Give More (and Better) Feedback with CSAW

Google “feedback is a gift” and you’ll find enough quotes to fill a high school yearbook. While skeptics might disagree, there’s no denying it: providing direct feedback is one of the most powerful tools managers have for developing staff. In this article of our feedback series, we’re introducing our revamped framework for giving feedback.

Does giving feedback feel like going to the dentist (awkward and stressful, with a whole lot of mess flying out of your mouth)? Like visiting the dentist, you know that giving and receiving feedback is a good thing, but you keep putting it off and do it way less than you should.

We can help you do it consistently and (possibly) with a lot less stress with a simple framework! Give more and better feedback with CSAW:

 ✦   Connect over a shared value

👀  Share a specific observation

💬  Ask questions

   Wrap up with next steps

You can use CSAW with staff you manage, with your manager, and with peers or collaborators. You can also use it for positive reinforcement as well as developmental and corrective feedback. In this article, we’ll talk about using CSAW to give corrective feedback to someone you manage. Here’s how it works:

✦ Connect over a shared value or goal

Lay the foundation by building or reinforcing a sense of connection. You can do this by talking about a shared value, goal, or experience. This is a reminder that you’re on the same team and it can also ground the conversation in a broader cause or purpose. Since each person’s relationship to giving (and receiving) feedback is greatly shaped by culture and community, this can help you engage better across lines of difference.

Examples:

  • “I can see how hard you’ve been working on X…”
  • “I know it’s important to both of us that…”
  • “I know we share X value…; I appreciate…”

👀 Share a specific observation or concrete example

As objectively as possible, share what you observed. Then, share why it matters to you by being explicit about the impact on you and/or the work. If this behavior is part of a pattern, share that as well. The main goal with this step is to get your perspective out into the open. However, make sure to check your assumptions! State what you think happened, not why you think it happened. Share specific observations about behaviors and outcomes and their impact on you without passing judgment on the other person’s motives, mindset, or character. Lastly, keep it brief. This isn’t a trial, and you’re not a prosecutor making your opening statement. The more space you leave to seek the other person’s perspective, the better your feedback will be received.

Examples:

  • “I noticed that the meeting didn’t start on time, and we didn’t get to all the agenda items. Can we talk about what happened? With so many stakeholders present, it’s important that we appear organized and reliable.”
  • “For the last few trainings, you’ve made last-minute requests of support from our admin team. Can we discuss that? Admin staff have a lot on their plate, and last minute requests impact their ability to get their work done well.”

💬 Ask questions to better understand their perspective

It takes two to CSAW. The conversation isn’t done once you’ve said your piece. Get curious and make space for the other person to share their perspective. Ask questions to help you both gain a better understanding of what’s going on. The key here is to listen with an open mind, without assuming you already know the answers to the questions you’re asking.

Examples to…

Check for alignment on your assessment:

  • How do you think that went?
  • What’s your take on what’s happening?

Unearth causes:

  • Why do you think this happened? Why do you think this keeps happening?
  • Are there things I’m missing?

Surface solutions:

  • Do you have thoughts on how to move forward?
  • Is there a better system or process we could try?

 Wrap up with next steps

Don’t leave the conversation without making sure that you’re on the same page about expectations and have a plan for moving forward. Once you’ve both shared your perspectives, you should agree on a set of next steps. Then, schedule a time to revisit the conversation so that you can (hopefully!) celebrate any progress made.

Examples:

  • “Just to make sure we’re on the same page, can you do a quick repeat-back on how we’re moving forward?”
  • “Let’s revisit this at our check-in next month.”

Conclusion

The debate on what makes for effective feedback continues unabated in academic and business circles, but we think that feedback is a critical tool for staff development. When managers give clear and consistent feedback to their staff (even if it’s corrective), employee engagement increases. Just like visiting the dentist, when managers avoid sharing feedback, they usually end up creating a bigger problem for themselves later on. Give more feedback and avoid the management equivalent of a root canal! Thankfully, becoming a better feedback-giver is completely doable with some practice. Use our CSAW worksheet to prep for your next feedback conversation!


Check out the other articles in our feedback series: