Feedback and the Enneagram

Giving performance feedback is one of the most important and most overlooked skills in organizations. People get busy, they may not have the skills to give it effectively, and/or they may worry that offering feedback may not be well received. In addition, many believe that giving feedback is the job of managers rather than employees at all levels or that feedback is primarily related to subpar rather than positive performance.

However, without ongoing performance feedback, employees and leaders may not have a realistic perception of how well they are doing. And when only managers offer feedback, employees do not get a full assessment of how they are perceived by their peers, and managers do not understand their full impact on those who work for them. Finally, when performance feedback is primarily constructive – another word for negative feedback – employees only hear about what they did not do as well as they could without hearing about all the things they did well. This can be discouraging and unbalanced.

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Learning to give effective feedback, both positive and negative, is both a science and an art. In the first section, you will learn the science of giving feedback through the Feedback Formula. It is more than a process you can follow that dramatically affects the feedback recipient's receptivity to what you have to say; it is also a way of thinking and planning how you want to give feedback to others.

The art of giving feedback occurs when you integrate the Feedback Formula with the insights of the Enneagram. In the second part of this section, you will learn how individuals of each Enneagram style have great strengths in giving feedback that they should recognize, honor, and fully utilize, as well as feedback errors they may make when offering feedback to others.

Feedback Formula Model

The Feedback Formula is a simple, time-tested way to give positive and negative messages. Mastering this method will help you to improve both how you give feedback and, subsequently, how well the other person will receive it.

The Feedback Formula follows a three-part sequence:
  1. Observable behavior
    You begin by providing a clear, data-based statement about the recipient's concrete, observable behavior, presenting it in a factual way. Starting with several concrete examples of observable behavior (with which both you and the other person concur) gets some early agreement and reduces defensiveness in the other person.

  2. Impact of the behavior
    In this step, you tell the person why the information is important to him or her, to the organization, and to you. Done effectively, this second step motivates and provides the rationale for the change.

  3. Preferred behavior
    In the final step, you offer the feedback recipient some ideas about alternative behaviors; this helps the person think about additional choices he or she may not have considered. This step takes the guesswork out of the requested behavior change.
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Style-based Feedback Strengths and Ways to Minimize Style-based Errors

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Please click a number to see the information for the corresponding style.

  • Utilize your skill at being very specific, but avoid being too detailed or picking on too many small items
  • Keep your capacity to generate ways someone else can improve, but work very hard to control your use of explicitly or implicitly judgmental language
  • Maintain your truthfulness, but resolve any residual anger or resentment prior to having the feedback conversation so your feelings do not show through your body language
Remember: As hard as you work to make your own behavior impeccable, the feedback recipient may not want your help in becoming perfect.
  • Maintain your positive regard for the other person, but not at the expense of avoiding the negative information
  • Consider the other person's feelings, but do not "fog over" the issues to keep the feedback recipient from feeling bad
  • Pay attention to the recipient's reaction, but take neither a positive nor a negative response personally
  • Maintain your perceptiveness, but remind yourself that your insights may not be accurate, especially when you are angry
Remember: As much as you want to give to others and to share your insights, keep in mind that the feedback recipient may not want your help and may know the best course of action to take.
  • Maintain your focus, but also allow room for feelings, particularly those of the other person
  • Be clear and honest, and remember to be gentle
  • Keep focused on the desired result rather than using too many small examples that may derail your main point
  • Be patient
Remember: Other people may not drive themselves as hard as you drive yourself, and they may not identify with work as completely as you do, but this does not mean they do not value achievement or want to improve.
  • Be empathic, but be careful not to get your own feelings so involved that you presume to know what the other person feels
  • Maintain your truthfulness, but add a positive tone and include positive comments
  • Pay attention to the other person, but try to match his/her mood or energy rather than trying to get the person to match yours
Remember: Even with your best efforts to be genuine, truthful, and empathic, your intentions will, at times, be misunderstood.
  • Keep your precision, but do not be so concise that the other person does not understand what you are saying
  • Continue to rigorously think through your approach, but be careful not to overload the feedback recipient with information
  • Keep being clear about your task, but also invite an emotional response from the other person
Remember: The feedback recipient may not want a clearly defined, logical approach and may prefer an integrated, thinking-feeling interaction.
  • Planning is crucial, but work to calm yourself before the feedback meeting
  • Details are important, but keep sight of the big picture; thinking about possible scenarios is helpful, but try to balance the negative possibilities with positive ones
  • Honor your insights, but avoid assuming that your thoughts are accurate; treat them as hypotheses, and seek the answers from the feedback recipient
Remember: Once you have given the feedback, allow the feedback recipient to take responsibility to achieve a positive outcome, instead of believing that the burden of resolving the situation is on your shoulders.
  • Maintain your optimism, but be careful not to let that obscure what the feedback recipient needs to hear
  • Use your ability to provide context and perspective carefully so that the central issue does not get lost
  • Do bring in related information, but keep your focus so that the feedback recipient does not get sidetracked
Remember: Although you can think fast and are able to multi-track, the feedback recipient may need to focus on one topic until it has been discussed completely before moving to another topic.
  • Maintain your ability to keep focused on the key points, but do so in a receptive way
  • Have some ideas about what to do, but allow the feedback recipient to make the first suggestions
  • Consider in advance what you want to say
  • Keep your skill in steering your full attention to the task, but downplay your energy level so the other person does not feel overwhelmed
  • Smiling, making easy jokes, and waiting patiently for a response are helpful
  • Retain your truthfulness, but include a positive component
Remember: While you like to deal with issues head-on as they occur, the feedback recipient may want to deal with the issues in his/her own time frame and way.
  • Keep creating rapport and maintain your kindness, but also deliver a clear message
  • Retain your capacity to understand a situation from many viewpoints, but stay focused on your main point
  • Think of other issues that may be related, and save them for further discussion; try to keep your feedback focused on one issue at a time
Remember: Harmony and comfort are admirable; the feedback recipient, however, may want to deal with the issues straightforwardly.

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