5 second feedback

The book The Effective Manager says you only need 5 to 15 seconds to deliver effective feedback. Here are the 4 steps:

  1. Ask (“Can I give you some feedback?”)
  2. State the behavior (“When you X…”)
  3. State the impact (“…the result is Y.”)
  4. Encourage effective future behavior (“Keep it up!” for positive feedback or “Can you change that?” for negative feedback)

Those steps should be followed whether you’re giving positive or negative feedback.

Here’s an example, pasted from the book:

Manager: Can I give you some feedback?
Direct: Sure, boss.
Manager: When you tell my boss bad news before me, even with the best of intentions, I end up getting in a lot of trouble for not knowing before he did. Can you try to tell me first, going forward?

Boom, done in seconds. (And if you’re thinking “but it’ll take much longer when you account for the inevitable debate about what actually happened!” then there’s an answer for that too.)

The beautiful thing about this rapid feedback is the frequency that it allows. When it only takes a few seconds, why not give feedback every day? Why not 5 times a day? It lowers the threshold of what is worthy of feedback.

One caveat: the book has a 3 question test you have to ask yourself before you can deliver the feedback:

  1. Are you angry? If so, don’t give the feedback.
  2. Are you focused on the past instead of the future (i.e., reminding them about something they did wrong or punishing them)? If so, don’t give the feedback.
  3. Are you able to let it go? If not, don’t give the feedback. In other words, if you can’t let it go in terms of how you feel, you should let it go by not giving negative feedback. If you feel an urge to deliver feedback, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

If you’re not angry, if it’s not about the past or about punishment, and if you can let it go, then go ahead and give the feedback.

There you have it. 5 second feedback. Lower the threshold for what’s feedback-worthy and delivery a steady stream of rapid feedback every day.


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