Giving Feedback201112394947 by dfsiopmhy6


									                        Giving Feedback

Aim and importance of feedback
Feedback is a process of generating awareness in another person about the
effectiveness of their behaviour. Feedback can either be affirming (encouraging the
other person to continue with a certain behaviour) or adjusting (encouraging them to
consider additional or alternative behaviours).
Giving feedback to staff should be done with only one aim in mind:
                       to encourage effective behaviour
(Occasionally, a manager’s real aim is different but ineffective – see below).

Providing regular and structured feedback to staff is perhaps the most important
performance management tool that the manager has, although typically staff receive
much less feedback than they would like, and the quality of feedback they do receive
can often be poor.

However you give feedback, there are some key principles to bear in mind. It should:
   be about a person’s behaviour, not about them as a person
   be unambiguous about what impact that behaviour has
   be as specific as possible
   focus on how things can be good in the future, not on how they were in the past

A structured feedback process – the ABCDE model
The ABCDE model provides a structured process a manager can use to give
feedback to their staff. It not only provides a sequential order to follow, but also
encourages good practice in delivering the feedback by incorporating all these

The five stages of the model are:

                                    Ask
                                    Behaviour
                                    Consequences
                                    Do
                                    Evaluate

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        Firstly, the manager should ask themselves a series of questions, before
        engaging the staff member at all:
           Is my aim genuinely to encourage effective behaviour?
            Do I have another purpose for giving feedback? If the feedback is
            affirming, is my aim perhaps to ‘be friends’ with the staff, or to ingratiate
            myself in some way? (If so, the feedback is likely to be ineffective and to
            appear insincere). If the feedback is adjusting, is my aim to get something
            off my chest, or to issue a personal attack? (If so, whatever I say is likely
            to be counter-productive). I have to be sure that my intention is simply to
            encourage effective behaviour.
           Is it worth giving feedback about this particular behaviour?
            Some affirming feedback can come across as patronising if the behaviour
            of the staff member is unexceptional in their eyes. Similarly, adjusting
            feedback can appear nit-picky or vindictive if the behaviour is minor, or if it
            sits alongside considerable achievements that have perhaps gone
            unnoticed. Also, I may be aware of personal circumstances (a death in the
            family) which would make adjusting feedback inappropriate.
           Is there something I’m doing which is causing poor performance?
            Have I perhaps not set clear objectives? Has my communication been
            confused in some way? Is my leadership style inappropriate?

        Secondly, the manager should ask the staff member if they would like to
        receive some feedback. If, for whatever reason, the staff member is not
        receptive to what the manager has to say, the conversation will be wasted:
        the purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behaviour, not to say
        what you need to say. It is better to return to the conversation later than to
        soldier on regardless. If the staff member continues to be resistant to
        feedback, the manager can raise it during a one-to-one meeting, and can
        coach them if necessary.

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                   2
Behaviour      The manager should tell the staff member which particular behaviours they
               have observed that they wish to talk about. Feedback should always start
               with what is observable, not conclusions about observations. This means
               the manager focusing on what they have seen, what they have heard, or
               what they have read.
               For example: “I heard you swear during a phone call with a customer.”; “I
               noticed you roll your eyes when Jo was talking and that you did not make
               any contributions during her part of the meeting”; “We agreed that you
               would clean the washrooms on the second floor before you left, and that
               didn’t happen.”
               We cannot observe abstract concepts like teamwork, attitude, laziness,
               enthusiasm or commitment; these are conclusions we draw from observing
               behaviours. In giving feedback, we should avoid starting with such
               interpretations because:
                  We can easily misinterpret what we observe, which may damage the trust
                   the staff member has in us.
                  The staff member is asked to interpret what you mean, and they may get
                   that wrong!
               Be as specific as possible, give examples, and stick to behaviours.

               Having stated the behaviours, the manager should go on to state the impact

               that those behaviours have, whether positive (in the case of affirming
               feedback) or negative (in the case of adjusting feedback). As far as
               possible, these consequences should be framed in terms that affect the
               individual concerned; the impact should have consequences for them.
               For example: “Chandra, when you decide to stay late and make sure
               everything’s ready for tomorrow’s shift, it really helps things run smoothly
               and I know the other staff really appreciate it…”
               Or: “Martin, when you don’t return my emails, even when I have asked you
               specifically to reply, what happens is that I start to doubt whether you’re on
               top of things or whether you’re prioritising your work properly…”

               Having stated what has been observed and how those behaviours impact

               on performance, the manager then makes the ask: “Please keep it up”
               (affirming) or “What can you do differently?” (adjusting). The onus is on the
               member of staff to take responsibility and suggest how they can change (or
               to accept the praise!).
               It may occasionally be appropriate to ask “What do we need to do
               differently?”, recognising a joint responsibility for a situation. But the staff
               member should retain responsibility for their behaviour in any case.

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                              3
Evaluate   Most instances of feedback will not require any kind of follow up or
           evaluation, including almost all cases of affirming feedback. Feedback at its
           best is regular and low-key, and will rarely turn into anything formal. In these
           cases, it will be appropriate for the manager to ask the staff member about a
           timescale for change, and how they can assess whether progress has been
           made or not.


Here are some examples of how giving feedback might sound.
(In these examples, the Evaluate step is not considered, since this happens later).

Ask          Hi Sunita. Can I give you some feedback?
Behaviour    When you smile at customers and greet them by name…
Consequences …it makes you look great and it’s a key reason that they keep
             coming back.
Do           Please keep it up!

Ask                 Giles, can I give you some feedback?
Behaviour           You were late starting work today…
Consequences        …and that causes problems for the rest of the team.
Do                  Can I ask you to be on time in future? …Thanks.

Ask          Mohammed, can I make an observation?
Behaviour    I noticed in that meeting how you made a point of asking for input
             from the whole team on that tricky issue.
Consequences I think that was really effective because your plan won’t work unless
             you get everyone involved.
Do           Great job!

Ask          Can I give you some feedback, Susan?
Behaviour    When you spend that much time on Facebook at work…
Consequences …it’s disrespectful to the rest of your colleagues and I worry about
             us getting behind with stuff.
Do           Could I ask you to change that please? …Thanks.

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                   4
Ask          Kirstin, can I make an observation?
Behaviour    When you deliver a project on time, on budget and to the
             specification we agreed, and when you keep me updated right the
             way through…
Consequences …it makes you look good, we deliver a fantastic service to the
             College and it makes me proud to have you as a colleague.
Do           Thank you so much. Don’t change a thing!

Ask          Can I give you some feedback?
Behaviour    When you don’t store food in the way it describes on the sign…
Consequences …we run the risk of getting a bad inspection report or – even worse
             – poisoning our customers!
Do           What can you do about that?

Ask          Hi Benjamin – have you got a moment? I wanted to give you some
Behaviour    When you leave notes for staff letting them know that they’ve left
             their office door unlocked (as I know you do)…
Consequences …you’re offering a great service and I really appreciate you making
             that effort and caring in that way.
Do           Please carry on doing that – it’s great!

Ask               Theresa, can I give you some feedback?
Behaviour         Raising your voice and using language like that…
Consequences      …simply isn’t acceptable here.
Do                Can I ask you please to agree never to do that again?

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What’s the difference between ‘feedback’ and ‘criticism’ or ‘praise’?
Feedback in this context is information that someone can practically use to maintain
or improve their effectiveness. Crucially, it focuses on the specifics of what someone
did, doesn’t talk about whether the person himself or herself is good or bad and is
uniquely focused on the future: how things can be better.

Criticism differs in that (a) it always focuses on what’s wrong, and (b) it’s always
focused on the past, passing judgment on what’s been and gone. Praise also
addresses the past only, saying that something was good. Both criticism and praise
tend to be personal, since they often imply a judgment on the person themselves, not
just on what that person did.

When managing people, feedback is the ‘gold standard’. Praise is fine, just not as
good as feedback. And criticism is rarely if ever an appropriate option.

I say ‘thank you’ to my staff all the time. Isn’t that enough?
Gratitude, like praise, is great – there should be more of it around! And still, feedback
is the most effective way of maintaining or improving performance. This is because:
 Saying ‘thank you’ is non-specific – it doesn’t say what in particular was helpful
 It’s very quick to say, and is a very common phrase. That means it can sound a
    little throw-away.
 It’s clearly not appropriate for addressing things that need to change!

Is ‘affirming’ and ‘adjusting’ feedback the same as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’?
Basically yes. These terms are used here because all feedback should be positive in
the sense that it is designed to encourage improvement. And feedback should never
be negative for the same reason. Also, the word ‘adjusting’ emphasises the fact that
feedback will normally be about small changes in behaviour, not massive shifts.

Being so structured doesn’t feel right, it sounds a bit stiff.
Using a model to deliver feedback definitely won’t feel natural, but this is the same
for anything that you do for the first time. We should not rule out doing things
because they feel a little uncomfortable or awkward, even if they always feel
uncomfortable. We don’t get paid as managers to do what we feel comfortable doing;
we get paid to deliver results through the engagement of other people, and that may
involve doing things that we wouldn’t choose to do normally.

People may argue that giving feedback in this way is formulaic and will therefore be
less effective. But, above all, direct reports dislike:
 not getting enough feedback
 getting feedback that isn’t specific or constructive

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                 6
   getting feedback that is insincere (and you can deliver feedback using a structure
    and be absolutely sincere – just think about the different ways people say ‘thank

If you can avoid all these pitfalls without using a structure, that’s great. The danger of
not using a structure is that you will end up not giving enough quality feedback.

Some managers feel awkward because using a structured approach to feedback
makes them sound like a manager. And they don’t want to sound like a manager
because that threatens their status as a friend and colleague. This is a whole other
issue that is quite separate from giving feedback!

What happens if my staff work out that I’m using a model to give feedback?
Great! All effective management tools are completely transparent, and the feedback
model is no different. There should be absolutely no sense in which you are tricking
your staff, or playing mind games: tell them exactly what you’re doing.

You might consider introducing the model by telling your staff that you are intending
to give more, better feedback, and that you’re going to try using a structured
approach to do so. There will be some laughs and scepticism at first, but people’s
thirst for good feedback will soon get beyond all of that.

How often should a manager give feedback to their staff?
As often as possible. Situations differ widely (number of direct reports, working
patterns, differences in location), but a good general rule is to give feedback to at
least one direct report at least once a day (like the proverbial apple) and always in
any one-to-one meeting that you have.

Great people managers are continually focused on performance, and giving
feedback is their day-to-day tool of choice. The great thing about giving feedback
regularly is that everyone gets used to it – it’s no longer a big deal, either for the
manager or the direct report. And that means that you are far less likely to have
‘crunch’ conversations (where nothing is said for ages and one day it all boils over).

Isn’t that very time consuming?
Delivering a piece of feedback takes about 20 seconds…

I work in an open plan office. How can I give feedback in this environment?
It can be awkward to give feedback to someone in front of other people. At the same
time, having to take people to one side or asking them to come into your office before
you give feedback makes it highly likely that you just won’t give feedback at all – it’s
just too much effort. So how do you deal with that?

Firstly, make sure that, as an absolute bare minimum, you give one piece of well-
considered feedback in every one-to-one meeting that you have with each direct

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                  7
report. Doing that alone would probably place you in the top 2% of managers in the
College in this respect.

Secondly, even in an open plan office, there are plenty of occasions when you can
deliver feedback. People cross in the corridor, meet each other in the kitchen, leave
a meeting together, get up to use the photocopier; all these occasions are ones
where you can deliver a piece of feedback out of earshot of others.

Thirdly, it’s fine to deliver feedback to someone in an open plan office provided it’s
done in a low voice and in a way that makes it clear that the feedback is intended for
that person alone to hear. The fact that other people may overhear is much less of a
problem since it is also clear that your intention is not to embarrass the recipient or
their colleagues.

Lastly, there is an argument that we’re much too precious about this stuff! In many
professions, it’s completely normal for people to get feedback within earshot of
others, and this normality dispels the discomfort people may have. We have to be
careful not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good: it’s better to give quality
feedback in less-than-ideal conditions than not give feedback at all.

I’m concerned that giving affirming feedback is a bit cheesy. Any thoughts..?
It’s only cheesy if you’re insincere, if you don’t really believe what you’re saying. If it’s
sincere, then it will almost always be well received, such is the enthusiasm that
people have to hear their contribution recognised, and so rare is it for someone to
take the time to tell them specifically what it is about their work that is effective and

I’ve heard about the ‘feedback sandwich’. Isn’t that a better model?
The feedback sandwich encourages you to deliver feedback in 3 bits: one piece of
positive, one piece of negative, then one piece of positive (hence the sandwich). The
idea is that the negative feedback is cushioned by the two bits of positive feedback
and that makes it more digestible for the recipient.

Despite being a much-repeated recommendation, this has to be one of the worst
pieces of management advice ever issued. There are so many reasons why the
feedback sandwich is ineffective:
 If you have to accumulate 3 pieces of feedback (2 positive, 1 negative) before you
   can deliver feedback to someone, the feedback will rarely be timely, and that will
   make it much less effective.
 If you can’t wait for three genuine pieces of feedback, you have to start inventing
   stuff which necessarily makes the delivery insincere. This is an example of a
   model which does make you sound false and manipulative.
 Sandwiching negative feedback in no way mitigates the problem of poor delivery.
   If the sandwich filling tastes awful, wrapping it in tasty bread (positive feedback)
   doesn’t really help.
 It is possible to have so much tasty bread that the taste of the filling is
   overpowered. What happens here is that the recipient doesn’t hear the negative
   feedback, and goes away feeling they have done an excellent job. This makes

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                    8
   Using the sandwich means that you have a completely different way of delivering
    positive and negative feedback. This will very quickly become obvious to your
    staff (see next point) and also means that delivering adjusting feedback becomes
    an event, something you have to give lots of thought to. Much better to use
    exactly the same structure for all feedback – everyone gets used to the idea that
    it’s the same thing: information designed to encourage effective behaviour.
   This is not a model that remains effective (if it ever was) once the direct report
    knows you’re using it. They will ignore both the positive pieces of feedback and
    despise you for patronising them.

People want to receive good quality, honest feedback, even if it’s uniquely ‘negative’.
They may not like you in the moment, but over time you will win their respect.

Isn’t it better to ask my staff for their explanation before passing judgment?
Yes and no. Remember that the first stage of the model is ‘Ask’. You need to
consider as a manager whether it is appropriate for you to give feedback or not.
Sometimes you may feel that feedback is inappropriate because you simply aren’t
sure enough about what happened, and in these cases, it’s entirely appropriate to
engage in discussion, to find out more.

But there is rarely a situation where you are 100% certain that you have all the facts,
where you are 100% certain that the behaviour you have referred to is exactly and
unambiguously what happened. And there are some staff who will always be able to
explain away their behaviour.

The key is to deliver the feedback when you are sure enough in your own mind, even
if you know there is a chance you’re wrong. If your standard is 100%, you will never
give adjusting feedback. (Interestingly, most managers don’t feel that they need to be
100% certain before giving affirming feedback). If your standard is less than 100%,
you’ll be right a lot of the time, and your staff will get more effective because of the
feedback you give. And if you’re wrong…

What happens if it turns out that I’m mistaken?!
It can happen that you give feedback and then find out that somebody didn’t do what
you thought they did. For example, you give feedback to someone about being late
and they tell you that they were in fact at work early, and have just been outside
helping a student. Oops!

In this case, you simply apologise unreservedly. And provided you are giving
feedback regularly, your relationship with that person won’t suffer unduly. When
feedback is a daily experience, most of it will be affirming and most of it will be
accurate. In this context, your staff will forgive you for getting it wrong occasionally,
provided you apologise unreservedly. It’s when you give feedback very infrequently
that it becomes a big deal. In this case it is reasonable for them to assume that you

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                  9
think the worse of them since they do not have a huge bank of valid feedback against
which to compare this one piece of misplaced feedback.

What do I do if my direct report disagrees with my feedback?
You may give one of your direct reports some adjusting feedback along theses lines:
“when you agree to do something by a certain time and you don’t do it by that time, it
can cause problems for the service and slow us down”.

The beauty of this formulation is that the feedback is true even if you are mistaken
about it applying to them on this occasion. So if they disagree (“…but I did do it on
time”; “….but you didn’t tell me to do it by 4pm”; “…but you told me later not to do it
without Yvonne’s help” etc.), all you have to do is apologise unreservedly and let it
drop. The purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behaviour, not for you to win
an argument and prove you’re right.

If they’re right and you’re wrong about their behaviour on this occasion, an apology is
completely appropriate. But the feedback statement remains true.

If they did behave as you think they did (and are being defensive in their response), it
doesn’t matter because they have already received the feedback. They know that
you know, they know that you believe their behaviour was ineffective, and they know
why you believe that. That’s all that’s needed for the feedback to be effective. Your
goal as a manager is to get the best results through your staff, and if their behaviour
changes as a result of your feedback, what do you care if you didn’t win the

This is easier said than done, of course, since it is so tempting to get into an
argument to prove that you were right, to get them to admit that they were wrong. But
focusing on the aim of feedback – to encourage effective behaviour – should tell us
that we just need to walk away and leave our staff to think about the feedback and
how they will act in future.

What happens if behaviour doesn’t change after I’ve given adjusting feedback?
Feedback is similar to the little turns of the steering wheel a driver makes as they
drive normally along any road. These turns happen frequently and there’s no drama
involved. A major change in direction only happens in the face of a really significant
incident, and this happens rarely.

So if behaviour doesn’t change after giving a drama-free piece of feedback, you
simply give another piece of drama-free feedback, and keep repeating until there’s
an effect. It’s about being consistent, persistent and firm but also not making a big
deal out of it.

And what happens if it still doesn’t change?!
This can happen, of course. This comes under dealing with poor performance, and
will be addressed more thoroughly elsewhere in Learning Zone materials.

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It’s important to remember here that so many cases of poor performance arise
because of a failure on the part of managers to manage effectively – or even at all.
Having lots of drama-free conversations about performance makes dramatic
conversations much less likely and much less difficult if and when they do arise.

I have a question that’s not covered here. What do I do?
Please contact me. I will be delighted to help in any way I can.

                                                                                Carl Davies
                                                        Head of Organisational Development
                                                                           September 2010

Giving Feedback (v2)                                                                 11

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