How to use CEDAR for your feedback
Following the CEDAR™ steps will help to make your feedback conversations constructive and motivating.
How CEDAR started
In a workshop for a Hong Kong government department a few years ago, I was asked to demonstrate how to handle a particularly difficult feedback conversation. Sitting in the hot seat, I realised that not having a framework for the discussion is like being without a map: you may be moving, but you’re not entirely sure it’s in the right direction. Over the next few years I observed as closely as possible what worked and what didn’t in every conversation, particularly from the viewpoint of the feedback receiver, and in 2003 developed the CEDAR feedback steps. These five steps will help you to guide each feedback discussion confidently and constructively, even when it’s about a tough situation.
The first step is to set the context so that the individual can see how the feedback fits into their overall performance. Without perspective, information is a free-floating fragment, and it can be hard for people to understand its significance. To anchor it within the bigger picture:
Explore specific examples to illustrate the situation clearly. In many cases, the individual will identify examples for themselves; it’s especially useful to encourage them to lead the conversation as much as possible when things have not gone to plan. In areas of achievement, however, it’s usually more powerful if you lead. Emphasize behaviors that add particular value in areas of strength.
Help people explore why they are where they are. Understanding what’s behind their performance is essential to learning, whether the feedback is about an area of strength or a gap. Insight can sometimes be buried in the subconscious, and the more you use a deliberate and reflective approach, the more it will help the individual to make connections and create valuable ‘aha’ moments. To facilitate insight, ask open questions such as:
In areas of strength, help them to recognize how their capabilities and activities add value. In areas of underperformance, listen out for problems that are the result of poor processes or leadership as much as actions by the individual. The five main causes of underperformance* are learning needs, motivation, outside distraction, a shortfall in capacity, or - in extreme cases - alienation. * Adapted from the CLADA model by Dr David Pendleton, author, Leadership All You Need to Know 1987
Up to this point the conversation has built awareness; the next step is for the reviewee to apply that understanding and decide what actions will be important going forward. Unless the individual is inexperienced in their role, always encourage them to lead this step; your purpose is to facilitate, not to solve, and people are far more likely to implement actions that they have chosen for themselves. Encourage them to be as concrete as possible; the more they can visualize the difference between where they are now and where they are aiming, the easier it is to see how to achieve it. Ask questions like:
In some instances, however, the individual might not know what to do, or you may need to be more directive. When this happens, add your suggestions, just don’t do this too early. Your approval is a powerful motivator and people will stay silent if you offer your ideas too soon.
Following up to support and embed any new behaviors is critical. Lasting change only happens if those behaviors move from deliberate actions to unconscious habits, so provide positive and timely prompts to encourage people.
An example of how to use CEDAR to give positive feedback
An example of how to use CEDAR to give developmental feedback
“KPMG uses the CEDAR feedback model across our global network of countries, helping our people leaders to lead skilled feedback conversations.”