The CEDAR™ Feedback Model

Feeding Back, Collaboratively

The CEDAR™ Feedback Model - Feeding Back, Collaboratively

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Use CEDAR to get your people on board with giving and receiving feedback.

Managers worry a lot about giving feedback, and with good reason.

If delivered correctly, it has the potential to inspire and motivate people. Conversely, if delivered poorly, it can upset and alienate them.

But giving feedback is an essential part of a manager's responsibilities. Exploring what's going well – and what's not – is one of the most important ways to help your people to achieve their personal and organizational goals, and it can help to build successful and progressive workplaces.

At the same time, you need to make sure that your people are on board and open to feedback. This is where the CEDAR™ Feedback Model can help. It is designed to help organizations develop a culture of feedback that is built on collaboration – not "orders from above" – by encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their own career progression.

In this article, we'll explore the CEDAR Model further and explain how you can apply it in your organization.

What Is the CEDAR Feedback Model?

CEDAR is a framework that can be used to structure feedback conversations in a positive way by allowing the individual – rather than the manager – to take the lead in discussions about his or her performance.

The model was designed by leadership and management skills consultant Anna Wildman in 2003.

CEDAR stands for:

  • Context.
  • Examples.
  • Diagnosis.
  • Action.
  • Review.

The model can be used in any organization, but it is most successful when used by companies that have a strong feedback culture already in place. In organizations like this, feedback is integrated into everyday life. People trust each other to give feedback constructively and, as a result, they feel safe to offer it, receive it, and respond to it positively.

So, it's important that you work to develop a culture of feedback before you start using the CEDAR model. We explain how you can do this, below.

How to Build a Culture of Feedback

The best way to build a feedback-friendly culture is to talk to your people about how they would like it to look. When you put your team members in control of creating your feedback culture, they will more likely buy into it.

Start by encouraging people to identify what they collectively value when they give and receive feedback. Then, decide on the balance between negative and positive feedback that they feel works best for them. Cultures that provide a lot of praise and recognition in their feedback will likely find that people are more open to it.

Remember, it doesn't have to be a 50:50 split between praise and criticism. In fact, research suggests that people need three times more positive feedback than negative to maintain an optimal level of emotional well-being and positive mental health (although this ratio has been challenged in recent years).

Once you have decided on your own ratio of positive to negative feedback, get your people to agree on a set of feedback standards that will enable them to give criticism and speak up in a positive and constructive way, even when they have conflicting opinions.

For example, people could commit to framing suggestions in a certain way, or trying out their suggestions before proposing them to others. It's also important to discuss how they want to receive feedback. For instance, they could agree to be open to suggestions, to actively seek out feedback, and to embrace both criticism and recognition.

Once you've settled on your standards, be sure to encourage your team by "walking the talk." After all, as their manager, your people will take their cues from you. So, lead by example and welcome feedback yourself.

Tip:

Although setting group standards is an effective way to develop a culture of feedback, it's important to remember that some people will have personal preferences, too.

If this is the case, agree additional standards on an individual basis. For instance, ask your team member about what achievements he would like to be recognized for, or how he would like conversations to begin when they are about a difficult subject. This will allow you to fine-tune your feedback process and improve its effectiveness.

How to Apply the CEDAR Model

Once you have a feedback-friendly culture in place, you can start to implement the CEDAR framework by following these five steps:

Step 1: Context

Quality feedback is about more than just recognizing achievements and highlighting areas for development. It's about helping people to understand how a specific piece of feedback fits into the bigger picture of their overall performance and the goals of your organization.

For this to happen, it's important to for you and your team member to think about the context in which she works. You can do this by explaining how and why her performance is important. For instance, discuss why her performance matters, who it affects, and what impact it has on her colleagues and the organization.

Step 2: Examples

Giving examples of good and bad performance helps to validate your feedback. It also enables you to focus on specifics, making your feedback more targeted and meaningful.

If you need to discuss things that have not gone to plan, it's usually best to let your team member take the lead and identify these examples himself. Conversely, when you want to discuss his achievements and successes, it's a good idea for you to take the lead. This gives you the chance to offer praise, and to highlight helpful behaviors, hard work, and successful outcomes.

Tip:

Try to limit the number of examples to one or two per discussion point. Too many examples can be overwhelming, and may cause you to lose focus. Remain as accurate and objective as possible in the examples you give, and avoid relying on hearsay or rumors, as this may undermine your credibility and the quality of your feedback.

Warning:

It's crucial to make sure that the individual has a clear understanding of both the context and the examples that you cover before you move on to step three of the framework, diagnosis. If she doesn't, the remaining steps will not be effective.

Step 3: Diagnosis

Understanding why we behave and act the way that we do can help us to diagnose any problem areas or success stories.

When someone understands the reasons behind his performance, he will likely be in a better position to replicate an impressive performance or turn around a poor one. He will also have a better understanding of any gaps in his own knowledge or ability that need to be addressed.

At this point in the feedback process, let your team member take the lead by inviting him to share his opinion of the situation. Do this by asking open-ended questions, such as: "What led up to where you are now?" "How did you achieve this?" or "What skills did you use?" Make sure you listen actively to his answers, as this will help you both to gain a good understanding of the reasons behind his performance.

Tip:

Don't rush the diagnosis stage. If you don't accurately diagnose the underlying causes of a person's performance, any action plan that you draw up will likely be flawed.

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Step 4: Action

Now, it's time to apply what you have learned from the diagnosis stage, by setting goals and organizing a plan of action.

Try to resist the temptation to take control of the feedback discussion at this point, or to solve problems on your team member's behalf. Instead, encourage her to take charge of her own personal growth by exploring the actions she needs to take to resolve a negative situation, or to build on a successful one. You can still offer suggestions and lend her your support if she needs a nudge in the right direction.

Use questions like these to prompt her during your discussion:

  • What outcome are you aiming for?
  • What actions do you need to take to achieve it?
  • What support do you need from me and the team?
  • Where else would you be able to use your strengths?

Tip:

There are several tools that can help your team member to develop an action plan for her own development. For instance, you could use SMART goals, a handy tool for defining specific steps; or The Action Priorities Matrix, which can focus her attention on tasks that make the most of her time, energy, talents, and opportunities.

Step 5: Review

The final stage of the CEDAR framework is to organize a review schedule with your team member.

Regular reviews are essential for two reasons: to monitor his progress, and to troubleshoot any problems that he might encounter on his journey toward achieving the goals that you set together in step four.

Support and celebrate your team member's efforts; this can boost his motivation and enable him to embed any new behaviors into his working routine. Also, stay in touch with him about any new opportunities that crop up which could help him to achieve his goals.

Key Points

The CEDAR Feedback Model is a framework for providing structured feedback conversations. It was developed by leadership and management skills consultant Anna Wildman in 2003.

The CEDAR model is designed to encourage team members to collaborate in the feedback process and to take a more active role in their own personal development.

The model can be applied by following these five steps:

  • Context. Linking your team member's performance to the organization's wider goals.
  • Examples. Providing evidence and examples of her performance to support your feedback.
  • Diagnosis. Exploring the reasons behind her performance.
  • Actions. Identifying actions and goals that will help her to work on her weaknesses and improve on her strengths.
  • Review. Monitoring her progress and supporting her if she encounters any obstacles.

CEDAR used with permission from Anna Wildman, author of 'Oil in the Engine,' 2017. The CEDAR Framework is copyrighted and trademarked.