How to Give Clear, Concise, Meaningful, and Effective Feedback
Instead of the "build, burn, build" model for feedback, leaders should use the SBI model and clarify the type of feedback they are giving.
“How do I get people to change their behavior?”
While no magic formula exists for guaranteed behavior change, you can develop skills that are fundamental for leading well and influencing others. For example, helping yourself or your team recognize behavioral triggers is one way to encourage organizational and individual behavior change. Another is providing appropriate feedback.
Types of Feedback
In their book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, authors Douglas Stone and Shiela Heen define three types of feedback.
(1) Appreciation – is about communicating success. Appreciation can be as simple as a fist bump or saying “good job.”
(2) Coaching – is about giving corrective feedback that focuses on how to do something differently. Coaching is future oriented. “Here is how to do it next time.”
(3) Evaluation – is providing negative feedback. “What you did here is not acceptable.”
Common Struggles with Receiving Feedback
Stone and Heen point out that a common struggle for those of us receiving feedback is that when we receive coaching, we often perceive it as evaluation. In other words, we focus on the negative connotations rather than the positive future that coaching offers us.
What’s interesting about their observation is that The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) also warns about how feedback can be confusing. CCL explains that when we give feedback, it is important not to mix messages. For our feedback to be clear, we must keep praise and critique separate.
So to apply that insight to the three types of feedback descried by Stone and Heen:
(1) When giving appreciation, we need to make sure the entire message is positive.
(2) When giving coaching, we need to make our intent clear and focus on positive behaviors and outcomes for the future.
(3) When giving evaluation, we need to be clear and not sandwich the negative between positives. To do this, we must make sure we give appreciation and coaching prior to the need for giving evaluation.
Suggestions for Giving Feedback
Here is a helpful model for sharing feedback, adapted from the Center for Creative Leadership’s SBI model. We can call this the SBI-F model. This model will help us keep our feedback concise.
First, Start with the (S)ituation – When and where did the behavior happen?
Next, describe the (B)ehavior – What were the specific actions? The Center for Creative Leadership suggests slowing down and describe in detail as if you were watching a move.
Then, discuss the (I)mpact – What were the consequences for the organization? The consequences on the purpose of the mission? The feelings of the people involved?
For any kind of feedback conversation, be it appreciation, coaching, or evaluation, this is helpful. If you want to make this a coaching conversation, be sure to add one more component, and make it the heart of your conversation. Discuss (F)uture behaviors and outcomes. By focusing on the future for those we lead, we make our feedback both meaningful and effective for them.
When thinking about future behaviors, I suggest you also think through old behaviors you want someone to stop doing, new behaviors you would like for them to start doing, and current successful behaviors that you want them to continue doing.
While advice on what to start or stop may seem obvious, it’s easy to overlook feedback on what should continue.
In order to get that kind of feedback, I often joke with my wife and daughters, “just because I did something right once doesn’t mean I actually knew what I was doing. Please help me know when I’m being successful so I can continue doing that.”
When I expressed this to my youngest daughter while we were out on a father-daughter date, her advice was, “continue buying me gelato.”
So, the next time you provide feedback for someone:
(1) Be clear about what kind of feedback you are giving. Don’t mix types. Let the listener know your intent.
(2) Use the SBI model for all three types of feedback, and make sure you add and emphasize the future component for coaching conversations.
(3) When thinking through future behaviors, communicate behaviors to start, stop, and continue.