Simple Models for Giving Feedback Constructively
1. CARE formula
A useful approach to structuring feedback messages is to use the CARE formula.
This describes the:
Context or situation to which you want to draw attention
Action or behaviour which occurred
Results of that action
Esteem of the people involved.
When providing feedback to change behaviour, you need to add an extra E ie Explore – what went wrong, and
what can be done differently in the future.
Feedback to reinforce positive behaviour:
Context: “At the team meeting last week when we were discussing backlog”
Action: “you volunteered to work back for a couple of hours on some of the more complex cases”
Result: “this set a great example to others in the team, and we ended up with several volunteers. The backlog
was resolved more quickly than I could have hoped.”
Esteem: “I really appreciate the leadership you provided and I know that the team are feeling relieved that the
problem has been resolved.”
Feedback to change behaviour (development feedback)
Context: “You’ve been doing our monthly sales reports for some time now, and thanks to you we’ve always met the
deadline. However last Friday there was a problem.”
Action: “You advised me on Friday morning that you were unable to reconcile some of the figures, and that the
rework would mean we couldn’t meet the deadline.”
Result: “Notifying me so close to the deadline made it impossible for me to allocate resources to help get this
sorted out. In the end we did miss the deadline, which is not acceptable.
Esteem: “This has never happened before, and in fact you’ve helped us build a great reputation for timely
Explore: “I’d really like to understand what happened - can you tell me what went wrong from your perspective?”
Further probing at this point would develop a shared understanding of what the underlying cause of the problem was, and
this would lead on to what could be done differently going forward.
Some people find it difficult to provide development feedback. Essentially you need to have three things to make this
work: specific data to draw on, time to explore the underlying causes of behaviour, and a supportive approach to exploring
alternatives for handling the situation in the future.
It is important to keep separate positive and negative feedback. Deal with the positives using the CARE formula and again
using the formula to deal with areas for improvement. Following this up with how can we create conditions of success for
you going forward is a constructive way to close off the negative feedback.
2. REM model - Handling the anger and emotions of others
This model is based on the premise that when people are confronted by unwelcome situations (such as negative feedback,
or disappointment over remuneration) it is to be expected that they may experience shock and or anger. The model
provides a simple three step approach to recognizing feelings, empathising with those feelings, and then moving on to
more constructive issues.
What does REM stand for?
R: reflective listening
M: move on
The first step is to deal with emotional reactions by recognising and describing feelings as they are expressed. This is done
reflective listening, ie
allow people to express their reactions, and use reflective listening to confirm that those reactions have been
heard. Reflective listening requires the use of non verbal cues such as nodding your head or establishing eye
contact to convey that you are giving your full attention to what is being said.
You then confirm your understanding of what you have heard by reflecting that back to the speaker, using similar
words and expressions.
eg It sounds as though this has come as a major shock to you and you are feeling very angry about this.
Reflective listening in itself can help to defuse anger. You may need to allow people to work through several
“dumps” about how they are feeling, while you continue to reflect back what they are saying.
The second step is to acknowledge the legitimacy of the feelings expressed. This is done by :
express controlled empathy for emotions expressed without however inviting further exploration at this stage.
The aim is acknowledge and legitimize the feelings expressed, not to provide understanding responses or
sympathy, because these may well evoke stronger anger or hostility and the more vulnerable feelings like fear,
hurt and rejection that are nearly always beneath anger and hostility.
eg I can see that this is a disappointing situation for you and it is perfectly normal to feel upset and angry.
It can take a while to work through this.
outline some of the immediate actions which can be taken to help the individual regain a sense of control (moving
out of “victim” mode) and purpose through specific short term actions.
eg What people often find most helpful in these circumstances is for us to look at what we can do to ensure
that we can build towards success in the future. What are some of the specific things that you would like
to work on to create conditions of success going forward?
This approach provides a circuit breaker in that it shifts the focus from dwelling on the past to positive action
planning for the future.