When people ask me about crucial moments in my career, I always talk about the tough, constructive feedback I've received. I've always had managers and board members genuinely interested in my success, and who, therefore, gave me tough, constructive pieces of feedback when necessary. Never destructive but honest, conveying what I needed to hear, and not what I wanted to hear."
#Carlos Brito, CEO, Anheuser-Busch Inbev
Giving great feedback is a matter of practice. In this quick article, you'll learn about a simple toolkit you can use to structure your ongoing feedback in order to maximize its constructiveness and impact.
1. The C.B.I.S. method
C.B.I.S. means Context, Behavior, Impact and Suggestion. In order to better understand it, I'll show you an example of a great C.B.I.S. feedback, then I'll unpack the example, and finally we'll peek under the hood. So here's the example:
Yesterday, on our weekly planning meeting, you cut me off before I had finished presenting my arguments about why I don't think doing a week-long event is the best way forward. When you did that, I felt my opinion didn't matter to you, and maybe that you don't hold my views in high regard. I'm not sure if that was your intention, I think it wasn't.
So I’d like to suggest you to consider being more patient, and letting people finish their lines of thought before you intervening. I know it can be hard when we're in a hurry and invested in something, but I think it helps the team to work better together. I'd love to chat more about it offline, if you want to.
Now let's unpack that.
It all starts with Context. That's the situation in which the person showed a certain behavior. In our example, "Yesterday, on our weekly planning meeting."
It's very important to be specific about the behavior to be discussed, and specifying a moment in time when it happened is a great way to do just that. Not exemplifying is undesirable, as it is vaguely making a assumptions and judging someone without reference to a specific point in time that can actually be recognized.
The next step is to describe the Behavior that is the topic to be discussed at the feedback. In our example, "you cut me off before I had finished presenting my arguments about why I don't think doing a week-long event is the best way forward."
When describing a behavior, the right approach is to stick to observable facts: you can only speak about stuff that your eyes can see and your ears can hear. If on one hand, someone being angry is not an observable behavior; on the other, someone speaking loudly, blushing and slamming the door surely is.
Then we move on to what Impact the behavior had on you, and what impact it could have on the team and the company. When we're dealing with something that bothered us, or that negatively impacted us, we should talk about how the behavior made us feel, the only "objective" impact we can gauge.
In our example, it was "When you did that, I felt my opinion didn't matter to you, and maybe that you don't hold my views in high regard." We can also discuss how something might negatively impact the team or the company, as in "when you did that, others may feel that you don't value my contributions."
While you can say for sure how you felt, you can't say for sure how others felt, because you can't see or hear their feelings firsthand.
Finally, the last step is to suggest a different course of action, which is arguably the most important part of the feedback.
In our example above, the Suggestion is "so I wanted to suggest you to consider being more patient and letting people finish their lines of thought before you intervene. I know it can be hard when we're in a hurry and invested in something, but I think it helps the to team work better together."
2. Some final tips
You might have noted an important feature of the type of feedback we've just discussed: it uses tentative language. It's paramount that we always use tentative language in feedback: it makes it feel less judgemental, less like we're holders of the truth.
Feedback is about behaviors, and behaviors are about subjective, human stuff. So saying things like "...so I’d like to suggest you consider..." and "... maybe that you don't hold my opinions...".
Another important point: show people empathy. People make mistakes, feel pressured, and have competing priorities just like us. Saying things like "I know it can be hard when we're in a hurry and invested in something" will make the person on the receiving end of your feedback feel appreciated and valued.
3. What are tags for?
Tags are good to help the feedback receiver in connecting it to the company values and desired behaviors. When you relate your feedback to what's valued at the company as a whole, you make it less about what you think is important, and more about what's important for the company.
It helps making feedback less personal, and therefore easier to absorb it.
When you select a tag, you can choose if it represents something that the receptor can work on, or something in which the person is a positive example 😊