One of the key leadership skills required on a regular basis is the ability to provide effective performance feedback in a manner which moves your business forward. Ideally we want the individual or team to listen, act, close the loop, and evolve. Providing effective performance feedback is a key leadership skill for holding people and teams accountable to expectations around goals, performance, strategy and responsibilities. The better you are at it, the faster you will be able to move your business forward. Without it, leadership life can be tough.
There are several different performance feedback models floating around, but I like the SIRA model. It’s simple, easy to remember, and can be adapted to all situations.
Remember, when providing performance feedback ensure you adhere to the following criteria. The feedback should be:
- Specific: It should contain facts rather than generalisations or opinions.
- Accurate: It should be accurate, clear and constructive.
- Objective: Make it about the event or performance issue, not the person. Be direct, firm, and positive, not critical.
- Timely: It should be given as soon as possible after the event.
- Useable: Relate the feedback to goals, strategies and responsibilities so it is actionable.
- Desirable: Make continuous improvement part of the culture.
The SIRA Model
The SIRA (Situation, Impact, Respect, Agree) model is a method of ensuring that individuals and teams listen, act, close the loop, and evolve. Practice structuring your performance feedback conversations using the SIRA model, as per the example below.
Situation – Define the performance issue in behavioural terms.
‘Pete – I’ve noticed a reluctance to complete your weekly sales report. I haven’t received one for the last two weeks’.
Impact – Relate the impact of the behaviour.
‘The reason I mention it is because it’s unfair on the production team who rely on the information to forecast and schedule next month’s production. At worst in could result in our DIFOT slipping’.
Respect – Ask for an explanation then listen for the real problem.
‘It would help me to know why there is resistance to completing this weekly task’?
Agree – Agree the required change.
‘Pete – how would you suggest you schedule your Friday to ensure the report is completed and to me by close of business’ or ‘is there additional help you need to gather the required information to allow you to complete the report on time’ or ‘how could you do it differently next time to ensure you meet the deadline’?
Before you give performance feedback, make sure you consider the recipient’s thoughts and feelings and what may be going on in their life, then structure your feedback accordingly (using the SIRA model):
How to reduce the status threat:
You may also want to give praise in public where appropriate.
How to reduce the certainty threat:
If someone has autonomy, they have a sense of control over events and they have choices available to them. If feedback is seen as micro-managing, it will feel like choices are being taken away.
How to reduce the autonomy threat:
As a threat to autonomy could feel like losing choices, the best way to avoid a negative reaction is to give choices as part of your feedback:
“Here are two options that should work, which do you prefer?”
Employees usually wish to feel connected with their peers and managers in order to have a stress-free environment. A healthy manager-employee relationship can be damaged if feedback threatens connectedness.
How to reduce the connectedness threat:
Explain to employees that while at work they are here to work, and that they need to perform and show behavior that is in the best interests of what the business needs, not what they need or want:
‘I understand that this is not normally how you may do things or communicate outside of work, but this is how we need to do it here, because …, and it is my job to ensure everyone is working on the right things in the right way. It’s nothing personal.’ Or ‘I would never want to have this conversation personally, but feel I have to professionally’.
To evaluate whether feedback is fair or not, the recipient will look at the behavior of other employees and the feedback given to them. It is important that your feedback is based on fact, and it is consistent across the business. If not, you may breach their trust.
How to reduce the fairness threat:
Make it clear that you are not treating one person differently to another:
“Like I just said to Sid …” or pull people together as a group ‘I’m letting everybody know that ….’
Giving effective performance feedback is a highly important leadership skill. It can be used in a wide variety of situations to get the best out of individuals and teams, and it should be used consistently and regularly to hold people and teams accountable. If you are in a leadership role or have people who report through to you, then it’s your responsibility. It is likely you will fail in these roles unless you are exceptional at providing performance feedback.
Effective performance feedback is a highly desirable communication skill that will greatly benefit your ability to form good relationships in business and in life. It is a skill you can excel at in a few months if you practice the SIRA model regularly. Ensure you also provide enough positive feedback to encourage employees and teams to keep up the good work, and to build self-esteem, morale and the desired culture.