Communicating Feedback with Candor and Clarity

by Angie Wilks and Jeeho Lee | December 17, 2018

  • My Vault
Angie Wilks and Jeeho Lee, O'Melveny

Feedback. We all know how important it is and why attorneys—especially junior associates—crave feedback on their projects and assignments. Providing feedback shouldn’t be complicated.  So what makes us hesitate? Typically it boils down to not knowing how to convey the information or how to establish relationships that are conducive to sharing feedback. Oftentimes, it’s both.

We might all have good intentions, but until we have the tools and confidence to communicate feedback, the tendency is to put off these conversations. Getting comfortable with feedback takes practice! O’Melveny decided to tackle the issue head-on.

“We recognized there was a desire for more real-time feedback and realized how our culture was impacting the ways in which people communicate,” explains Angie Wilks, the firm’s Director of Attorney Professional Development. “To help us start moving the needle on this issue, we hosted a series of training modules designed to provide everyone at O’Melveny with the practical tools they need to engage in real-time feedback, strengthen relationships, and help each other develop professionally.”

The same model O’Melveny now leverages, called S-B-I, breaks the feedback process down into three simple steps (below). By taking out the guesswork, S-B-I can go a long way to making feedback (even the constructive kind) something that’s integrated into your day-to-day as opposed to a special sit-down that only happens every so often. 

Understanding that feedback is essential to developing yourself and others, O’Melveny Partner Jeeho Lee emphasized the importance of taking the time to build relationships. She explained that “after attending a partner-focused session, the concept of a relationship capital piggy bank really resonated with me. It makes sense that if you spend time building up ‘relationship capital,’ it will be easier and more comfortable to give and receive feedback.”  

3 Easy Steps to Deliver Feedback: The Situational Behavioral Impact (S-B-I) Model

Perfect for positive or constructive feedback alike, the SBI Model allows feedback to be delivered quickly, succinctly and in-the-moment. This model can also be used as a tool to reinforce positive behavior.

Step 1:  Situation

In one sentence, identify the specific event or circumstance you want to address.

Step 2:  Behavior

In one or two sentences, summarize the behavior you observed. Behavior can include:

  • Actions
  • Verbal comments
  • Nonverbal behaviors, signals, gestures, mannerisms

This is not an interpretation or judgment of a person’s motivation or intent, just an observation of the behavior itself.

Step 3: Impact

In one or two sentences, describe the impact the behavior had on you; what you saw, heard, felt, or thought.

When asking for feedback use the same model: describe the situation for which you would like to receive feedback, then share your observation of your behavior and its impact.  That’s much easier for someone to react to than a broad question like, “How do how you think I’m doing?” Below are scenarios to help you see how naturally real-time feedback can play out.

S-B-I Scenarios

Scenario #1

Situation: This morning you sent me the draft brief section arguing ABC position.

Behavior: The writing was succinct.  It included cases that supported our position and provided a relevant analogy.

Impact: I felt confident that you could explain our argument directly to the client and lead the ensuing discussion.

Scenario #2

Situation: Last Monday I asked you to prepare the initial draft of the proposed agreement between our client and the counterparty for XYZ transaction.

Behavior: The draft you submitted did not address all the points in the parties’ term sheet, and it included contradictory and incomplete defined terms.

Impact: I was frustrated that I couldn’t rely on your draft agreement for the client call and had to spend time making revisions.

Delivering feedback with candor and clarity can become a comfortable process for those who put in the time and effort. Make it one of your New Year resolutions to help build a stronger culture of feedback. 

*****

Some Additional Do’s (and Don’ts)
  • Be direct and honest, and avoid “hedge” words like “but”
  • Ask permission: “Is now a good time?”
  • Engage the person: “I’d like to provide you with some feedback/I have some feedback for you” (don’t qualify it as good or bad; easy or difficult)
  • Take the time to strengthen relationships
  • Deliver one element of feedback at a time
  • Frequent feedback = more effective feedback
  • Understand giving behavorial feedback is different than giving advice or telling someone what to do
  • Role model positive attitudes about feedback (giving, receiving, asking)

 This is a sponsored post by O'Melveny. Click here for O'Melveny's firm profile and here for the firm's website.

 

Filed Under: Employer Posts | Law

Tags: how to provide feedback | law firm associate feedback | law firm feedback | SBI | Situational Behavior Impact

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