Taking the sting out of feedback

The leadership freak (Dan Rockwell) asks an insightful question in his post about feedback,

why are we right when we give feedback and others are wrong when they give us feedback?

I jotted down some ideas about receiving feedback in a post last year. It is hard to really accept feedback that is at odds with how we see ourselves.

More than that, for feedback to work, a number of challenges have to be overcome. Initially the person wanting to give feedback needs to be brave enough to tell us something that we probably would prefer not to hear. Once that hurdle is overcome, the method of delivering the feedback can scupper it before it is even delivered. Feedback that gets our back up is unlikely to be accepted. And lastly as the receiver of feedback, unless we are open minded, we will likely reject feedback unless it is delivered in just the right way.

So how can we give effective feedback that doesn’t sting?

The Centre for Creative Leadership has a very practical method for giving feedback which they call S-B-I (SituationBehaviour Impact) model.

Situation provides context, when did something happen or what was going at that time so that the person receiving feedback can locate what you are giving them feedback on.

The best way to think about behaviour is how would we describe what we saw if we were watching a video of what had happened. No interpretation, no judgements, just describing what the camera would have seen.

And impact is just about me (the person giving the feedback). What impact has the behaviour had on me. Not anybody else (even if we are sure that everyone saw it like we did). Mostly, we can only truthfully speak for ourselves.

Here is an example to show how it works.

I arrive at a meeting and my colleague Eric arrives 15 minutes late and proceeds to do a good presentation on the new sales strategy. When concluding the last few minutes are a bit vague and there are no clear next steps.

Using the S-B-I model for feedback, I would give Eric feedback as follows:

  • Situation: At the start of the meeting when we were ready to begin
  • Behaviour: You were the only person who wasn’t in the room (this is what the camera would show if we had taken a video)
  • Impact (on me): I thought you were disrespectful of our time
  • Situation: 10 minutes into your presentation
  • Behaviour: You explained each of your three scenarios with a diagram and a short summary (again – nothing to dispute – just a picture or video of what was shown)
  • Impact (on me): I understood exactly what you proposed. I was impressed with your preparation and how much thought you had put into your ideas
  • Situation: The last 5 minutes of your presentation
  • Behaviour: You reiterated the scenarios. There was no next steps slide
  • Impact (on me): I was left wondering what you wanted us to change and how we would take your ideas forward
  • Situation: During question time
  • Behaviour: You smiled at each person when they had finished asking their question and after your answer you asked them if you had answered their question (the camera would have confirmed this)
  • Impact (on me): I saw you as being comfortable to be challenged, respectful in how you answered questions and caring that you had provided an understandable answer

While we are always tempted to generalise feedback we can only really talk about the impact on ourselves. We might think that everyone would respond the same way or all reasonable people would respond in the same way but this is not true.

An equally valid SBI could come from someone else who was at the presentation.

  • Situation: During question time
  • Behaviour: You smiled at each person when they had finished asking their question and after your answer you asked them if you had answered their question
  • Impact (on me): I found you too sure of yourself and too over confident. I would have liked you to just answer the questions with less theatrical smiles and what I interpreted to be an insincere thank you.

There are a couple of key things that make the S-B-I model work very well.

  1. Feedback is about behaviour – what the camera saw
  2. The person giving feedback owns how the behaviour impacted them
  3. While judgements of behaviour can be included, they need to be owned by the person making them
  4. Behaviour may have a different impact on different people
  5. No ‘advice’ is given for how a person should change their behaviour
  6. The person receiving feedback is left to decide for themselves what to do with the feedback

My experience is that S-B-I feedback requires practice. It is all to easy to slip into old habits and give ineffective feedback. Dan Rockwell’s article provides some additional useful do’s and don’ts on feedback.

CCL provide an example card that you can download. It includes a description, some examples and space to write your S-B-I feedback.

Taking the sting out of feedback

Image source: http://cdale.me/1zdYITu

 

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