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G–I–V–E Feedback: A Path to Improvement

| August 4, 2015

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading, G–I–V–E Feedback:  A Path to Improvement, is an essay by Mary Therese Durr, Director of Computing Support and Information Technology Service Management at Boston College an ad MOR Leaders Program alumnus.  Her essay provides an additional tool, beyond those in the Tuesday Readings of last June, for formulating and giving feedback.

There are thousands of books telling us how to improve ourselves.  Interestingly enough, though, the easiest way to improve is to ask for feedback from people who work, play, and partner with us.  After all, feedback is personal and should be targeted to the specific person and to the specific situation.  Truly focused and functional feedback offers compassion, wisdom, and insight. Websites and books can provide wisdom and insight, but can they truly focus on the individual?  As co-workers, teammates, and families we are witnesses to others’ specific behaviors and situations.  Who better than us, the witnesses to our lives, to provide feedback as a path to improvement?

The balloons are hung, the presents are bought, and the cake is made.  Without the cake’s candles, is the cake still a birthday cake? Flying a kite is such a powerful feeling.  If the kite crashes, the feeling is failure instead of exhilaration.  The preparation needed to make the birthday memorable and the kite fly is also needed when giving feedback.  The G–I–V–E feedback model helps me to better prepare to give feedback.   

Be intentional when giving feedback.  Be sure that the feedback will help change the desired behavior.   Like the candles on the birthday cake or the tail on the kite these small contributions are big in overall effect and balance.

G–I–V–E reminds me of the steps I need to take – Gather, Identify, Verify, and Engage.

G is for Gather:  Gather the information about the behavior you want to change.  Gather information about the people, the place, the weather conditions, the materials you will need, and anything else you think relevant to the situation.

An example of gathering for feedback is when my husband, Chris, says, “We need to call the builder,” I squirm.  For some reason this statement rubs me the wrong way.  Why is that?  What is the common element(s)?  Gather the information before asking to give feedback.

I is for Identify:  I identified that “we” is a trigger for me.  Whenever my husband says “we” I cringe because I think he wants “me” to do something.  I need to verify that I am correct in my assessment.

If I ask him “When you say ‘WE’ do you really mean ‘ME’?”  I may be starting an uncomfortable and unnecessary conversation.  It is best to verify before giving feedback.  I want to be sure I am targeting what is really significant.

V is for Verify:  To verify that I am targeting the correct behavior, I ask questions.  A question for the “WE” example might be:  “When you say ‘we need to call the builder,’ how do you see us doing that?”  When I ask this verifying question, I may be surprised by the answer.  I may learn that my husband uses the word “WE” as a reminder to himself.

E is for Engage:  And, finally we must engage with the person we want to give feedback to.  To be honest, I did not ask the verifying question of Chris (“When you say ‘we need to call the builder,’ how do you see us doing that?”)  I just assumed that when he says “WE” he meant “ME.”  This misunderstanding went on until recently when I realized I typically use my G–I–V–E feedback model at work and not at home.  I have since engaged in conversation on this with Chris.  We now have an understanding; when he says “WE,” I verify what he means.

Using the G–I–V–E model helps me to be sure the feedback I give is targeting the right behavior and is balanced.  

And remember:

1  Unsolicited feedback is not as well accepted – ask, “May I give you some feedback?,” before giving the feedback.
2  Feedback needs to focus on behaviors;  it is not personal – be descriptive not judgmental.
3  Reward what you want to see repeated – use feedback to improve behaviors.
4  Own it – talk about what you see; do NOT talk about what other people say they see.
5  And, as you use the G–I–V–E model be sure the feedback is specific and balanced. 

Try the technique, see if it works for you.  I hope you find this model as meaningful as I have.

Mary Therese’s model provides us with a very easy to remember tool.  Do give it a try this week.

And, make this a good week for you.  .  .  .    jim