Tips for feedback and coaching

Tips for feedback and coaching

Feedback fuels performance

Whether its praise for a job well done that encourages continued achievement or feedback about inappropriate behaviour that motivates improvement – feedback is the fuel of high performance. As managers we must be great at giving constructive feedback and we should actively seek feedback on our own performance. Here are some principles and tips for delivering feedback.

Talk straight

When performance standards are not being achieved – or behaviours are observed that run contrary to our values – you need to have the courage to take the employee aside and tell them the truth.  Don’t put your head in the sand and hope the issue resolves itself.  Yes it can be uncomfortable for both parties – but this is what managers are paid to do.  Don’t make the mistake of protecting people’s feelings at the expense of the truth, because without your honest feedback they will not see the need to improve.

Be sensitive to communication styles

All of us have developed communication patterns that reflect our individual identities.  These patterns develop over time and become our preferred manner for communicating.  Your effectiveness in giving and receiving feedback will be enhanced if you are aware of your preferred communication style and that of your feedback recipient.  We tend to give and receive feedback in a manner consistent with our dominant communication style.  By recognising strengths and weaknesses of both your style, and that of the person you are communicating with, you can adjust your style to avoid conflicts and ensure understanding.

COMMUNICATION STYLESTRENGTHSPOTENTIAL STUMBLING BLOCKSBEST APPROACH TO FEEDBACK
Driver - direct and task orientedDirect, practical, decisive, confident, clear and to the point, task oriented.Challenges others, impatient, insensitive, domineering, overly independentQuick, direct, to the point. Less focus on how you are giving the feedback more focus on facts and what needs to happen.
Animated - enthusiastic and relationship orientedTalkative, friendly, enthusiastic, approachable, open, enjoys the involvement of others.Overly sensitive, unwilling to convey perceived ‘negative’ information, lack of follow-through/details unprepared, disorganised, subjective in decision-makingConversationally. Allowing time for anecdotal support and lengthy discussion. Sensitively, may need reassurance. Balanced -they will want to hear positives as well as negatives. Focus on the impact on relationships.
Amiable-supportive and avoids challenge and confrontationSupportive, patient, predictable, easy-going, calm. Listens actively, responsive to others.Avoids confrontation, passive, slow to change,slow to initiate, indecisive,withholds feelings.Patient, allowing time to respond, non-threateningly, clearly. Supportively, privately. How you are giving the feedback is very important.
Analytical-accurate and detail orientedAccurate, well-prepared diplomatic, analytical, cautious, restrained. Systematic, detail oriented.Too critical, insensitive, inflexible, withdrawn, overly cautious, imposes high standards.Objectively, thoroughly, factually, accurately, patiently, allowing time to change. With no surprises. Focus on facts, implications, what needs to be done.
Remember that we typically resist critical feedback

Since a good part of our self image is based on how others view us.  When we find out that someone sees us in a less than positive light we may feel devastated.  Make it clear your intentions are positive.  If you don’t have a positive intent you won’t overcome resistance and a positive outcome is not possible.

Balance

If the feedback needed is negative, consider putting it in the context of the positive work they do (where this can be done honestly and genuinely). Some people will need the reassurance that the whole situation is not negative if they are to be motivated to accept your feedback and work to improve.

Reinforcement or ‘positive’ feedback

Reinforcement feedback should be given as soon as possible to have the most impact.  For example, if an employee presents or performs strongly in a meeting, delivers an exceptional result or outstanding service, praise the performance immediately.  Be specific, mentioning the precise actions that you commend.  Be prepared to take a couple of minutes to talk about the positive effects of what they did.

Developmental or ‘negative’ feedback

Speak with an employee privately within 24 hours of a situation requiring you to give developmental feedback (i.e. feedback about a situation where performance or behaviour could be improved). Have the facts ready along with a clear view of how they can improve. Communicate developmental feedback constructively and specifically to enable an employee to improve.  Explain what was the performance or behavioral gap and the consequences of this for those affected.

When things go wrong – avoid praising effort

“At least you tried hard.” Instead, be specific about what needs to happen, and help them figure out how to do it right.

Listen

Give employees an opportunity to share their ideas and concerns after you provide the feedback.  Listen attentively to employees’ ideas and consider implementing ideas that might help improve the business.

Tips for coaching to build capability

Coaching, in the context of training and development, is a form of training to develop the ability and experience of your people by giving them systematically planned and progressively more ‘stretching’ tasks to perform, combined with continuous assessment and support. Like a good sports coach you can use the following coaching techniques to address areas for development and grow the capability of individual team members:

Have a coaching plan

Whether the coaching is to remedy a weakness or grow capability for a future promotion you need an agreed plan which:

  • Identifies the improvement required (e.g. acquire business development capability)
  • Spells out the standard of achievement required (e.g. the level of competence and measures of competence)
  • Details the action required (the usual S.M.A.R.T formula)
  • Stipulates the assistance to be provided.
Develop people with stretch assignments
Provide assignments or goals that challenge your people and meet business needs at the same time.
Delegate
People learn by doing.  Identify opportunities to delegate responsibility (increasing over time) to people who would benefit from growing capability in those areas.  Make sure you don’t abdicate or micromanage.  Discuss and make clear the level of delegation involved so that it reflects the employee’s capability.
Give immediate performance feedback
State what you observe, be specific and direct, show sincerity, and communicate face-to-face for both motivational and developmental performance feedback.  Give timely recognition for a job well done.
Let people “Shadow an Expert”
One of the most effective coaching techniques is to partner someone with an expert and let them watch the Guru at work.  Organise for your “Expert” to involve and teach the coaching subject, giving them some tasks to do in return for the chance to learn.
Hold frequent on-track reviews and problem solving sessions
Don’t wait for the formal performance review process.  Meet one-on-one with each person at least once per quarter to review performance and target both strengths and areas for development.
Plan career development
Collaboratively set plans that define how employees will prepare themselves — from training to work assignments — to grow in their skills and capabilities.
Deliver training
Give step-by-step instruction that involves your employee applying the skills or procedures in a hands-on way. (Maybe delegate this to an ‘expert’).
Reinforce good performance
Catch employees doing quality work and demonstrating positive behaviours with the same effort that you catch them when performance doesn’t go as well as needed.
Take chances
Back good people to succeed. Give them opportunities to grow/fail. That’s how we learn.