Leader’s Corner – The Power of Feedback

During the most recent Leadership Network Series with principals, central office, and superintendents, the learning centered around feedback.  One of the feedback models shared was Praise, Probe, and Action adapted from Leverage Leadership 2.0. You can use this model to provide feedback to leaders, teachers, or students. If you attended the Leadership Network Series, don’t worry, we have added a new twist to encourage you to use this strategy in a different way! 

The Praise, Probe, and Action model starts with praise. You provide one or two pieces of precise praise from what you observed. Focusing on the positive first will activate the leader or teacher’s brain and promotes openness and receptiveness. The second step is to probe by asking a targeted, open-ended question about the “core issue,” which is the main point of your feedback. Asking an open-ended question triggers the leader or teacher’s brain to think critically about the question and steers him away from taking a defensive stance. The last step, action, is to identify the problem and state a clear, measurable, observable action step that will address the issue. Providing specific feedback that clearly lays out identifiable next steps supports the leader or teacher to know what to adjust in his leadership or instruction.  

Another way to think about using Praise, Probe, and Action is to center the whole sequence in the positive. According to the article The Feedback Fallacy, learning happens when the learner sees how he might do something better by adding some new nuance or expanding his own understanding. If you frame your probing question around a strength the leader or teacher is already exhibiting, you shine a spotlight so he “can recognize it, anchor it, re-create it, and refine it.”  As a probing question you might ask, “Did you notice what happened when you . . . ?” Within a positive frame, the action becomes something you encourage the leader or teacher to replicate and refine instead of something he needs to change or modify. This action leads to building on positive practices and extending the impact of those practices. It also serves to build on your relationships with leaders and teachers. By focusing on the positive first before you delve into areas you have identified for growth will help you build relational trust.  

Of course, there will be times where feedback is truly around addressing practices that are not getting the results you need. The key is to balance the feedback around practices that need to be replicated and practices that provide opportunities for growth. Opportunities for growth challenge the learner to not only think about doing something to his fullest extent that he can, it also provides him with opportunities to build on his strengths or try something new. Engaging the learning center of the brain more often by providing positive feedback will allow leaders or teachers to hear the feedback addressing areas where they need to grow. Challenge yourself to balance your feedback to build upon what’s working and modify what is not working. 

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”

~Harvey S. Firestone

Adapted From: Leverage Leadership (2012) & Leverage Leadership 2.0 (2018). Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
Buckingham, Markus, and Ashley Goodall. “The Feedback Fallacy.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review Press, Mar. 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-feedback-fallacy.


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