13 Oct

Structuring feedback

“We believe we do a better job at giving feedback than we really do.” – Rick Maurer

How many times have you given someone feedback and felt afterwards that it could have gone better?

This happens to all of us and it’s important to reflect on what could have been done differently. Chances are that your feedback may have been more effective by being more structured.

Receiving feedback – especially developmental feedback – can be a confronting situation and the clearer you can be in delivering your message to the recipient, the easier it is for them to understand what you are telling them. Well prepared and structured feedback will help minimise the mistakes of talking too much, not being specific and not explaining the impact of their actions.

There are many different models people use to structure their feedback. One effective model is ‘STAR’, which can also be used in interviewing. The model provides a framework to keep your feedback succinct, clear and relevant.

S/T = Situation or Task;

A = Action;

R = Result/s.

If you are providing developmental feedback, it’s also useful to be able to outline an Alternative Action (AA)and an Alternative Result (AR).

So how will STAR help?

Using the STAR framework will help you prepare and deliver a clear and focussed message. Ultimately this will enable you to  feel confident in delivery and help the recipient to understand the value of what you are attempting to communicate.

How many times have you received feedback that was unclear or not specific? “Great presentation Sally!” provides little value to Sally beyond the initial flush of pride at a positive comment. More benefit could be gained by telling Sally what you thought she did well.

In a similar fashion, “You are always late to meetings!” might initially indicate there is concern, but the recipient of this ‘feedback’ would perhaps be more likely to change their behaviour if they could see the impact or result of being late.

Here are two examples:

“Geoffrey, that was a wonderful presentation for the Directors today. When you presented your proposal (S/T) you spoke clearly, highlighted your points with relevant examples – such as the Solicitor’s Forum – and answered questions confidently (A). The Directors were clear on the recommendations you were making and they were able to make a speedy and informed decision (R).”

“Jane, thank you for presenting today. When you presented the slide outlining your proposal for the Directors (S/T) we noticed that there were some errors in the calculations – for example, with Case Number Two the totals did not match the figures given by Finance yesterday (A). As a result, the Directors were not confident in the information provided and so they have delayed their decision (R). For your next presentation, it would be useful to have the figures checked by Finance in advance (AA) and then it will assist with a smooth process for the decision makers (AR).”

Those receiving the feedback above should receive a clear message outlining their actions and the resultant impact/s. Of course, there are other factors that will determine whether they agree with and wish to act on the feedback, but hopefully they will understand what is being said!

Once you have used the STAR model a few times, you will find that it becomes easier to use and should enhance your confidence in delivering effective and valuable feedback.

So be effective and be structured!

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