The Three Essential Feedback Types for Your Next 1:1

There are three critical kinds of feedback you ought to be using during your 1:1s. Evaluation, appreciation, and coaching.

Before discovering Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen I sometimes struggled with giving good feedback, and didn't realize it at the time, but also in asking for feedback. Let me help you jump to ahead to giving your reports the kind of feedback they most need when they need it, and how to ask for the feedback you need as well.

The authors introduce three broad categories of feedback types that you may need to give or receive and why they are important. They are the following:

  1. Evaluation: Letting the individual know in crystal clear terms where they stand. This is the core of establishing psychological safety in my mind.

  2. Appreciation: Exactly what you'd expect. Words of gratitude for the effort or outcome of their recent work. This should not be hollow praise, but rather specific things they have done that you appreciate.

  3. Coaching: The most traditionally thought of type of feedback, coaching is working through situations, behaviors, or techniques that can be practiced in order to improve performance.

Now, given the understanding of what each category of feedback is, you may be wondering why any of this matters? It's critical when dealing with your direct reports or supervisors to be able to understand what is needed in order for feedback to be effectively given and received.

For example, if your direct report David is unsure of where he stands in your eyes from a performance perspective, he may suspect that he is underperforming. If you give him coaching while he is unsure where he stands, he's likely to read into it in the worst way possible. This means if he was underperforming he's now likely in a panic spiral and unable to incorporate the feedback.

Or if he isn't aren't underperforming but believes he is you've just done the same, but this time caused undue stress and likely hurt their performance, potentially bringing it to a place where he is actually underperforming.

Instead if you had began this situation asking for what type of feedback he needed, assuming you have a degree of rapport, and they let you know that they needed evaluation, you could start with a frank and caring conversation about where they stand. After letting them know where they stand you can then more appropriately frame the coaching as guidance to either get them to the level you expect and know they can perform at, or as way to improve their overall performance though it's where you need it to be.

On the other hand, if you have a direct report, Mary, who knows she is one of your top performers, and is hungry to get to the next level as quickly as she can, and all you give her is appreciate during your 1:1 she may resent that you're not giving her more to improve, or at worst, may assume that you don't actually have the ability to continue coaching her to improve her performance, and may begin looking elsewhere, despite the fact that you may have plenty of feedback that could be incorporated to improve her performance, you just didn't know she needed it.

When someone new joins your team in one of the first 1:1s make sure to introduce this framework, outlining that you think of feedback in these three primary buckets and that you will attempt to deliver each type of feedback frequently during 1:1s. Also let them know that you know despite your best effort throughout the working relationship they may need more of one type than of another, and that if they ever need any feedback of a specific type to ask, because without that information you don't know what they're lacking.

When you apply this feedback framework tell me how it goes via email or Twitter.