TSLH #049: The AID Model of Giving Feedback

TSLH #049: The AID Model of Giving Feedback

Read time: 4 minutes


Every time I have asked feedback in my career – from my managers, my peers or my direct reports – it has always amazed me at just how few people respond.
I would strongly argue that feedback is an essential element of any job, so much so that not having feedback is actually a very strong driver of disengagement.
Just consider these 3 statistics:
  • 98% of employees disengage from their work when they receive little or no feedback.
  • Companies that invest in regular employee feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates than organizations where employees do not receive feedback.
  • 65% of employees desire more feedback.
The truth is, giving feedback is hard, especially if you want to do it in an efficient way. This is usually due to the fact that feedback is very often seen as criticism by the other party.
Let’s be honest here, when we give feedback, it’s more often than not to give negative feedback. And when that happens, the people we give feedback to will tend to remove themselves from the discussion and at the same time usually experience a variety of negative feelings and emotions like anxiety, stress, fear, shame, etc.
So, why are people afraid of giving feedback?
If I look at my own experience giving feedback, I still hesitate sometimes or feel anxious about giving feedback for essentially 2 reasons: (1) I get on well with the person and I am afraid of being too confrontational and as a result damage the relationship; (2) I am not prepared at all for the discussion and I am stressed about saying it the wrong way.
Does that sound familiar?
Let me tell you one thing though: In both cases, these are just lies I am telling myself to convince me the best way is not to give feedback at all. And you are telling yourselves the same lies if you hesitate giving feedback to someone.
Moreover, not giving feedback impacts the other person. If you don’t give feedback to someone because you are afraid of damaging a relationship, then what happens is that you deny someone an opportunity to learn and to grow.
There is a good reason for why most of us dread giving feedback, and it’s that in most companies, feedback typically only happens in one of 3 situations: An annual performance review, a regular 1-1 discussion, or a difficult conversation about poor performance.
No wonder that people dread feedback: It’s most often done in a high stress environment, where judgment is very present and a lot is at stake (performance appraisal, compensation impacts, even the job).
However, when delivered efficiently, feedback, good or bad, can trigger tremendous results and response from the people it is given to: Improved productivity, increased motivation and engagement. This will in turn create more trust, empowerment and accountability on your team.
There are plenty of ways to give feedback the wrong way. Here are just 2 examples:
  • A very busy person is interrupted by their manager who tell them “You should not work that late!” or “you should add more colors and bullet points to your presentation”.
  • A manager discussing with one of their reports: “Hey, I think your presentation was good, but you could have used more data in your slides. When you do this, your audience will be more engaged.”
I am sure you can tell these feedbacks don’t help, are too generic, and in the second case, what seems like positive feedback is actually “complemented” by negative feedback.
What is good feedback then?
In my experience, it all starts with 3 things: (1) Preparation, (2) Sincerity, and (3) not being judgmental. It’s the mindset you must have in order to deliver strong, efficient feedback.
In my research and throughout my experience, I have found that a good model to use for feedback is the AID model, which stands for Action, Impact, and Desired Outcomes.
With the AID model, you get straight to the point, you give clear indications of what you saw and what impact it had, and you can offer guidance on how the person can do something differently, which provides a great opportunity for learning.
Going back to the 2nd situation I discussed earlier, this is how it could be done with the AID model. And first things first, I strongly recommend always to start a feedback discussion with a question like “Is it OK if I offer some feedback to you now?”, so ASK PERMISSION first!
Action: You tell the person what she is doing well or bad. For instance: “I attended your last presentation and I noticed that you didn’t include an executive summary at the start. What was people’s reaction to that?” And let the person comment.
Impact: Explain the impact this had. For instance: “I saw that some of them were confused and did not stay alert during the whole presentation. They do have lots of meeting and they tend to like those executive summaries.” And let the person comment.
Desired Outcomes: Discuss about ways the person could do things differently for more efficiency. For instance, by asking questions like “What do you think you can do differently next time?” or “How could you keep them more engaged during the presentation?” And let the person comment.
Then end with some words of appreciation, an advice or ask “How can I help you with this?”
When you give feedback that way, you focus on behaviors and not the people, so you will eliminate any harsh critic. You just give facts, there is no judgment, and you asked a lot of questions to the person to let her find the best ways to learn and improve from the feedback.
Let’s look at how using the AID model can really enhance your skill of giving feedback, and empower the person receiving it, thereby increasing their engagement:
Bad way of giving feedback: “Hey, great job on working on this client deal!”
OK, this is good to hear for sure, but then, what did you learn from that feedback? What specifically was good? The person receiving the feedback has no clue.
Compare with this feedback: “Hey John, you have done an impressive work engaging with the sales team. Everyone on the team, including the GM is really finding a lot of value in everything you have contributed to that team since you took over the region. Specifically, I want to acknowledge your work on the financial model. The team’s feedback was that they were given the proper guidance and got heightened visibility on their deals financials thanks to your ability to quickly understand how the market works. I am really happy to have you on the team.”
You feel the difference? Which feedback would you like to receive?
Remember, giving feedback is not easy. To give efficient feedback, you need to let go of judgment, and instead show empathy and interest in the other person. Preparation is key in order to give the strongest possible message.
There will also be times when emotions may run high. In those situations, do take time, slow down, let people vent and cool down, be curious and ask questions. Practice with someone and see how your skill develops and improves!

I wish you a great read. I’ll see you next Saturday!

TL; DR (Too Long, Did not Read)

The AID model of giving feedback

  1. Action.
  2. Impact.
  3. Desired outcome.

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