

One more key point about feedback: If you take a casual tone, your feedback will be just a piece of input you are giving another person. So Relax; give it as a friend and it will be received as such. While giving and receiving feedback can be a delicate process, there is no doubting its value in helping to identify issues and solve them. It is also about making improvement to behavior.

Here are some tips that can get you on track to giving productive feedback:

Create safety. Believe it or not, people who receive feedback apply it only about 30% of the time, according to Columbia University neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner. If the person receiving the feedback doesn't feel comfortable, this can cause the feedback to ultimately be unproductive.

Be positive. Give at least as much positive feedback as you do negative. Positive feedback stimulates the reward centers in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking new direction. Meanwhile, negative feedback indicates that an adjustment needs to be made and the threat response turns on and defensiveness sets in. You don't need to avoid negative, or corrective, feedback altogether. Just make sure you follow it up with a suggested solution or outcome.

Be specific. People generally respond better to specific, positive direction. Avoid saying things like, "You need to be more talkative in meetings." It's too ambiguous and can be interpreted in a lot of personal ways. Say something specific and positive pointed at the task you want accomplished, such as, "You're smart. I want to hear at least one opinion from you in every meeting we're in together going forward."

Be immediate. The adult brain learns best by being caught in action. If you wait three months to tell someone that his or her performance is average, he or she usually can't grasp the changes needed in order to change direction. It's far too ambiguous and relies on memory, which can be faulty. Productive feedback requires giving it frequently. That way, performance reviews are just another wasted discussion.

Be tough, not mean. When someone drops the ball at work and you have to give him or her feedback, start by asking his or her perspective on the situation. Resist saying how stupid his or her actions were, even if they were.

Give the other person an opportunity to respond. Remain silent and meet the other person’s eye, indicating you are waiting for answers. If they hesitate to respond, ask open ended questions.

Offer specific suggestions. Offering suggestions shows that you have thought past your evaluations and moved into how to improve the situation. For example: “Tim, I sometimes write myself notes in my little portable notebook to remind myself to do something.” "That might be something to help you remember the days work list." “Cheryl, instead of telling Greg that you’re not interested in all the details, you might try asking him specific questions about the information you are most interested in.”

One thought that has helped me over the years with feedback, was something my mum did. My mother would always say to us growing up, "I don't dislike you; I dislike what you have done." or (my personal favorite), I still love but I don't love your behavior." It was never about us personally it was always about the action ( behavior). We never felt she didn't love or like us. That way of thinking has helped me provide feedback, that respects and honors the recipient. It helps people see the feedback is not personal; it is about an action and you can fix an action. Oh, and one last thing. Practice giving positive feedback every day and you will be amazed how the view of feedback will change in your organization.

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