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The performance feedback specialist’s 3 2 1 method

Your job: motivate positive action

The purpose of the performance feedback specialist’s 3 2 1 method is to motivate the recipient to improve and to continue to do positive behaviours and actions that work. Feedback enables the recipient to speak/act more effectively at the next opportunity. It also help the speaker understand whether their message was delivered effectively. Remember: when giving feedback out loud for a speech, as an example, the sensitivities of the audience have to be taken into account, as well as those of the speaker. The audience will put themselves in the position of the speaker, and if the feel the feedback is too critical, they may be discouraged from  speaking/acting in future.

performance feedback methodPsychologists Dr John Gottman, Dr Barbara Fredrickson and organisational psychologist Dr Marcial Losada have proven that a ratio of at least 3 positive to 1 negative statements is necessary to create a successful relationship in our personal and business lives. Additionally Carol Dweck, Phd. shows in her research the importance of the language we use and the impact of feedback on our mindset (fixed or growth).

Dr John Gottman’s research, over more than 30 years, interviewing thousands of couples has discovered a curious fact: couples can disagree quite fundamentally while still preserving their relationship – when they argue effectively. Successful couples use a ratio of five positive things for every one negative thing. Dr Losada discovered that in high performing teams the ration was around 6 positive to 1 negative statement. Think of the last time you were acknowledged for the positive things you do, rather than just receiving critical attention for your mistakes…??

Talking in this way, 5-1, says Gottman, makes “deposits” into the couple’s “emotional bank account”. Criticism and contempt are the relationship poisons that sound the death knell of a relationship. Balancing limited specific suggestions of what to improve (and how), with specific feedback on what has a positive impact makes the suggestions easier to hear. Think of the last time you were criticised … you may have done many things well, but they chose to pick on the one area you made a mistake, and ignored the good actions or behaviour. It probably made you feel attacked, and as if the speaker did not see the whole of you, just your mistakes. If they acknowledge what you do well, specifically, what could be improved and demonstrate this suggested improvement, it is easier to hear … and act on.

You can use the lessons from Gottman’s 30 years of research today! Try giving performance  feedback in the format: Ask the recipient of your feedback afterwards how they received your feedback. This will give you vital clues as to how skilfully you are motivating them.321 feedback Infographic

Here is the The 3 2 1 performance method:

– Three things I liked

Be specific: “I liked your humour,” is OK. “I liked the joke you made about falling down – it got a laugh and made your serious message easier to hear,” is much better.

Look carefully for the purpose of what is said … What is the message purpose, the hook? What are you supposed to remember when you walk away. Does what they say, the stories they tell reinforce the message or distract? It is useful feedback to know whether the listener got the point of your message/speech.

Two areas I feel could be improved

It’s even more important in this step to be specific. Demonstrate what you mean. Demonstrate the voice you think might be more effective, or the body language or structure or whatever other improvements you think could be made. Limit suggestions to improve to Two (2). Two actions are easier to keep in mind, correct and follow through with. More than 2 may become overwhelming, and it is then more likely no changes will occur.

This feedback with clear demonstration of an alternate way to act is positive and clear. “Don’t wave your arms”  – does not help and can be seen as just a criticism (What do you mean? Do what instead?).

“When you wave you arms it is distracting to me.” (Not you made me feel … you felt it they did not force you to feel)   “May I suggest next time hang your arms at your side (physically demonstrate), then you can use them to powerfully make your point (physically point).”  -This is far more effective and useful. Pay attention to the wording. “I feel” rather than “you should”

– The thing I liked most

You have an opportunity to leave the person with something they did really well. Again, the more specific your feedback, the more motivational and useful it is. This formulae makes it easier to hear the feedback and take action.

Summarise: recap key points

Use the 3-2-1 formulae  – here is the template: Evaluation tips sheet template to help you give effective feedback and encourage growth.

Keep your communication clear and three times positive, and for more information on training to develop this performance feedback skill contact us today


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