How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback to your people is far less daunting when you use an established feedback model. We’re breaking down three of our favourites.

There’s a myth that your people only want praise and high fives in work. While they definitely look for a positive work culture, research shows that they actually want more feedback, not less (1) and that they understand the value of negative or constructive feedback. One study found that 72% of employees surveyed believe constructive feedback will improve their performance (2).

As managers, many of us shy away from constructive feedback because we don't know where to start. But in doing this, we not only miss the opportunity to improve our teams’ performance, but we’re putting our professional relationships on the line, too.

I've personally been on the receiving end of many performance-related conversations where I explicitly asked for constructive feedback. On nearly every occasion, I heard very little feedback that would help me improve or grow. And it always left me feeling frustrated and in search of better.

Constructive feedback is clearly something we can’t afford to get wrong.

We need to deliver consistent, high quality constructive feedback that lands well, and give our managers the tools to do the same. But how exactly do we go about it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

In my experience, we need to invest in feedback frameworks in order to make constructive feedback as effective as possible. Otherwise, we may struggle to choose the right words in the moment, or stop short of delivering it at all. Giving constructive feedback can be daunting, particularly for new people managers, but tools like these feedback frameworks take the stress and uncertainty out of the process.

Here are three of the best feedback models to begin with;

1. The Start-Stop-Continue or SSC approach

A great approach to start with is the SSC approach to feedback. Although most commonly used by teams collecting feedback in a group setting, it can be just as useful for one-on-ones. The specificity of knowing what to do more of, and what to do less of, anchors the recipient, and helps them reframe their priorities.

With this approach, your feedback is structured around three questions;

  • What should they start doing?

  • What should they stop doing?

  • What should they continue doing?

Frankli tip: Create a talking point template in Frankli featuring the three SSC questions to bring structure to one-on-one meetings around performance.

2. The Situation-Behaviour-Impact or SBI approach

Another one I rely on heavily is the situation-behaviour-impact model for feedback, which can be used for positive and constructive feedback. It allows you to provide concise and non-judgemental feedback in this format:

  • Situation - outline the situation you saw

  • Behaviour - outline the precise behaviour observed

  • Impact - highlight the impact of the person's behaviour

For example, “I noted in last week’s meeting that you hadn’t prepared a project report. This meant we didn’t have all the information we needed to discuss the next phase of the project, and may now miss our deadline.” In this case, the situation is a meeting, the behaviour involves neglecting to prepare a report, and the impact is a missed deadline.

Frankli tip: Use the Give Feedback feature in Frankli to deliver feedback to team members, or if feedback is better suited to being delivered in person or on a call, you can use the private notes function within 1:1 Meetings to ensure you hit the right notes.

3. The Radical Candor Approach

Developed by Kim Scott, Radical Candor (3) is a modern approach to feedback that's gaining great momentum. Based around a simple 2 x 2 framework, Radical Candor shows how feedback can be effective when you care personally and challenge directly at the same time. Scott suggests four steps to adopting this approach as follows;

  • Get it - solicit feedback from your people

  • Give it - offer feedback to your people, using the radical candor principles

  • Gauge it - understand how your feedback impacts your people

  • Encourage it - encourage other people on your team to offer feedback directly using the radical candor principles

Frankli tip: Kickstart the process by requesting feedback from your peers using Frankli’s intuitive Feedback feature.

Let's expose the myth that your people don’t want to hear constructive feedback, or will react badly to it. The more specific we can be as managers with feedback, the better. Your people will only respect you for it.

Frankli makes requesting and offering feedback easier for everyone on your teams, whether it’s done in person, or digitally through the platform. You can find out more here.

1. Shana Mertens, Eveline Schollaert, and Frederik Anseel, How much feedback do employees need? A field study of absolute feedback frequency reports and performance. 2. Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, Your Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give. 3. Kim Scott, Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean.

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