March 28th, 2019
Regular, constructive feedback is a crucial element of high-performing teams, but it’s not an inherently easy thing to do. Pointing out someone’s mistakes and correcting behavior, for most managers, is downright unpleasant, and therefore something we often avoid. However, with some practice using a simple formula, those feedback conversations can become easier to have — for both parties.
The feedback method I like to use is based in part on Crucial Conversations, but I simplified it for everyday conversations and gave it an acronym I find easy to remember. It’s FITS.
Facts, Impact, Their side, Steps to take
Let’s break it down.
Facts: State the facts. What was the situation, what happened, how did they react? Do not interpret or assume you know the reasons why, just say what you observed.
Impact: Speak to the impact of this behavior. The impact can be on them, on you, on a project or client, or the team as a whole. Don’t make it dramatic, but do explain why this matters.
Their side: Make space for them to tell their side of the story. You can ask, “Can you tell me your perspective?” or “What’s your take on this?” And then really listen to what they say; you may very well learn something that you yourself need to do differently, or uncover a deeper problem you hadn’t considered.
Steps to take: Finally, talk through what steps can be taken to ensure this situation doesn’t recur in the future. This part should come largely from them, though you can prompt and offer suggestions.
Let’s walk through an example.
Junei delivered a report by the deadline, but it wasn’t formatted properly and needed more work before it could be finalized, meaning it was late to the client. After reviewing the situation, her boss Lyla sits down and give Junei some feedback. Here’s how the conversation goes, using the FITS method above.
Lyla: Hey Junei, I have some feedback for you on the project you turned in yesterday. The information and numbers were all correct, but the formatting was not right. I had to stay late and finalize it, and by the time I finished it was several hours beyond what we’d promised the client. I’m curious - what happened with the formatting?
Junei: Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize there was a template I should’ve been using. I didn’t mean to cause extra work.
L: I called and apologized and they didn’t seem to mind too much, but I’d like to make sure we don’t miss any deadlines with them again. What can we do differently next time?
J: If you could send me a template or example of a properly formatted report, I’ll follow that. I’ll also do my best to get it to you at least one day ahead of time so I can fix any issues.
L: That sounds good. Also, next time I assign you a project, let’s follow up on expectations in writing so we’re sure we’re on the same page. Sound good?
J: Yes, that sounds like a plan.
This conversation was clear and to the point while also focused on improvement, not shame. The FITS method is not only more collaborative and solution-oriented than other feedback models, but also helps managers uncover things they can do differently, too. I find it ultimately leads to much more productive conversations than the popular SBI (Situation, Behavior, Impact model).
Next time you have constructive feedback to deliver, try FITS on for size and let us know how it goes!
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