We talk a lot about how effective performance management requires regular coaching and feedback. As luck would have it, I have been giving and receiving said feedback lately and so I’ve been thinking about what makes for good feedback.
I think the most critical element of effective coaching is intention. When you share feedback with an individual do you do it with honest intentions? Do you want that feedback to be heard? If so, you need to consider how it will be received. Often times, the most important feedback is delivered in a way that it is of little or no use to the person who receives it. This is the worst possible outcome for all involved. The person receiving the feedback is hurt and now feels betrayed by the person giving the feedback and the person giving the feedback considers herself in a no win situation so avoids ever doing it again.
To help you avoid these pitfalls, I thought I’d offer some suggestions for your consideration. The next time you need to give feedback I recommend you:
- Evaluate your intention – are you giving feedback to help the person grow? If so, can you present it in a way that your intention is clear? You are not attempting to tell someone that they have something in their teeth to make them feel badly, you are doing it avoid having them feel badly. Building up a relationship of trust with the person and helping them understand your intention, will help them hear you. If they can’t hear you there was little value in providing the feedback.
- Share your thinking – giving the person the broader context of your thinking can really help them understand what you are saying and put it to use. If you just tell someone “don’t do this anymore” you often trigger their defense mechanism. Natural skepticism can kick in such that they might disregard your feedback, justifying to themselves that, you might just be wrong. Explaining why a certain behavior might be sabotoging their broader goals (and giving examples), will help them understand and digest the feedback in a way that moves them closer to addressing the issue.
- Balance the feedback — only pointing out flaws can give the recipient a “mother-in-law” bias against your views. If you are always pointing out what is wrong with someone, they are inclined to think that there is no pleasing you anyway. Again, not a reaction that will cause someone to be open to taking action on your suggestions
- Don’t forget to say the good stuff – do not take it as a given that the person receiving the feedback knows what you appreciate about them. Even if they do, I know of no person who wouldn’t enjoy having it repeated. Feedback is more helpful when it’s positive anyway.
Lastly, I would encourage you to do more feedback. For your peers, for your management, for your employees. Like anything else we get better with practice, so please do make coaching and feedback part of your personal style. When good feedback happens, everyone benefits.
One thought on “Thoughts on coaching and feedback”
Meg – your comment about the “mother-in-law” bias reminds me that these wise words are important in life as well as work. I am a relentlessly critical daughter to my mother (much more so than my mother-in-law is to me). She knows my intentions are good (I think) but I vow to shower her with good stuff too. Thanks for the reminder!