Getting feedback from someone-;especially negative feedback - it's difficult for most of us. Oftentimes, we immediately get defensive and, with our blood beginning to boil, it can be hard to even hear what the person might be telling us.
I recently came across with a simple model to help give feedback and to structure it in such a way that it encourages people to hear what you're saying. In fact, this model also works well because it lets you give multiple pieces of advice at the same time.
The approach has been called the traffic light approach to feedback because it focuses on three levels of feedback: red (stop), yellow (caution), and green (continue).
When you begin giving feedback to someone, you should begin with the red light- or the thing that needs to stop or be corrected. Maybe this relates to a poor job someone is doing or how he or she needs to find a better way to get his or her job done in a timelier manner. Again, giving- and getting- this kind of advice is tough. But it's necessary and, in this case, it's just the starting point.
The key is to be direct, honest and provide context and facts when giving the feedback. You should also be clear about what is needed to cure the issue.
Next, you move on to sharing the yellow light feedback. It's a warning. This relates to anything someone might be doing that they need to make a course correction on. Nothing may be really wrong right now, but the idea is to sound the alarm in a way that the person can make a correction now before it turns into a red light kind of situation.
Finally, it's time to go to the green light-;which is when you share feedback about how the person is doing something well and achieving what you expected and beyond. Maybe it's complimenting them on a job well done on a report or for their ideas contributing to a new product line.
The idea is to encourage them to do more while also balancing some of the more corrective feedback you shared earlier in your conversation. Hopefully, the combination of feedback will resonate with the person and they won't become as defensive as if you just shared red light type of feedback.
It turns out this can be very effective beyond the workplace as well, especially when it comes to dealing with, say, a high school student.
You might be able to use the traffic light approach, for instance, in the wake of receiving his or her latest report card.
The red light might involve a discussion around how they got a C in math. You might share that a C is not acceptable and that they need to study more or get extra help with a goal of moving that grade up to a B or even an A.
The yellow light feedback might be that you noticed your student stayed up all night to finish a paper for their English class. While they got a good grade on it, you might warn them that waiting until the last minute to finish homework is not a sustainable plan and that they should start earlier on completing their assignments.
Finally, it's time to share the green light advice- which might be commending them on getting another A in their social studies class. This is your chance to tell them how proud you are of their hard work and that you hope they keep it going. When you end a feedback session on a positive note like this, it just might help your student work harder to get more green light feedback instead of the yellow and red.
So the next time you need to share feedback with an employee- or a child-;think about using the traffic light approach of giving them multiple layers of feedback with a goal of getting them to hear you and work hard at improving their performance moving forward.