Four ways to provide effective feedbacks
Few weeks ago, the Time has posted an article by Annie Murphy Paul: “Four Ways to Give Good Feedback” (originally posted in the Brilliant Report blog). As reported in the post, “feedback is a powerful way to build knowledge and skills, increase skills, increase motivation, and develop reflective habits of mind in students and employees“. Briefly, the four ways suggested to provide effective feedbacks are: 1) supply information about the learner is doing, 2) taking care about how a feedback should be presented, 3) oriented feedback around goals and 4) use feedback to build metacognitive skills (develop the awareness of learning).
What’s stimulated my curiosity is the point 2: How present a feedback in a way that is effective? I think is the toughest aspect because requires something that the brain naturally refused to do: deliver the message according to a mindset that is different! In the article mentioned above, taking care about how feedbacks should be presented means avoiding three things: a) closely monitoring the performances because reduce the self-consciousness of the learner b) providing unique solution like “This is how you should do it ” – because it might be interpreted as an attempt to control, c) establish a sense of competition among colleagues because might reduce the engagement.
Thus, how can be ensured a good feedback in practice? An idea could be to combine together the S.C.A.R.F. given by Social\Cognitive Neuroscience and the S.M.A.R.T. criteria for setting well-defined objectives. Let’s see how the SMART-SCARF matrix works after a brief description of the two models.
The S.C.A.R.F. model from Social and Cognitive neuroscience.
M.D. Liebarman & E.I. Eisenberger provided many insights regarding Social, Cognitive and Affective neuroscience. In particular, in their article “The pains and pleasures of social life: A social cognitive neuroscience approach” they discovered that there are mainly two circuits that the human brain activates: simply, one circuit for the pains and one circuit for the pleasures. Acknowledged that, the social and cognitive neuroscience might be useful also for giving some further specific insights in order to provide effective feedbacks. The S.C.A.R.F. is a framework in which the “approach (reward)” and the “avoid (threat)” instinctive responses, given by the “pleasure” and “pain” circuits respectively, are mainly related to five human social domains of experience: 1) Status – the relative importance to others, 2) Certainty – ability\need to predict the future, 3) Autonomy – sense of control, 4) Relatedness – as a sense of safety with the others and 5) Fairness – as the perception of a fair exchange between people and justice.
More: “SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing other“.
Each one of us has lived different experiences in various environments and thus there are many different S.C.A.R.F.s as well… as a matter of fact, have you ever seen in a shop only scarfs made only by silk or only blue colored?
If someone likes this kind of
, it means that the main dimensions that stimulate the “approach (reward)” and the “avoid (threat)” responses are the Status and the Autonomy. A person with such a S.C.A.R.F. tends to be more competitive because for them winning a game, be the best student or being promoted in their company will more likely activate the “approach (reward)” response. While the “avoid (threat)” response will be activated when they perceive a reduction of their Status. For example, pushing solutions might be tricky since an advice might be perceived from a person with a high Status as follows: “You are giving me advises, because you think you have more skills\experience than me.” – The emotional reaction of such perception is more likely negative. Even if the coach has much more experience and skills than the coachee, avoiding to emphasize\remark such difference will make feel the coachee comfortable.
At the same time, since also the Autonomy dimension is more important than the others, a good mood will be established whenever a sense of autonomy or control increase. For example, that might be achieved by letting to organize the work, schedule and desk. On the contrary, setting, defining and monitoring constantly the performances of such employees will increase the level of control and thus might activate the “avoid (threat)” response.
Now, how is it possible to estimate and figure out which SCARF suit well who is going to receive a feedback? Since it has been described the SCARF model, it’s like wondering which are the preferences regarding clothes and fashion of people: just observe, listen and understand. In other words, before giving feedbacks it’s better to know well each persons. Thus, apart from all the recommendations, some common sense might be useful too.
The S.M.A.R.T model for well-set objectives
As mentioned in the article by Annie Murphy Paul at point 3), a well stated feedback is oriented around goals. A cool and well-known tool for providing well-defined objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. model in which a good objective must be: 1) Specific – What?, 2) Measurable – If you can’t measure it you will NOT handle it, 3) Attractive – Why? What motivated to do such effort?, 4) Realistic – not too difficult and on too easy 5) and Time-scaled – no time limit, no urgency!. The S.M.A.R.T. model might be useful in order to set the objectives for an evaluation feedback as well for the definition of a personal development plan.
As for the dimensions of the S.C.A.R.F., also for the five ones in the S.M.A.R.T criteria each person is more sensitive in some aspects rather than others. Thus, the common sense “know people before” is crucial in order to deliver the feedback in a way that encourage and motivate.
See also the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.
A TIP for giving effective feedbacks: a SCARF that is SMART
Now, given the S.M.A.R.T. criteria for well-defined objectives and the S.C.A.R.F. framework with its five social\cognitive dimensions (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness), how should be possible to combine these tools together in order to provide feedbacks effectively by engaging people and avoiding threats? Let’s take the S.C.A.R.F. mentioned above with a high perception in the Status and Autonomy dimensions. Which are the “DOs” and the “DO NOTs” for these dimensions?
With a high Status, in order to activate the “approach (reward)” response it’s necessary to recognize the previous achievements\improvements before specifying the new ones (the “S” of S.M.A.R.T) and make them more attractive by emphasizing how the new goals can be an opportunity to achieve a distinctive specialization\quality (the “A” of S.M.A.R.T). Meanwhile, in the “Specific” dimension of S.M.A.R.T, as mentioned above, pushing solutions activate the “avoid (threat)” response and make the coachee uncomfortable and thus unmotivated.
Regarding the Autonomy dimension of the S.C.A.R.F., what is recommended is to give opinions instead of solutions when specifying the new goals\objectives (the “S” of the S.C.A.R.F.). In order motivate (approach (reward)” response) and make the goal attractive (the “A” of the S.C.A.R.F.) provide at least three possible solutions and alternatives because that will increase the sense of Autonomy and control (only two will create a “dilemma”!). The “DO NOTs” for the Autonomy are linked with the Specific and the Time-scaled dimensions of the S.C.A.R.F. Respectively, avoid to specify only one solution and explain a detailed schedule and plan.
By combining in a matrix with one dimension for the S.C.A.R.F framework and the other one for the S.M.A.R.T. criteria then it’s possible to define which objectives and how deliver them properly in order to motivate people and reinforce a positive mood in the team, in the work environment and why not, also in our personal life.
More: see also a possible detailed schema for the SMART-SCARF matrix here (SlideShare).
All the four points mentioned in the post “Four Ways to Give Good Feedback” are present both in the SMART-SCARF, thus nothing new to add. However, organize all the thousands recommendations given by the experience and the Neuroscience research in a structured way such as has been done in the SMART-SCARF matrix might be useful in order to put them into practice.
Well, it’s time to wear and validate the SMART-SCARF in the real world… Do you think it will works?
Feelink – Feel & Think approach for doing life!