Difficulty offering and receiving feedback? Try 3+1

By: Sonia Di Maulo, Founder of Harvest Performance

Three Positives for Every One Opportunity for Improvement

The purpose of offering feedback is to improve performance.

This can only happen if it gets used.

And it will get used if the receiver trusts that what you are offering will be worth the effort.


And so I thought… there must be a way to increase trust and collaboration while also propelling the individual, team, and organization forward!

Answer: 3+1 feedback model


Feedback: A Potential Emotional Encounter

In 2006, I started using the 3+1 feedback strategy for sharing feedback in a team environment.

The experience showed me the reasons why we have such a hard time offering and receiving feedback: (1) we were never taught how to do it, and (2) we don’t have a strategy or system in place to help us remove unwanted emotions from a potential emotional encounter.

The key is to get everyone involved and trained on the strategy and encourage its use on a consistent basis.

Have you ever been called into your bosses office? I have! And I always braced myself for negative feedback. Why? Managers take the time to give us the negative.  As employees, it is our responsibility to transform negative feedback into positive results.

Giving positive feedback was not deemed as important 8 years ago. Even though times have changed, I still see teams struggling. Positive feedback is often seen as empty praise.

The Power of 3+1

For 2 years I witnessed the power of this ratio and the impact it had on motivation and focus.

The “3” positives increased trust and collaboration

  • They key to delivering the “3” positives is to use very specific, small wins. 
  • This shows that you are really paying attention, elevating trust.
  • And this skill, like any others requires practice and focus.

The “1” opportunity for improvement is selected for maximum impact

  • If trust is at an all time low, then maybe the opportunity to share the “1” comes later. 
  • If the trust bank has enough deposits, then pick “1” that can create an easy win. 
  • One opportunity at a time ensures completion, increased motivation/engagement, and guaranteed performance improvement.
  • And sometimes, a one is not required. Use this as an opportunity to cultivate trust for when the “1” is needed.
The experience taught me that the 3+1 feedback strategy encouraged frequent interaction and connection which helped to develop a positive environment build on mutual trust and respect.


When I found the research above, I realized that my 3:1 ratio may not be enough.

Since I was working with those new to the field of training and performance improvement, I realized that I needed a 9:1 ratio.

So in 2008, I adjusted the strategy during a Train-the-Trainer class I was delivering in Geneva, Switzerland with 21 trainers (both experienced and new).


How to use 3:1 

The key to feedback is to start with a list of expectations. So always ensure you have a determined set of expectations that are clearly communicated before the job performance. And refer to the expectations when delivering feedback. Trust me, this makes feedback much easier to offer and receive!

The specific example below can be used during a team meeting. Other uses are discussed at the end of this article.

1. Start with a 3+ 1 Self-Assessment: An opportunity to reflect on personal performance.

  • The person who did the work goes first!
  • Building self-awareness is a critical skill for individuals in the workplace.
  • Generally people are uncomfortable or unable to share what they did well saying things like, “I think I…” or “Perhaps I”, to quantify the positive.
  • Or simply, with all our negative self talk, people are unable to find anything positive at all to say about their performance, choosing to start with the negatives first! How does this impact the work environment or the customers we serve?
  • Building self-assessment skills in our workforce allows for more self-management making the job of leaders more efficient.

2. 3+1 Peer Assessment: An opportunity to hear from those you work with about your performance

  • As a group, share 3 positives and then one opportunity for improvement.
  • Often times, the group uses this time to validate the self-assessment. This creates a greater bond with the group and increases trust.
  • Encourage the group to share new positives and either validate the “1” shared in the self-assessment or offer one that is either more important or easier to implement.

3. Leader 3+1: An opportunity to hear from leadership

  • As a leader, I use this time carefully.
  • Eye contact is critical. This is special time between two people – make it personal.
  • After hearing what was said, I offer very specific details about what I thought was done well. Using specific words or actions that I witnessed.
  • If I feel the timing is right and enough trust is present, I validate the “1” or share one that is either more important or easier to implement.
  • Get validation that this feedback is useful.
So once it’s all said and done (the process described above takes minutes per person), the employee has experienced up to 9 “did wells” and up to 3 “do betters”, bringing us closer to the 9:1 ratio in a new environment.


When to Use 3+1

As a leader, once you train your entire team to use 3+1, the applications are endless:
  • Peers can use it to provide each other with feedback on a regular basis.
  • Leaders can use it as a strategy during consistent touch points with each direct report.
  • Direct reports can use it to provide feedback to management.
Once a strategy is in place, permission is granted to connect with each other in a simple way to help each other shine, help the team shine, and in the end help the organization shine.


What feedback strategy do you have in place in your work environment that cultivates trust and collaboration?


Click here to learn more about my upcoming report, Expose Exceptional Performance, a guide to successful implementation of the 3+1 feedback strategy.


If you have used this strategy and model for giving feedback, I would love to include your experiences in the report. Click here to learn more.


At Harvest Performance, we use the power of authentic feedback to help Leaders Cultivate Trust & Collaboration. How do you cultivate trust & collaboration to positively impact those around you?
3 plus 1
Sonia Di Maulo (B.A., M.A.) ― founder, feedback enthusiast, speaker, performance improvement professional and creator of award-winning programs ― is passionate about helping leaders cultivate trust and collaboration. Her proven 3 plus 1 feedback strategy harvests passion and boosts individual and team performance.

 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: New Posts

One Response

  1. Francoise - May 16, 2014

    What feedback strategy do you have in place in your work environment that cultivates trust and collaboration?

    To cultivate trust I believe it takes candour, integrity, vulnerability, consistency and transparency. Trust is earned everyday by our actions. Over the years, I met people that used the language of leadership but missed the values of true leaders and the qualities needed to develop trust in their team. Everyone expects from leaders to be role models that we can trust and who can inspire us. Kouzes and Posner( 2002) in their book the Leadership Challenge mentioned that one has to make himself vulnerable, to trust others if he wants people to trust him or her. It means sharing information, may be our weaknesses and strengths that others feel comfortable. Then, collaboration will come easily and naturally.
    I had the privilege to work in that kind of environment with leaders that exhibited the qualities mentioned above. It was a creative environment where initiatives, collaboration and innovation were nurtured. In fact, it was a brand new environment created for that purpose, developing the leaders of tomorrow. Feedback was a daily routine for many of the leaders,not a task but an action to support team members. As Sonia mentioned in the preamble, it needs to be done regularly, team members need to be nurtured, the power of 3+1. I wish that each one of us could experience and exhibit these qualities, develop trusting relationships to have a great positive impact on people around us.

Leave a Reply

Comment Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree