Coaching … how did I do?

Coaching and FeedbackCoaching is basically providing feedback to correct or improve performance. In the context of a professional relationship, people need feedback, and often they want it. After all, it feels good to hear you’re doing a job well. That kind of positive feedback encourages you to repeat positive and productive actions. And when you’re making mistakes, feedback tells you what you can improve so you won’t make those mistakes again.

Effective feedback is more than saying “Thanks” or “Nice job.” It is particularly important when giving feedback to improve performance that it is specific, timely, and balanced.

When you provide or receive coaching and feedback, one objective is to enhance or maintain self-esteem by recognizing positive accomplishments, and discussing problems without attributing blame. You are not expected to be omnipotent, so it is recommended that you involve others in discussions and decision-making when it is appropriate.

It is also permissible and desirable to share your thoughts, ideas and feelings so that those who are involved with the issue know where you and they stand on a matter. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, outline the situation or performance that is being discussed. Clearly outline the actions that the person being coached performed along with the specific actions that were taken. Now, when you express positive statements or comments, the person being coached can relate to the issue and more fully appreciate your compliments.


John, remember that proposal for MDSI that Mr. McClain requested you to prepare by Friday? He expressed his appreciation that “You submitted the proposal a day ahead of your due date and included the sales history from last year, as well.”

Bill, our goal was for each Customer Service Representative to average 25 customer contacts per day, but you had 35 calls a day. That performance helped our team to lead the division this month.”

In sports,  coaching feedback is provided virtually “on the spot.” The idea is to praise the person’s action (and any positive results) as soon as possible after it happens.

Over time you should balance your positive feedback with feedback for improvement. Your associates probably do not believe that they are perfect and no improvement is necessary or possible. Some associates might question your sincerity if your feedback is nothing more than an endless stream of positive comments.

For example, if you say “You did a great job in getting that hot order out yesterday.” This feedback isn’t specific. The person receiving it won’t know what actions to repeat. On the other hand, if you say, “You showed a lot of initiative when you discovered a problem with the shipping procedure in the order processing system instead of waiting for me to take care of it, you contacted the IT department and explained the problem. The system was fixed and the materials were shipped on time.”

There are times when providing coaching and feedback for improvement is necessary. Begin an improvement session by reminding the associate or team about the situation or project, such as a problem, business opportunity, special challenge, or routine task. Then, explain the team or individual action, what they said or did, or failed to say or do, to handle the situation or task and the result or consequences of what the person or group did.

The feedback must contain two additional elements that we did not include in positive feedback example. You must outline the alternative action, process or steps that could be said or done instead. And the expected alternative result must be discussed and explained as to why the alternative action might be more effective.

If you have an interesting anecdote, experience or story, please share and Follow our BLOG. For more resources and techniques, click here.

James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Performance Management

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