How Do You Give Effective Feedback?


Yesterday's post about asking for feedback ("If you were me, what would you do differently?") got me thinking, if asking for feedback is so important, isn't it at least as important to GIVE effective feedback? In fact, if  you're like many of us, telling someone something even slightly critical is nerve-wracking.  What's a good strategy for communicating information which could feel and/or be seen as confrontational?

It's important to realize, while many of us want to grow, we also want feedback delivered to us in a way that is thoughtful and specific. We want enough detail to know what went wrong so we can make changes.

In short, we want examples.

The challenge with examples is that many of us don't give straight-forward examples, we give stories.  Stories are great as illustrations, but most stories contain language which highlights emotion and wanders around before getting to the main point.

When giving feedback, I advocate for the "ripping off the bandage" approach.  I know LOTS of people opt for the "Feedback Sandwich" (i.e., Sandwich criticism between two compliments), but I don't use that approach because it feels forced.

Instead, I'm MUCH more comfortable using what Leadership Gurus call the "SBI" method with stands for the three pieces you need to include in the discussion for effective feedback:

Situation. Behavior. Impact.

In this approach, the words mean exactly what you think they'd mean, but let me break it down for you with specific (but fictional) examples.

For instance, an interaction at work between colleagues might sound like this:

"During the meeting when the client was talking about the missed deadline (a specific Situation), you interrupted their story with an explanation and defense of our practices (a specific Behavior), so we never heard the full context of their story and don't have a complete picture about how to make improvements (a specific Impact)."

Imagine SBI in a marriage setting:

"When we were at dinner with the Browns (S), you told a story about me losing my toe car keys (B), and I was embarrassed (I)."

Or with your kids:

"When you were playing with Sam (S), you didn't share the toy (B), and I noticed he felt left out (I)."

Even with the neighbors:

"On school mornings (S), when you park your car at the circle (B), the school bus can't get past (I)."

Notice, how SBI doesn't include a specific coaching element. I like to think that's because you don't need to prescribe a specific change when you give feedback.  The person you are speaking with has to own their response.

Still,  if the person you're speaking with is secure and brave enough, they MAY ask you, "if you were me, what would you do differently?"  At that point, express your thoughts...gently!