Depersonalisation: The Key to Effective Feedback
We all know that feedback is important – both giving and receiving. For leaders and managers, the ability to give effective feedback is a critical skill that some folks really do struggle with. I think this is because their mindset is not helpful because they regard feedback as being personal; which is the way that some people practice it. Depersonalised feedback offers a suitable solution to this issue.
Before we look at some ways we can give effective feedback, let’s have a look at a definition for feedback and some different types. When we cover feedback in our training programmes we define it as:
Information offered to someone that aims to reinforce or change existing behaviour in order to improve their performance.
Types of Feedback
There are five types of feedback that we introduce our delegates to. They are:
This is a quick route to extinction! Without feedback how are we supposed to know if what we are doing is working or not? So, in the absence of any feedback, we keep on doing the same things in the same way.
Better than no feedback is informational feedback, which is what it says on the tin. It’s similar to the old examination type of feedback which informs you is you have passed or failed. There is nothing about what you could have done better.
This is really about punishing people for making mistakes.
This is the type of feedback that people probably feel most comfortable giving because it is about saying “Well done” when others do well and the objective is to reinforce what has been done.
This is used to change existing behaviour. Its objective is not to punish, but to encourage willing change.
Developmental & Motivational Feedback
I’d like to focus on the last two types because they are what we see most in organisations.
Effective Motivational Feedback
Let me begin by saying that just saying “Well done” is not actually that valuable. I know it feels nice to say it and nice to hear it, but what does it tell the recipient? My Eagle Training colleague, Adrian Newbery, cites one occasion when he was in a warehouse and witnessed a senior manager walk up to a forklift truck driver and said, “Good week this week Bob. Well done” and then turn around and walk back to his office.
Apparently Bob, the recipient of said feedback, just carried on writing on his clipboard before releasing the hand brake and zooming off to pick up his next pallet! I’m sure that the manager in question tells everyone that he always gives his staff feedback but let’s just ask ourselves how valuable his words to Bob actually were. What did Bob actually learn? Not much in my opinion, because the manager’s comments lacked any specific details about what Bob had done that made the week a ‘good week’.
As a manager or parent, we need to let the recipient know what they had done that merited our “well done” in order for them to repeat it. If we don’t, our words, while well-intentioned, will lack any real impact.
Depersonalised Developmental Feedback
Turning now to developmental feedback, remember that this is the type of feedback that a manager needs to give when someone has done something that you want to change going forward. Some people find it harder to give this type of feedback for fear of upsetting the recipient. I understand that which is why I find having a process for delivering depersonalised feedback useful.
Frameworks For Delivering Depersonalised Feedback
The AID Framework
There are several variations that you can explore and use depending on which you find most comfortable. The first, and my personal choice, is the AID framework. You can use AID as follows:
What specifically has the person done? What behaviour has potentially caused a problem, and for whom? Again, please note the need to be specific.
What has been the effect of that behaviour on them, on you, on the team, customers, suppliers etc?
Desired alternative behaviour
What would you like them to do differently in the future and why would that be beneficial?
I like the AID framework because it allows the person giving the feedback to describe, objectively, what needs to change rather than it be a personal opinion of the recipient. It’s also a great coaching framework.
The BEER Framework
There are two other alternatives that you might consider. Both are along similar lines to AID. The first is the BEER framework. In this case the manager focuses on:
What has the person done that needs to change?
What are the implications?
What do you expect them to do in future?
What will the benefits be for them if they do change?
The COIN Framework
The other framework is the COIN process. It stands for:
What is the specific behaviour, circumstances, event or issue that you as the manager want to discuss?
Describe the specific, factual of what has happened and get agreement that this is correct
How has the behaviour, event or issue that you’re discussing affected others in your team
Get agreement and commitment to a clear set of actions going forward that the person is willing to be accountable for
Whether you use AID, BEER or COIN, it will enable you to deliver feedback to people firmly, but fairly, on what needs to change in future. All three frameworks have the capacity to deliver depersonalised feedback in a more acceptable manner than that of open critique and can be paired effectively with developmental or constructive feedback techniques to ensure positive change.