Give Constructive Feedback with A Star and A Wish

You've probably heard of the "feedback sandwich"—a compliment, followed by a criticism, then another compliment. As someone giving feedback, this model feels safe and comfortable but for the person receiving the feedback it's all too easy to learn to ignore any positive feedback as you wait for the "real" feedback. The next time you need to deliver feedback, try this format dubbed "A Star and A Wish" instead. 

A Better Feedback Format

A Star and A Wish reinforces positive behavior, and invites team members to share and spread these high performing habits. It’s a proactive practice that can be used far more frequently than quarterly or annual reviews. When you see something that needs to be addressed, simply follow the format:

  1. “I’ve noticed that…” (insert a positive observation behavior or habit). 
  2. “I wish you could bring that…” (insert an event, time, or frequency to encourage the positive attribute).

A Star and A Wish is a framework all team members can use, not just managers. Creating a culture of positive and well-intentioned feedback can become a shared responsibility. Not only that, it can be used far more frequently than quarterly or annual reviews.  

Putting Feedback into Context

A more constructive format isn’t enough. To set the appropriate tone and context, all opportunities to give and receive feedback should follow these principles:

  1. Make it timely. Provide feedback as soon as possible. It’s easier for someone to accept feedback after they make a mistake once; less so after a month of making that same mistake without any correction.
  2. Self-reflect first. Make sure that you are in the right frame of mind: calm and professional.
  3. Do it face-to-face. Use the person’s visual cues to see how your feedback is being processed, and adjust as needed. It also helps to provide feedback in a private area.
  4. Ask for permission. Find out if the person is open to receiving feedback, or if they would prefer to discuss it at another time.
  5. Be specific. Avoid generalizations. Your goal is to help improve their performance, so give feedback that they can put into action.
  6. Don’t make demands. Encourage the person to enact change, but avoid demands, which can be perceived as threats.
  7. Ask for feedback in return. You can always improve your delivery, so be open to feedback as well.

Whether or not you choose to use “A Star and a Wish”, remember that providing feedback should ultimately reinforce positive behavior and invite team members to share and spread high performing habits.

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Give Constructive Feedback with A Star and A Wish
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