Start, Stop, Continue – The Simplest Feedback Method You’ll Ever Use

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I strongly believe that the ability to deliver and receive feedback in the right way is a superpower of the modern workplace. I’ve felt like this for about a decade now and it started when I saw the power of it in a previous role. It was a culture where I could sit in a meeting room with the owner of the company, watch them do a practice run of a presentation and then afterwards, tell them exactly what I thought was good and what I thought was bad. 

I wasn’t scared of telling him (or any other colleague) what they could improve. I knew that even if they didn’t agree or action my feedback, that they’d listen and take it in good faith.

It was something that gave that team something that many of our competitors didn’t have – constant improvement from top to bottom.

My belief in the power of feedback has only gotten stronger over the last ten years. Having moved on and started my own company, I’ve done my best (with mixed success) to instil the same feeling and culture. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the belief has gotten even stronger because if you’re not in the same room as someone, delivering and receiving feedback can be even more challenging, often meaning that it’s avoided altogether. 

So, the question is – how do you start to embed feedback into your culture?

Start simple. 

Don’t overthink it, don’t overcomplicate it, just start simple.

Today, I’m going to give you an overview of probably the simplest feedback technique that I’ve ever come across that is also incredibly useful and effective.

The start, stop, continue feedback technique

This is a technique that splits feedback into three parts:

  1. What someone should start doing.
  2. What someone should stop doing.
  3. What someone should continue doing.

The effectiveness of this feedback technique lies in the fact that it lends itself to constructive, actionable and unambiguous feedback. When you try to mould your feedback to these three areas, you can’t help but reflect on what the person actually does day-to-day. They make you stop and think about things carefully and give you a solid framework which helps ensure that you’re being clear.

It also helps that you don’t need to write loads of feedback against each area, a short paragraph for each or a few bullet points are often enough to give someone useful feedback to think about.

Lets go a little deeper into each one and learn how to answer them in the most effective way that you can.

What someone should start doing

Here, you’re looking for examples of behaviours or approaches that someone should start doing within their role, that they’re not doing right now. These are likely to be things that they haven’t come across yet due to a lack of experience, or things that they may be aware of, but don’t understand the importance of.

Here are some examples of questions that you can ask yourself to prompt some useful answers here:

  • What should someone start doing in order to be a more effective communicator?
  • What should someone start doing to manage their time and workload better?
  • What should someone start doing to improve their day-to-day deliverables?

And here are some examples of the kinds of answers that you may give to someone:

  • You could start to use Slack statuses to indicate when you’re in deep work mode or when you’re free for conversations.
  • You could start to use a tool such as Trello or Asana to organise your monthly workload and stay on top of tasks.
  • You could start to include executive summaries at the top of all of your deliverables so that an executive can quickly understand the key takeaways of your audits.

The end result for the person who you’re delivering feedback to is a concise list of things that they can consider starting to do as part of their day-to-day work or personal development.

What someone should stop doing

From experience, this is the one that people tend to struggle with the most. Sometimes, this is because someone is generally just very good at their job and therefore, things to stop doing aren’t particularly obvious. 

This means that you may need to think a little more deeply about this area, whilst also reframing it in your head a little because useful answers can also include things that someone needs to change or tweak, as opposed to completely stopping.

Let’s look at some examples of questions and then some example answers.

  • What should someone stop doing when it comes to their behaviours when working with peers?
  • What should someone stop doing in regards to delivering feedback to peers?
  • What should someone stop doing when problem solving during projects?

And here are some examples of the types of answers that you may give:

  • You should think about stopping calling all-team meetings when you can achieve the same outcome with a 121 or smaller team meeting.
  • You should think about stopping delivering feedback over Slack or email, and replacing it with face to face feedback.
  • When working on projects, you should think about taking a minute to step away from a problem to think about it before putting forward answers.

It’s worth saying that it’s worth providing as much context as possible when delivering feedback, but especially when you’re giving feedback on what someone should stop doing.

What someone should continue doing

Finally, this area covers looking at the things that someone is already doing well and highlighting this to them so that they can improve even more with them. Try to focus on their strengths and the things that really matter when it comes to high performance in their role.

Here are some questions that may prompt some useful answers to this area:

  • What is someone doing particularly well when working with peers on tasks?
  • What behaviours is someone demonstrating that are positive examples to others?
  • Has someone introduced a new idea, technique or methodology to the team that is working particularly well?

And here are some examples of the answers that you could give to someone when it comes to what they should continue doing:

  • You should try to continue being available to your more junior colleagues and answering questions that they may have on projects.
  • You should try to continue taking ownership of problems and challenges when they arise and not leaving them to someone else.
  • You should try to continue bringing new ideas and processes to the table for your team to use.

And that’s it! To recap, the simplest feedback method that you’ll ever use has three areas:

  1. What someone should start doing.
  2. What someone should stop doing.
  3. What someone should continue doing.

Start using it this week at work and see how you get on with it. Reply to this email and let me know 🙂

Bonus: one other benefit of this technique is that it’s incredibly useful to use as a manager when you’re trying to get feedback from your team. As we’ve spoken about before, giving feedback to a boss can be a bit tricky and often requires a bit more thought and sometimes, some sensitivity. But if you’re struggling to get feedback from your team, you can use this method to great effect.

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