Feedback is crucial for employee development.
The problem, however, is that when it comes to providing this feedback, managers often struggle. More specifically, they often shy away from conflict in fear of upsetting the recipient, or needing to have uncomfortable conversations.
Despite the fact that 82% of employees actually want this feedback—good or bad.
So, what's the solution? How can you ensure your managers are providing their teams with the feedback they need, even when they're not comfortable doing so?
In short, with the help of a feedback model.
In this article, we’ve not only provided a list of the different feedback models available to you, but we've also described how they can help structure feedback, and shared examples for each one so that you can see what great feedback looks like.
What are the different feedback models?
SBI Feedback Model
The SBI Feedback Model is one of the most popular approaches to giving feedback in the workplace.
But what is it? And how does it work?
SBI – or Situation Behavior Impact – offers a three-part framework for providing feedback. It outlines where the situation took place, describes the specific behaviors, and emphasises the impact this behavior has had on the team, individual, or performance.
SBI feedback examples
Below, we’ve provided some examples of what feedback might look like when using the SBI model:
When delivering feedback, one of the most effective things your managers can do is to define the when and where of the situation they’re referring to.
As an example, they may say:
“During the company-wide meeting yesterday morning, I noticed…”.
“When you presented to the client on Thursday…”.
Once they’ve set the scene and helped put the feedback into context, they then need to describe the specific behaviors.
Here’s the thing—the behaviors described must be those that the manager (or individual delivering the feedback) witnessed first-hand. They must not be assumptions or judgments, and they should not be based on hearsay.
So, what does an SBI example of behavior look like?
“During the company-wide meeting yesterday morning, I noticed that you were uncertain about the metrics you shared and didn’t seem confident when explaining the drop in traffic”.
“When you presented to the client on Thursday, you did a really great job of answering all of their questions correctly, and you came prepared with the calculations”.
One of the strengths of using the Situation Behaviour Impact Model is that it considers the impact their actions have had on other people and/or their performance.
“During the company-wide meeting yesterday morning, I noticed that you were uncertain about the metrics you shared and didn’t seem confident when explaining the change in website traffic. This could’ve been a great opportunity for us to educate other teams about the great work we’ve been doing”.
“When you presented to the client on Thursday, you did a really great job of answering all their questions correctly, and you came prepared with the calculations which really helped. They now feel a lot more confident in increasing their annual spend with us”.
McKinsey Feedback Model
Another great model to consider is the McKinsey Feedback Model. In fact, this is particularly useful when the feedback needs to be straight to the point, irrefutable, and less personal.
So, how does it work?
When using McKinsey’s model, feedback is delivered in three parts:
- A is the specific action, event or behavior you’d like someone to change.
- B is the impact of that behaviour, in other words how it made you feel.
- C is a suggestion for what the person could do differently next time.
One of the McKinsey model’s greatest strengths is that it diffuses arguments by focusing on facts so that the person you’re addressing is less likely to take your words too personally.
McKinsey feedback example
When using this model, the A, B and C's outlined above should be used in the following format:
“When you did [A], it made me feel [B]. In the future, I would recommend that you do [C]".
Which will sound something like this:
“When you arrived 15 minutes late for the team meeting, it left the team feeling frustrated as we couldn’t get started. This also meant that we didn't have time to cover everything that needed discussing. In the future, can you please let us know if you are delayed and going to be running late”.
SAID Feedback Model
Another tool that can help you deliver better and more effective feedback is the SAID feedback model.
In fact, like many of the other models of feedback, the SAID method helps you construct your feedback by separating it into separate parts, in this case four of them: strengths (S), action (A), impact (I), and development (D).
The reason it works so well is because helps reinforce good behavior when the feedback is positive, and helps drive a change in behavior when more constructive feedback is required.
SAID feedback example
So, what does this look like in practice?
One of the reasons the SAID model works so well—particularly when providing negative feedback–is that it acknowledges the employee’s efforts and demonstrates that you understood their good intention.
“We’ve often discussed that you have great attention to detail, which has always helped us to ensure accuracy in our marketing communications”.
Next, you will need to convey what the action is that you are providing feedback on. Remember, this should be something that you’ve observed or heard first-hand.
It’s also important that you’re limiting the number of actions you’re referring to, in order to keep the feedback focused and digestible, without leaving them feeling demotivated.
“We’ve often discussed that you have great attention to detail, which has always helped us to ensure accuracy in our marketing communications. I did, however, notice that in the newsletter you sent yesterday, there were a few broken links”.
Just like with the SBI model, SAID feedback considers the impact the individual’s actions have had on either a person or performance—something that is often missed when providing positive feedback. For example, many of us will say “you’ve done a great job, well done”, without explaining why or detailing the positive impact their action has made.
But what does this look like when providing negative feedback?
“We’ve often discussed that you have great attention to detail, which has always helped us to ensure accuracy in our marketing communications. I did, however, notice that in the newsletter you sent yesterday, there were a few broken links. This may impact the number of sign-ups we get for our next webinar”.
While the purpose of constructive feedback is to motivate the employee to improve and develop, feedback often falls short of including any development actions.
In other words, it often fails to determine the desired next steps, for example correcting a mistake.
When using the SAID model, you should therefore be acknowledging what needs to change going forward. You may also want to think about putting a plan in place to review whether improvements have been made, as well as any support the employee may require.
“We’ve often discussed that you have great attention to detail, which has always helped us to ensure accuracy in our marketing communications. I did, however, notice that in the newsletter you sent yesterday, there were a few broken links. This may impact the number of sign-ups we get for our next webinar. Perhaps next time, we could create a checklist that includes checking that all links are working okay”.
The Stanford method is perhaps one of the least-complicated feedback models, for the simple reason that the feedback starts with either…
- I like…
- I wish…
- What if…
Stanford method example
So, what does feedback using the Stanford Method actually look like?
“I like that you were so passionate presenting our product this morning".
“I wish you would spend a little less time explaining all the features as the prospect had some very specific questions that we then had to rush through".
Alternatively, you could make a suggestion phrased as “What if…”.
“What if you leave a little more time for questions during your next presentation?”
People respond well to this technique because the structure describes your feelings in a non-accusing manner.
SKS Feedback Model
Another effective way to approach feedback is by using SKS – “Stop”, “Keep”, and “Start”.
- What should the person stop doing?
- What should the person keep doing?
- What should the person start doing?
SKS feedback approach example
So, what could this look like when providing feedback using the SKS method?
“Your presentations will be more effective if you can make them less detailed — there’s simply too much for people to take in”.
“The research you do is really valuable. You should keep doing it”.
“Can you give some thought to how you can make each presentation a bit more high level? You could distribute a follow up report so that people can go into the detail at their own pace”.
The SKS method is action-focused and reassuring. Nevertheless, you should be careful to not only focus on specific activities that the person should stop or start; otherwise, they may feel you’re only criticising them.
STAR Feedback Model
The STAR feedback model, or STAR Method, is another model that managers should consider using when giving feedback.
In fact, it works in a similar way to both the SAID method and SBI framework, with STAR an abbreviation for:
STAR feedback model example
Let’s look at what STAR feedback could look like:
- Situation or Task
Much like many other feedback models, the STAR method encourages managers to draw on the specific situation or task.
Let’s assume you manage a technical support team and you’ve received a complaint about the way a member of your team has handled a call. You then need to provide the support representative with constructive feedback about their performance on the call.
Rather than saying “I’ve received a complaint about the way you spoke to a customer…”, you could instead say something like….
“COMPANY has made a complaint about the way you handled a technical support call yesterday”.
Next, you will need to clearly outline the action or impact.
“COMPANY has made a complaint about the way you handled a technical support call yesterday. They felt you weren’t very patient with them and that you came across as patronizing”.
In the final part of the STAR feedback model, you should specify the direct result of the action.
“COMPANY has made a complaint about the way you handled a technical support call yesterday. They felt you weren’t very patient with them and that you came across as patronizing. While I was able to calm them down, they’re not happy and no longer feel valued as a long-time customer”.
CEDAR Feedback Model
Unlike some of the other models of feedback we’ve discussed, the CEDAR feedback model follows more of a coaching approach, whereby the person providing the feedback uses questioning techniques to help the recipient self-assess the situation and determine the most appropriate actions going forward.
CEDAR feedback is specifically split into five stages: context, examples, diagnosis, actions, and review.
But what does this look like?
CEDAR feedback model examples
In this first stage, the ‘coach’ will need to set the context. For example, they might say…
“We previously discussed how you wanted to contribute more in team meetings. Is this still the case?”
Once you’ve set the scene, you should clearly convey any behaviors that you want to provide feedback on. Ideally, these will be behaviors you’ve personally observed, as opposed to hearsay or gossip.
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that you’ve interrupted some of your colleagues in meetings. For example, in the team retrospective yesterday, you spoke over Owen a couple of times when he was sharing his ideas for improvements”.
The next stage is to help them come up with a solution (or diagnosis) to resolve this problem. Remember, the CEDAR feedback model follows a coaching approach, so you should be guiding the employee to think about what happened and why.
“Had you realized you were doing this? Why do you think this might be the case? How do you think this might be impacting your colleagues?”
Remember, you should give them time to answer each question. Consider reading our guidance on active listening to ensure you’re getting the most from the conversation.
Once you’ve helped the employee understand why this problem might have happened, you should then help them determine the actions needed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
"It’s great that you recognize why this happened. What do you think you could do going forward to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
Finally, you should wrap the conversation up.
As with any manager-employee coaching conversation, you should make a plan to check in on progress and follow up on any action plan.
“It sounds as though we’ve got a good plan in place. Has this helped? Perhaps we could catch up next month and check in on your progress?”
Final thoughts on using feedback models in the workplace
When used correctly, feedback can empower employees to continue doing great work, motivate them to make positive changes, and even drive better performance outcomes for both their team and the wider business.
While this article will have hopefully given you an idea of what great feedback can look like when structured using a feedback model, the important thing to remember is that regardless of which model your managers opt to use, feedback should not just be a one-off occurrence. Instead, it should be used as part of continuous performance discussions.
Which ultimately means that the act of delivering feedback should become a habit.
At Saberr, we help managers and the teams they lead to develop this habit. Better still, we help them develop the 7 habits proven to drive high-performance.
We do this using a combination of experiential and digital coaching.
In other words, we can equip your managers—and the teams they lead–with the knowledge and support they need to provide regular and constructive feedback, and we use nudges to ensure it happens.
You can learn more about our feedback feature here, as well as our coaching services here. Alternatively, if you have any questions or would like to be shown around our digital platform, book in for a discovery call at a time that suits you best.