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07.01.2022 Company Culture

10 powerful feedback models to use at work

10 powerful feedback models to use at work

Do you prefer SBI or CEDAR? Or are you more a fan of the Pendleton feedback model? There are tons of feedback models, methods, and tools out there to help you get feedback right. Below, we’ll explain the top 10 feedback models in detail!

Giving powerful feedback is about more than just telling someone to do something differently. The way you frame and phrase your feedback is extremely important. And that’s where feedback models come in.

Following a feedback model to structure your feedback allows you to deliver feedback more clearly and effectively. It ensures you get your message across and your recipient not only understands what you’re saying, but what’s expected of them.

In recent years, new feedback models and techniques have popped up left, right, and centre. With management and coaching specialists creating a wide range of feedback models, methods, and tools to try to implement feedback in the best possible way.

Below, we cover 10 of the most popular feedback models. We’ll show you how they work and how to deliver them. This way, next time you’re giving feedback, you’ll do it effectively!

1. The SBI feedback model

Arguably the most popular performance feedback model (aside from number 7 on this list) is the Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI) feedback model. This way of providing feedback aims to help the receiver better understand what impact their actions have had.

Here’s how one would structure feedback with this model.

  • Situation: Describe the specific situation in which the occurrence that you’re referring to happened.
  • Behaviour: Explain the specific behaviour that you observed and would like to comment on.
  • Impact: Describe the impact of this behaviour on you, the team, a client, etc.

Phrasing feedback according to this model ensures you clearly outline both the context and the content of your feedback.

Although this model can be used for both positive and negative feedback (also see our types of feedback article), it does not include a recommendation for future action. Therefore, we recommend using the SBI feedback model for positive rather than negative feedback.

We’ll talk more about including future action as we discuss the other models.

2. The STAR feedback model

The Situation/Task-Action-Result (STAR) feedback model is practically the same as the previous feedback structure, yet uses slightly different terms.

The STAR method works as follows:

  • Situation: Describe the situation (or context) in which something happened.
  • Task: Zoom in on the specific task in question that you would like to provide feedback on.
  • Action: Explain what action the recipient took in the specified situation.
  • Result: What was the outcome of the actions of the recipient, and how did it affect others?

By delivering your feedback with the STAR technique, you explain the entire scope of the situation and its context, rather than just mentioning if a task went well or not. This method of feedback delivery is incredibly popular, but just like with the SBI model, it lacks focus on improvement and change.

3. The EEC feedback model

Unlike the previous feedback models, this framework does address what’s expected of the recipient in the future.

The acronym stands for Example-Effect-Change/Continue (EEC) and works like this:

  • Example: Start by giving an example of a certain behaviour or action.
  • Effect: Explain the effect this action had.
  • Change/Continue: Depending on whether the feedback is positive or negative, you mention whether the recipient should continue what they are doing or whether they should change their behaviour in a certain way.

Rather than just explaining the past, this feedback model also focuses on the future. What should the recipient change to improve their behaviour, output, or work methods? Or perhaps they did a great job, and you want to let them know to keep working this way.

Since you can use this model for both change and continuation, it is suited for both positive and negative feedback.

Note that this model is sometimes also called the AID feedback model:

  • Action
  • Impact
  • Desired behaviour in the future

4. The IDEA feedback model

Another model that’s well-suited for constructive feedback is the Identify-Describe-Encourage-Action (IDEA) feedback model. With this technique, you actively try to incite change and outline future steps.

The IDEA method described:

  • Identify: You start by determining what it is you want to comment on.
  • Describe: Now describe the situation/behaviour in detail to explain what happened and why you’re commenting on this.
  • Encourage: This step is meant to show the recipient that you’re here to help, not to tell them off, by encouraging and convincing them to change their past behaviour.
  • Action: You close your feedback with a clear action and next step(s) for the recipient to take moving forward.

If you struggle with giving constructive/negative feedback, then the IDEA feedback model might work wonders for you!

5. The DESC feedback model

We really like this model because it not only includes the part about future action (just like the EEC and IDEA models) but also takes it one step further.

Let’s have a closer look at the Describe-Express-Specify-Consequences (DESC) feedback model:

  • Describe: As with most feedback tools on this list, you start by explaining the situation.
  • Express: Next, express what impact the described situation has had on you, the team, or the wider organization.
  • Specify: Now explain in detail how the recipient should change their behaviour with a clear description of specific actions.
  • Consequences: Lastly, show the recipient how these suggested actions will affect you, the team, or the organization moving forward.

The final step in this feedback method focusses on showing the recipient just what impact they might have if they do it differently. By giving such a practical explanation, you will more easily convince them of the need to change.

It also makes it more difficult for the recipient to refute your feedback as you clearly explain its benefits.

Man and woman sitting at a desk in a meeting room while practising different feedback techniques
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

6. The CEDAR feedback model

Another acronym and another model. Although fairly similar to previously discussed models, the difference in this method is that it adds a review step at the end to ensure clear alignment and understanding. It also includes a step where you ask the recipient for their assessment of the situation.

This is how the Context-Examples-Diagnosis-Actions-Review (CEDAR) feedback model works:

  • Context: Paint the scene and explain the context of the situation you’re commenting on.
  • Examples: Now give a clear example (or, ideally, examples) of the behaviour or action that you want to discuss.
  • Diagnosis: Time to get to the bottom of things by asking the recipient for their diagnosis of the situation. Why did they decide to act this way? Is there a reason for it that you might have missed?
  • Actions: Next, focus on the actions that should be taken. You could either ask the recipient about their thoughts on future actions or explain the actions you suggest they take.
  • Review: This feedback model further involves the recipient by asking them to review what has been discussed, ensuring you are both on the same page and aligned on the next steps.

The CEDAR feedback model is one of our favourites as it not only instigates action but ensures you and the recipient are on the same page about what needs to be done.

This method could be best used in a situation where you want active participation from the recipient and where you want to hear their diagnosis of the situation. This could be useful if you are not 100% sure whether you actually know the definitive answer or the best possible way of doing something.

For example, you may have picked up on a behaviour that you think is incorrect. But you would like to further discuss it with the other person to confirm your thoughts or see if they have a reason for doing a certain thing. Feedback becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue.

The previous method (DESC), on the other hand, is better suited for providing one-way feedback, when you know for a fact that you are correct or know the best way of working.

7. The feedback sandwich

Let’s take a break from all the acronyms and look at one of the oldest, most-used feedback models out there. The feedback sandwich method is a real textbook example of a feedback technique, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great one.

That said, the feedback sandwich can still be a useful tool in certain settings. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start with a piece of positive feedback to get the conversation going
  2. Deliver a piece of negative feedback
  3. Finish with another piece of positive feedback to leave the conversation on a positive note

The idea is that you soften the blow of the negative feedback by packaging it in between two pieces of positive feedback. The downside is that this often leads to confusion or misunderstanding, as the recipient isn’t sure how to interpret the feedback or if they did something good or not.

Furthermore, once they realise what you’ve done they won’t appreciate the positive feedback and their focus will still go to the negative feedback, making the positive comments you made just seem disingenuous. That’s why this method is best suited for flagging small mistakes and commenting on actions that don’t have a huge impact.

8. The Pendleton feedback model

The Pendleton feedback model was first introduced in 1984 by David Pendleton, originally focussing on doctor-patient relationships. However, the feedback tool he created has since been widely used in business settings as well.

The Pendleton feedback model aims to create a two-way feedback system, rather than one person just giving another person feedback. The original steps from Pendleton’s model, as further explained in this research, are:

  1. Ask the recipient what went well
  2. Tell the recipient what went well
  3. Ask the recipient what didn’t go so well or could be improved
  4. Tell the recipient what didn’t go so well of could be improved

Although these are the basic steps, the model has since been further expanded and refined. A more elaborate format of Pendleton’s model includes seven steps rather than four.

These seven steps of the feedback process are:

  1. Ensure the recipient is ready to receive feedback
  2. Ask the recipient how they feel the situation went or how their behaviour was
  3. Ask the recipient what went well
  4. Tell the recipient what went well
  5. Ask the recipient what could be improved
  6. Tell the recipient what could be improved
  7. Together, form an action plan to ensure the discussed improvements are implemented/actioned

This updated version of the Pendleton model still has the four original steps at its core, but includes two introductory steps and the final step to ensure action. Especially the seventh step is useful as it means your feedback will have a clear impact.

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9. The BOOST feedback model

The name of this model reflects its intention. It’s designed to give the receiving team member a positive boost by focusing on both positive aspects and less positive aspects that can be “boosted”.

The model’s name stands for Balanced, Objective, Observed, Specific, Timely. Unlike other feedback models, the BOOST method specifically wants you to provide both positive and negative feedback in one go. A bit like the feedback sandwich, but done better.

Here’s what this feedback tool looks like:

  • Balanced: It starts by giving positive feedback as well as addressing points that can be improved. According to the BOOST model, you can never have just one of the two.
  • Objective: Focus on behaviours and actions, not on their personality traits or your personal preferences.
  • Observed: The feedback you give should be something you witnessed first-hand, rather than something you heard from others. This step is sometimes also referred to as “owned”.
  • Specific: Phrase your observations in such a way that they are clear, concise, and specific. No waffling or beating around the bush.
  • Timely: Lastly, don’t wait till the annual review to bring up your feedback. Give it frequently, continuously, and, ideally, at the first possible opportunity after you’ve observed the behaviour.

The particular strength of this feedback model compared to others is that it incorporates both positive and negative feedback. However, it does a better job at setting expectations and providing context than the feedback sandwich method.

Also, note the focus on providing feedback directly rather than waiting for pre-scheduled moments like performance review meetings or one-to-ones. Providing timely feedback is one of the pillars of creating a strong feedback culture in the workplace.

10. The 360-degree feedback model

Last but not least is the 360-degree feedback model, which goes beyond just giving someone a one-off piece of feedback. You may have heard of this model as multi source assessment, multi source feedback, or multi-rater feedback.

The 360-degree feedback model aims to collect feedback from a variety of sources and collates that information to provide someone with a highly detailed performance evaluation.

The model was originally created as a methodology for German military officers to assess a soldier’s performance in WWII. Now, almost eighty years later, the model has been refined and adapted in a variety of (business) settings, but the principle still remains the same.

In general, this is how the 360-degree feedback model works:

  1. Collect feedback on someone’s performance from as many sources as possible, generally done through a survey. Sources can include their colleagues, line managers, C-suite management, subordinates, external clients, or even customers.
  2. Always include a self-evaluation (self-feedback) as part of the process as well.
  3. The recipient’s direct manager organizes a meeting with the recipient to go through the provided feedback.
  4. The recipient’s performance is assessed based on this 360-degree feedback, and together with the manager a plan for future development is outlined based on the feedback provided.

Although in reality most companies have their own unique take on the 360-degree review process, the basic format follows these four points.

Also note that the survey questions that are asked in step one are often tailored to a specific company and industry. Therefore, the 360-degree feedback model might look very different depending on the company you work for.

The great part about multi-rater feedback is that it’s not just your boss being the one who evaluates you (as traditionally done in business). Instead, your performance is assessed based on what multiple stakeholders, who might know you in different roles and capacities, have observed.

This produces a much more holistic view of your performance, rather than just one person’s opinion. And that’s beneficial for multiple reasons.

Perhaps you and your direct manager don’t get along that well. Perhaps your manager isn’t actively involved in all the projects you work on, meaning they can’t really assess your performance because they simply can’t keep track of everything you do.

Instead, with the 360-degree review model, you know the full scope of your activities at work is assessed by a variety of sources and from different angles.

The importance of feedback models

Feedback models help you formulate and deliver your feedback more effectively. It helps you structure what you want to say and how you’re going to say it.

Try out the ten different feedback methods described in this article to find out which model works best for you and your business.

Have you mastered the art of giving great feedback? Then it’s time to turn the tables and find out how to receive feedback effectively.

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