Feedback After the Fact
I had a conversation not long ago with a fairly self-aware individual who said something like “I just don’t take feedback well.” What she meant by this was not that she doesn’t take praise well - in fact, she delights in praise and positive feedback. What she meant was she really struggles to take correction - from anyone, for any reason. She’s a high-achiever, so chances are pretty solid that she’s usually prepared, that she delivers good results, and that if there’s a mistake or an error, she knows it before anyone else does. But eventually, we all need to hear feedback from others, and sometimes that feedback will be corrective, not celebrative. As I thought through how to get her thinking through how she could be more open to correction, I recalled a model I’ve been using for several years on giving feedback. I call it “go for A RIDE”.
Whether you are in a position of authority or a position of influence, there are sometimes moments in the workplace where we need to provide feedback - praise or correction - to another person. If we don’t take the time to package that feedback in effective communication, and if we don’t make the effort to demonstrate emotional intelligence in the moment, we run the risk of our feedback being missed, or worse, harming the relationship.
The A RIDE model can help you as you plan to give someone feedback about a specific situation. Ideally, when a situation is live, you are able to provide in-the-moment coaching, but sometimes that’s simply not possible, and so A RIDE is a good tool to use after the fact. As long as there’s not a lot of elapsed time between events and performance conversations, A RIDE is also a useful tool for planning for performance reviews or for feedback you care to give in your regular one-on-ones.
A - Ask permission first. Make sure that the time and situation work for you to provide feedback, not just for you, but more importantly, for them! If they don’t feel safe or if they’re not in a frame of mind to receive feedback as a gift, it’s up to you as the initiator of this communication to help find a way to get them there – if not at this particular moment, then at a near-future moment.
R - Re-set the scene. As you put the feedback in context, a really useful strategy is to be as specific as you can in describing the date, time, place, and even the people involved in the given situation you’re referring to. It’s easier to process information about how a situation went if we’re all on the same page about which situation we’re talking about in the first place!
I - Itemize the actions. As you describe their participation in the situation at hand, be sure to restrict your comments to only those things that are observable facts. A useful word picture here is to imagine that you can only describe what you see through a closed-caption camera. You can narrate the specific actions, but you can’t see what they are thinking or feeling. Avoid baggage words like “slammed” or “stormed” or even “interrupted”, and avoid comments like “you wanted, intended, assumed”. If you have to assume what was going on with them, assume only positive intent.
D - Describe the effect. Here you get to describe the effect of the actions. For example, if the door closed loudly, the effect might be that others thought they were angry or upset. If the individual has yet again neglected to do something they said they would do, the effect might be that “I’m getting the impression that this isn’t important to you.” If someone’s actions have demonstrated something counter to the organization’s core values, the effect might be that others are observing behaviors that are not acceptable, and we’re actively interested in preventing that. I statements are good here, things like “I felt” or “I thought” or “The story I’m telling myself is…”
E – Explore Next Steps. Sometimes the individual genuinely doesn’t know what they need to do next, or what the next steps or consequences are of the actions. In this case, you may need to offer some explanation or guidance. But likely they have a pretty good idea, so this is a great opportunity for coaching, where you can help them explore what the next steps ought to be. Look for them to reflect on the scenario, their actions, and the effect of the actions, and invite them to determine what they will do differently now that they’re aware of this.
One other thing to keep in mind: The A RIDE model is a coaching model, and “coaching” is not the same as “telling.” The R, I, and D steps of this model involve more telling than coaching, so it’s really important to get to E so that the individual has a chance to take ownership of their own development and apply their learning forward.