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Navigating Feedback: Exploring Models for Meaningful Dialogue and Outcomes

There are many reasons why we give feedback. Ideally, it is given with good intentions to help someone improve or to understand a situation better. Constructive feedback provides specific information about what was done well or what areas need development, enabling recipients to enhance their skills, knowledge and behaviours.

There are so many different feedback models out there it can be difficult to know which one would work best for your situation. In my experience it’s not about the specifics of the model, but about how you consider the variables involved and follow a thoughtful approach.

Start by clarifying the purpose of the feedback – are you helping someone improve their performance, resolve a conflict, encourage teamwork, or achieve specific goals?

Take care to avoid trying to address everything in one go – if you’re not convinced, I encourage you to check out the online resource accompanying this article which explores the perils of the “praise sandwich”!

Consider the relationship you have with the individual – is it manager-staff, peer-to-peer, coach-client – each relationship will have different dynamics, impacting on familiarity, level of trust or even power between you.

Assess the situation – what are the circumstances surrounding the feedback – what’s the urgency and how sensitive is the nature of what you will be discussing?

Consideration of these factors will shape “how” you structure the dialogue and will also impact practical matters like “where” and “when”.

There are many feedback models out there to help you structure your approach on how to give feedback. I’ve picked out a couple of my favourites for you to explore.


The Pendleton Model

This model involves an approach that offers the recipient the opportunity to evaluate their own practice and identify ways of improving.

  1. Clarify the agenda: The person receiving feedback should identify the topic they want to discuss.

  2. Establish what happened: The person giving feedback should ask the recipient to describe what happened.

  3. Explore the recipient’s feelings: The person giving feedback should ask the recipient how they felt about the situation.

  4. Offer feedback: The person giving feedback should offer their own observations and suggestions for improvement.

With this approach, the recipient is taking an active role in their own feedback process. However, not all recipients may be receptive to or used to feedback conversations.


The CORN Model

This model provides a clear framework for delivering feedback that is specific, objective, and actionable. It’s very similar to the SBI model (Situation-Behaviour-Impact),but encompasses a fourth step to help drive positive change.

  • Context: Provide context by setting the stage for the feedback. This includes explaining the circumstances or situation in which the observed behaviour occurred. Context helps the recipient understand why the feedback is being given and creates a framework for the discussion.

  • Observation: Offer specifics of the behaviour or actions that were observed. This involves providing objective and factual information about what was said or done, avoiding subjective interpretations or assumptions. Clear observations help ensure that the feedback is focused and actionable.

  • Result: Describe the impact or consequences of the behaviour on others or the situation. This includes explaining how the observed behaviour affected outcomes, relationships, or goals. By highlighting the result of the behaviour, the feedback becomes more meaningful and relevant to the recipient.

  • Next Steps: Suggest specific actions or steps for the recipient to take in response to the feedback. This could include recommendations for improvement, changes in behaviour, or areas for further development. Better still, ask them what actions they think they could take. Next steps help move the feedback conversation forward and encourage constructive action.

This approach can be really useful for tackling blind spots, helping someone to become more self-aware of the impact their actions have.

My advice is to not get hung up on the model, but to focus on your intentions behind the feedback and the outcome you want to enable. Whatever model you go with, check in with your motives on why you are giving feedback. Genuine, constructive feedback should aim to support growth and development. Positive feedback acknowledges and reinforces what an individual did well and encourages continued effort and performance. Make sure you are using examples of situations where you have observed the behaviours or actions. Be kind, sincere, clear and specific in your communication.


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