The Empowerment Pyramid

There are at least five different kinds of feedback that can be given:
1. Corrective Feedback: Information suggesting that a specific course of action is not desirable because of a specific undesirable outcome that can be anticipated, for example: “I don’t think you should hire John. This would alienate the entire department.”
2. Diagnostic Feedback: Information suggesting why a specific course of action has been or will be successful or unsuccessful, for example: “I think Susan is frustrated with your work because you keep promising things that you can’t deliver!”
3. Corroborative Feedback: Information that confirms and at times expands upon a specific suggestion that has been offered, for example: “I think this idea is good for the following three reasons. . . “
4. Descriptive Feedback: Information that conveys to another person the nature of their specific behavior in some setting as observed by another person, for example: “You have been less active in this group’s discussion during the past half hour than you were during the first hour.”
5. Judgmental Feedback: Information concerning a group member’s own opinion of a suggestion that has been made, including, at times, a rationale for this opinion, for example: “I don’t think this is a good idea for it will prevent us from reaching our affirmative action goal.”

Corrective and judgmental forms of feedback are often confused in meetings. They differ from one another in that corrective feedback provides information about how a specific course of action would adversely affect the achievement or the course of action as well as typically, the other members of the group. Conversely, judgmental feedback usually is based on a difference in goal priorities. The person providing the feedback is letting the person who made the suggestion know that the suggestion will not be supported because it works against or is at least not responsive to one or more goals that the feedback-giver values. The first of these two forms of feedback operates in the domain of information, whereas the second form operates in the domain of intentions.

All five forms of feedback can be appreciative in nature, though corrective and judgmental feedback must be carefully crafted if it is to be appreciative. Corroborative, diagnostic, and descriptive forms of feedback all help a group progress toward its assigned task. Corroborative feedback encourages group members to build on each other’s ideas. The problem solving process called Synectics relies heavily on corroborative feedback. Diagnostic feedback is of great value as well in problem- solving settings, while descriptive feedback helps members of a group monitor their own behavior and improve their effectiveness as group members. Descriptive feedback, unlike judgmental (and sometimes corrective) feedback tends not to elicit defensive responses from the recipient. She can decide whether or not the behavior being identified is what she intended to enact. With some additional diagnostic or corrective feedback, the recipient can determine the probable consequences of his behavior.

A group leader significantly increases the probability that feedback will be offered in a helpful manner if she plans for a specific time when feedback is to be solicited. Frequently, when feedback is offered in a spontaneous manner, it has not been carefully prepared by the sender, hence is confusing, contradictory or incomplete. Furthermore, off the cuff feedback often occurs when the sender is particularly frustrated or feeling angry, hence it tends to be emotionally laden and judgmental. If members of a group are told that the presenter would like to take ten minutes to present her ideas before feedback is solicited, then group members will usually comply with the request. They will not comply, however, if they have been told the same thing at previous meetings and never given an adequate opportunity to give feedback.

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