The facilitators and coaches that work for our sister company - TLC The Learning Curve - regularly observe many poor examples of people giving verbal and even written feedback to others. Here at click-360, we can't help noticing some of the less than helpful comments that people have provided in the reports. In our combined experience, positive behaviour - which offers a great opportunity for praising feedback - is usually ignored altogether, while negative feedback is either brushed under the carpet (its avoided) or it's done really badly, often leaving the receiver feeling bruised and wounded.
We recommend a model for giving feedback that is in the form of an acronym or mnemonic: BE FAIR.
B = Behaviour (specifically what was observed that was either good or bad)
E = Effects (what resulted or is likely to result, the consequences - good or bad)
F = Feelings (how that behaviour left you feeling or leaves you feeling, YOUR feelings, from the heart)
Those first 3 letters of the acronym work for both positive and negative behaviour and ensure that the receiver is left feeling very clear about what was done well or what needs to be done differently. The next letter A is only needed for giving feedback about negative behaviour:
A = Alternative (you say something like "we need to find an alternative that works for both of us")
The final two letters are closely linked to each other and can be used to reinforce positive behaviour and are definitely needed for giving feedback about negative behaviour:
So what you do now is you.. I = Invite to R = Respond (the next steps, worked through with the other person)
Following the BE FAIR model offers such an important skill for any human interaction, let alone people managers, we are genuinely surprised that it isn't taught at school.
Let's look at the model more closely, together with worked examples. Let's imagine I'm giving feedback to a direct report by the name of John:
B = Behaviour
Describe specifically what was done well or poorly. Be specific about the Behaviour you saw (what was it that they did or didn't do, what was it that they said or didn't say). Keep your words focused on the behaviour, not the person, e.g.
"That report you wrote was really excellent John, what I particularly liked about it was the fact that it had a very clear index, each page was numbered, you kept the word count down so it was easy to read and didn't take too long, you used some clear graphics which brought the words to life AND, best of all John, you gave it to me on time."
And now the same situation but from a negative perspective...
"That report you wrote was really poor John, not at all like you. What I particularly disliked about it was the fact that it had no index, there was no numbering of the pages, the word count was very high, making it difficult and very time-consuming to read, you didn't use any graphics which would have brought the words to life AND, worst of all John, you gave it to me late."
E = Effects
Describe the actual or likely effects or consequences of that behaviour, good or bad. Typically, at work, these will be about the business process, or business results, e.g.
"Because the report was so good John, I didn't have to devote any time at all to amending it, I was able to send it straight off to the client confident in the knowledge that it would hit the spot AND, because you gave it to me on time, this meant the client got it earlier than expected."
And now the E component in negative feedback...
"Because the report was so poor John, I had to devote time and effort to amending it, which meant I was unable to send it straight off to the client AND, because of the tight timeline involved, even though I worked late into the night, the client got it late."
F = Feelings
Reveal how you feel about the behaviour, good or bad, the way that the behaviour affected you, e.g.
"...and I feel overjoyed about that - chuffed to bits!! I'm really glad to have you as part of my team John."
"...and I feel very disappointed - quite hurt actually. I really expected better from you John."
You might even want to use something stronger than the word "disappointed" - it's up to you, whatever sounds right for you.
This next component remember is only valid when giving negative (or constructive or corrective) feedback:
A = Alternative
You either suggest another way they could do that behaviour, perhaps from your own experience or from your knowledge of how someone else does that thing. OR you simply suggest the need to find an alternative, e.g.
(These are both negative remember...)
"I'd like to suggest that you borrow some examples of reports that are better put together John so that you can come back to me with a revised layout by the end of next month."
"As a result of your performance around this report John, WE need to find a way of improving your report-writing skills so that this kind of situation can be avoided in future."
Note the use of the word ‘WE' rather than ‘you' - you may want to show a joint commitment to getting it right in the future.
Then you offer an...
I = Invitation to...
R = ...Respond
These two steps go together, they need to be short and to the point, and remember they can be used to reinforce positive behaviour OR to look for an alternative behaviour e.g.
"I wonder...how will you ensure that all your reports are delivered that way John?"
And now negative feedback...
"So what ideas have you got as to how we can move forward John?"
This is where you move into coaching mode and process the responses the receiver is giving you (prompting through additional questions if necessary) until you reach a conclusion that works for both of you.
OK, so that's the BE FAIR model with worked examples. If all that seems a bit cumbersome, here's a shorter version of each:
Reinforcing feedback first...
"The way you are putting together the monthly report for us is excellent John - it has just the right amount of detail, you illustrate the points well, it's well laid out with a clear index, and what's more I receive it on time. This means that the client is always well informed and up to speed. I feel very good about that, I very much appreciate it. Well done and thank you. I wonder...how will you ensure that all your reports are delivered that way?"
And now the opposite, constructive or corrective feedback...
"The way you are putting together the monthly report is just not working for me John - it has too much detail, you're not illustrating the key points well enough, it's poorly laid out with no index, and what's more I rarely receive it on time. This means that the customer is often poorly informed and not up to speed. I don't feel good about that John, I'm really disappointed - I expected better from you."
"I'd like to suggest that you borrow some examples of reports that are better put together so that you can come back to me with a revised layout by the end of next month. What do you think John?"
"Given what I've just said, what do you think you could do to make this different John?"
Well, if you hadn't come across it before, we hope you found that useful. Have fun with the BE FAIR feedback model, practise it with your kids and your significant others, not just your business interactions! Think about its relevance to a 360 when coaching raters to enter written comments to support their ratings.
When you are really fluent with it and are able to use it to manage your people's performance successfully, or to maintain your ground in difficult negotiations with colleagues and/or customers, then you'll know you've mastered the technique.
Please post a comment and tell me what you think of the vlog and feel free to ask any questions. I’ll be answering questions and reviewing comments personally.