Chapter 4: Coaching your People on Giving and Receiving Feedback

Employees in a discussion

4 Coaching Your People on Giving and Receiving Feedback

What are the best practices for giving and receiving feedback?

How your organization gives and receives feedback depends on what you do and what you need feedback to do. We’ve collected some resources and methods to help you determine that.

The FAST feedback model

Popularized by Bruce Talgan, FAST feedback is a model managers can follow to effectively coach employees with feedback. FAST stands for Frequent, Accurate, Specific, and Timely. We’ve summarized the model here, but more information can be found in his book, Fast Feedback.

  • Frequent: You’d expect this point to be about how often you give an employee feedback, and it is, but it’s also about customizing that feedback cadence to the unique frequency of each employee. If you just give every employee feedback constantly, chances are you’ll be micromanaging some of them, and not giving them the chance to consider your feedback and apply it to their performance.
    • What your organization can do: Use automated software triggers to suggest that employees ask for feedback regularly or when they reach certain thresholds in their work. Outside of this, keep encouraging employees to ask for feedback and managers to offer feedback when it is most needed. You never know where an opportunity for feedback will come up.
  • Accurate: According to Talgan, this is about thoughtfully crafting feedback so that it is factual, delivers the right balance of praise and criticism, and uses the appropriate tone. When real-time feedback is quick and easy to fire off, it’s easy to forget how much your word choice can make the difference between a manager and a mentor.
    • What your organization can do: Encourage managers to be thorough, sensitive, and instructive, no matter how small or meaningless a piece of feedback seems. Take pulse surveys to see how employees are feeling about the feedback they receive. Train and educate managers in the art of constructing accurate and thoughtful feedback.
  • Specific: The more detailed and actionable, the better. Follow your accurate assessment of an employee’s performance with specific instructions and deadlines for what the next steps should be. Make it easy for the employee to take your advice and use it to produce better results.
    • What your organization can do: Continue to encourage a balance between coaching and micromanaging. Teach managers to make sure feedback is clear on what result you’d like to see, a recommended next move, and enough explanation so that an employee can take that next move.
  • Timely: It’s not fast (or real-time) if it isn’t done as soon as possible. Take time to complete feedback requests or offer new feedback regularly. Make sure that performance issues are resolved while they are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and before they become habits that are much harder to break.
    • What your organization can do: Encourage managers to carve out time to consider employee performance and complete feedback requests or initiate feedback every week. If possible, allow for mobile use of the module, so feedback can be done on the go.
The Situation-Behavior-Impact Feedback Model

Developed by the Center for Creative Leadership, Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) is a framework for giving frequent, constructive feedback on an employee’s performance. In every step of the model, it’s important to focus on finding solutions without placing blame.

  • Situation: Outline the specific situation you’re referring to, including when and where it happened.
    • Example: In yesterday’s presentation, when you were speaking in front of the team and the client…
  • Behavior: Describe the behavior that you observed and want to address. Keep to the facts. Don’t insert judgements or assume you know what they were thinking.
    • Example: In yesterday’s presentation, when you were speaking in front of the team and the client, I noticed that you had trouble answering the client’s question about our research.
  • Impact: Explain the effects the behavior had on you or others in the organization. Describe what you thought or felt in reaction.
    • Example: In yesterday’s presentation, when you were speaking in front of the client, I noticed that you had trouble answering the client’s question about our research. I’m concerned that it may have reflected badly on the team and affected our relationship with the client.

The Center for Creative Leadership also suggests adding “Intent” to the model (SBI-I) as a way to uncover the “why” behind the behavior. This gives the employee the chance to explain what they intended or what was going on with them. It turns feedback into a two-way coaching conversation, as the feedback giver can connect the intent to the impact. They will get a clearer view of the situation and will be better equipped to help the employee find a solution.

The model can also be used to reinforce and praise positive behavior. The feedback giver can make suggestions for next steps on further developing the highlighted behavior.

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback (Book)

Though it was published in the late 90s, The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback was already highlighting the benefits of continuous feedback in the workplace:

When everyone on your team learns to provide and expect feedback that is focused on acts, directed toward the future, goal oriented, multidirectional, supportive, and continual, you will find that feedback sessions become opportunities for creative problem solving rather than dreaded encounters. Everyone on your team will share the same language, and you will be able to share ideas without fear of hurt feelings or reprisals.

The book is filled with techniques and worksheets that make a great reference point for managers who are looking to give better feedback and employees that want to make the most of the feedback they receive.

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