"Feedback is the breakfast of champions."
- Ken Blanchard
That may be the case, but I certainly know a lot of people who would simply prefer to skip breakfast whether they're on the giving or receiving end of that meal. We've all been involved with poorly delivered feedback - either receiving or giving. For some, just the mere mention of the word - feedback - is enough to dig up some significant emotional baggage.
And yet, most of the fear regarding feedback is rooted in the person in a position to give feedback. In a 2022 study titled, “Just letting you know … ” Underestimating others’ desire for constructive feedback, researchers ran an experiment regarding goth giving and receiving feedback in 10 different workplace situations. They found that participants in a position to give feedback significantly underestimated the desire of the potential receiver to get feedback. The bottom line is that we typically want feedback yet fear giving it.
One of the reasons for this conundrum is that we often don't know how to give feedback. Like anything else, giving feedback is a skill. First-time managers are often trained on everything they need to do their job except how to give feedback to their direct reports. While there are many techniques for providing feedback (each with its own use-cases), one of the most powerful methods is known as the Pendleton model. Developed in 1984, the Pendleton model is a facilitated, learner-centered approach that utilizes self-discovery and identifies a plan of action. It is often referred to as WW/EBI based on critical functions it uses - Went Well and Even Better If. Since the magic is in the self-discovery, I prefer to say "facilitate" feedback rather than "give" feedback when using this technique. To make the different steps of the model easy to remember, I created the acronym FRANC.
F - Focus of Feedback
"Begin with the end in mind."
- Dr. Stephen R. Covey
Great feedback starts with the end in mind and that entails identifying the purpose of the feedback session. Whether it's to improve a performance metric or a collection of skills, establishing a clear purpose will help both the coach and the coachee to remain focused on behaviors that impact that goal. Next, Identify the session to be observed. Often, in the context of contact centers and support centers, this is a specific interaction with a customer like a recent recorded call or documented ticket/chat interaction. Doing this allows you both to maintain focus on observable behaviors that have already been exhibited.
R - Recognize and Reinforce Success (What Went Well?)
“Praise behavior that you want repeated”
- Dean Smith
Start off by asking the coachee what they think went well. It's important to allow time for self-discovery here. People will find this difficult at first and want to jump straight to what they could have done better. When we take the time to reinforce what people do well, they are more likely to repeat those behaviors going forward. Keep the focus on specific, observable behaviors that contributed to success. Observable behaviors are objective rather than subjective. If you're unsure if the behavior is specific and observable, ask yourself, "How do I know that and can I prove it?" "You sounded confident" is an opinion, but it can be based on observed behaviors like, pace, tone, use of power words, etc. For critical components of success, explore why and how those behaviors contributed to success. You can lead them with questions like, "How did you make the customer feel when you said…?" and "What did you do to reach resolution so quickly? "Add your own observations of "Went Wells" when coachee has exhausted their list if you identified others.
A - Adjustment Self-Discovery (Even Better If?)
"If you own this story you get to write the ending."
- Brené Brown
Much like recognizing what went well, you'll next facilitate self-discovery of what they could do even better. Self-discovery is critical because it promotes ownership. Questions like, "What would you do differently if you could have a do-over?" or "What would you improve on next time?" are great ways to get them thinking. You can drive more focus by including the focus in your questions like, "What could you have done differently to increase the chances of making a sale during that interaction?" Ideally, you discuss about twice as much "Went Wells" as "Even Betters," so keep that in mind when you're recognizing their successes. As with components of success, be sure to discuss the impacts of what they could have done even better. If they identify the most impactful opportunities for improvement, there's no need to add your own observations, but be ready to lead them to critical areas of improvement if they're not recognizing them.
N - Narrow the Takeaways
“If EVERYTHING is a focus, NOTHING is a focus.”
- Bruce Herwig
Bruce Herwig is a photographer, but this insight applies to behavior change just as much as photography. Changing a habit is hard and it requires focus. You are literally rewiring your brain to undo the automatic cue / routine / reward system deep in our basal ganglia - the area of the brain that develops emotions and memories. Changing this requires the use of your prefrontal cortex, where we make conscious decisions. The more you try to change, the harder it is to focus the prefrontal cortex on any one thing, so we want to identify the most impactful one or two behaviors the coachee will focus on to improve their performance. You can use a leading question like, "What one or two things we discussed today will you focus on going forward to improve your…?"
C - Commit to a Course of Action
"If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it!"
If you want behavior change rather than just talk, get a firm commitment. It should be specific about what they'll do, when they'll implement it, and how often they'll execute. You can ask questions like, "When are you going to start…?" and "How often are you going to do that?" This is an opportunity for you to set expectations that you'll follow up with them to celebrate their successes and help them overcome any unexpected obstacles. The commitment creates instant accountability on their part.
Now that you understand the mechanics of facilitating FRANC Feedback, let's talk about some of the challenges and flexibility that comes with it.
When You Should NOT use FRANC Feedback
This framework can help you take good performance to great performance, but it's not appropriate for every situation.
Due to its self-directed focus, you should avoid FRANC Feedback if you know you need to develop a specific skill (or set of skills) with the person you're coaching.
FRANC Feedback is not corrective action. It is designed to coach skill, not will issues. Performance gaps due to a lack of willingness require a different coaching framework. Issues such as tardiness, continual poor performance, and others are best handled by a direct, objective approach.
Flexible Application of FRANC Feedback
You can use FRANC Feedback to coach just about any observed interaction and at any level. For instance, Managers can use it to coach Team Leaders / Supervisors. The focus of that might be how they execute a team meeting or how they executed a coaching session with an agent.
FRANC can even be used in group settings. In a high-trust environment, you can open "Went Wells" and "Even Betters" to the group. You can also use an anonymized interaction (not someone in the group) to solicit feedback and ask each member of the group for a takeaway they'll commit to implementing. This can be powerful during group training sessions like new hire training.
When applied regularly, FRANC Feedback can be condensed and executed incredibly efficiently. It could be as fast as soliciting 2 "Went Wells" and 1 "Even Better" and then gaining commitment to that one "Even Better." Like anything else done regularly, you will find that the people get into a groove with FRANC. This means people will begin to self-coach and become more willing to take "control" of the feedback. While that's a great situation to be in, remember that you are the guide, the facilitator. Be ready to challenge assumptions, ask thoughtful questions, and provide overlooked insights to ensure continued development and success.