Managers as Coaches, Part IV: Giving Feedback

One of the great things about coaching is its flexibility. It can be as general as it needs to be or as specific as it needs to be, such as addressing a problem or concern. And it’s an appropriate tool for employees at any and all levels of the organization as well. This will be the final article in my managers as coaches series. The final step of the coaching process, and the third skill needed by your managers, is giving feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 10.04.49 AMThe whole notion of giving feedback has become so ingrained in modern organizations, it’s surprising how many people (often managers) are still so terrible at doing it! It’s worth remembering that giving great feedback is something that needs to be learned and practiced.

The biggest problem with feedback in organizations is how infrequently it happens. When feedback only happens once or twice a year in a performance appraisal process, it’s simply not enough. The whole idea with coaching is to make feedback a much more continuous dialog rather than an isolated, infrequent event. That’s what is needed to coax peak performance out of people.

When a manager’s direct reports are doing fantastic work, it certainly makes the feedback process that much easier. After all, who doesn’t like to receive high praise for a job well done? The tougher thing, of course, is when you need to give negative feedback. But even that is something that you managers can learn to engage in a way that keeps employees moving in the right direction. You have to be careful with negative feedback. Any time you can balance it with positive feedback is a good thing, because too much negative feedback can just completely disempower an employee and make them essentially give up. Here are some things to keep in mind when your managers need to give negative feedback:

Relevancy. Link the negative feedback to forward progress in their development, which means you need to know a bit about them. And they only way for managers to learn what’s best for their direct reports is the active listening skill I wrote about in Part II of this series.

Concern. A sincere commitment to helping people be their best softens the blow. If your managers are indifferent about their team members, you might need to re-think whether or not they should even be managers. They simply must want to develop their people into peak performers.

Clarity. Define expectations clearly. People need to have a clear picture of what success looks like. Expectations need to be clearly communicated, and by that I mean crystal clear. Managers can’t hold anyone accountable to anything if the expectations haven’t been clearly laid out.

Positivity. Rather than thinking of negative feedback as corrective action, think of it as providing constructive encouragement to improve. You can be positive even when giving negative feedback!

Kindness. You’ve probably been the recipient of badly delivered negative feedback, so have a little empathy. Think about it from the other person’s point of view and you’ll get it.

Privacy. Dressing people down in public is not feedback; it’s humiliation. The message here should be loud and clear: Don’t do it! Discretion is important when giving negative feedback.

Keeping the above guidelines in mind when managers need to give negative feedback will go a long ways towards softening the blow when it needs to happen.

This is the concluding article of the four-part series on managers as coaches. The coach approach is one that is finally starting to catch on in some organizations, but it’s still a small wave that will hopefully gather much more momentum, because it’s by far the best way for your managers to guide employees to the peak performance you need for business success.

August 18, 2015   Updated :August 24, 2015   coaching, talent management   

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