Give Great Feedback Using the STAR Model

Give Great Feedback Using the STAR Model
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If you’ve been telling people the same things over and over again, it’s possible you haven’t been telling them the right things. It is vital when giving feedback to employees to make it so that it is useful to them. It is even more vital when this feedback goes to team members working on a project. Because successful project management requires good communication - both with stakeholders and with members of the team, then it’s important to be able to give feedback to those individuals that reinforces the behavior you would like to see them exhibit .

One type of effective model for such feedback is known as the STAR model. The purpose of this model is to help you to visualize a pattern of giving good positive feedback, and encouraging individuals to take initiative and complete their tasks efficiently.

If you visualize a star, much like the one in the image to the right, you can divide that star into three sections. the top point of the star, the left two star points, and the right two star points. The top point represents the situation or task at hand. the left two points refer to the action that was taken, and the right two points stand for the result of that action.

ST - The Situation or Task

The first part of being able to interpret and use feedback given is to understand the situation or task. What happened that alerted you to the necessity of taking care of this situation? In order to be able to determine the sort of feedback that is appropriate, you’ll need to take a minute to define what happened and what that meant in terms of the project. By defining the situation or task that occurred, you can pinpoint exactly what it is you need to address when it comes to the individual to whom you are providing feedback. For example, a situation might involve an employee who has arrived late to work every day for a week.

A - The Action

What action was taken? Was that action good or bad? What action should have been taken? It’s important to identify the action involved with the situation. When the action you are reviewing was positive, note that it was positive. When the action was negative, explain first what should have happened. In keeping with the current example, you would tell the tardy employee that he or she should have arrived on time. If it’s a case of an employee who had provided outstanding ideas in a meeting, then point out the exact action that employee took that was worthy of praise.

R - The Results

Next, you need to look at the results that action lead to. What happened as a result of that action? For example, if the employee provided many good ideas during the brainstorming session that impressed stakeholders, tell her! By acknowledging the situation, action, and results that turned out well for her, you will increase her motivation and commitment to the project.

If, on the other hand, the feedback is negative, then you’re still working in a counter-factual universe. Just as you explained the action that should have been taken, you need to say what would have happened had the appropriate action been taken. In keeping with the tardy example, you might say “you would have heard your assignments for the week if you had been on time,” or something to that effect.

(R) and (A) Again

While you’re done after a first tour of the star after you’ve explained the desired results when you’re giving positive feedback, when you’re giving feedback calling for employee improvement, you’ll need to revisit the actions and results, only in the reverse order. This second time, you will point out what did happen: “…instead you did not hear what your assignments were for the week, because you arrived late for the meeting.”

Putting it All Together

When you’re providing an employee with positive feedback using the STAR model, you’ll put everything together and deliver the feedback. For example, the following might be said when giving feedback using this model:

  • The other day, when things went wrong in the software program, you didn’t panic. Instead, you kept a calm head and patiently determined what the cause for the bug in the software was. This resulted in keeping other employees calm and helped us to solve the problem much faster.

You can see in this example that by acknowledging the situation, identifying the action, and praising the results, that you will be better able to encourage similar action in the future from employees.

When it comes to providing negative feedback, make sure you identify both the actual action and result and the desired action and result. For example:

  • When I sent this proposal back to you for adjustments and with questions, you didn’t correct the problems or respond to the questions, and therefore I cannot accept the proposal. If you had made the needed adjustments and responded to the questions effectively, then I would have been able to approve the project proposal.

In this example, both the undesired and desired actions and results are identified. By doing this, it makes it much easier for employees, stakeholders, and project team members to understand what needs to be done and why it needs to be done.

By providing effective feedback on a regular basis, you can improve the productivity and effectiveness of your project team.


“The Star Feedback Model” UNM Human Resources

Image courtesy of