Feedback Without Coaching Is Like a Gift Without Batteries
By Dianna Anderson
Thursday, May 2, 2019
It’s so disappointing to receive a gift you can’t use until you get the batteries to make it work. Giving someone feedback without offering them coaching to make sense of what they are receiving is like giving a gift without batteries--it doesn’t work. Feedback and coaching should be seamlessly paired to spark the insights needed to inspire employees to put in the considerable effort required for lasting behavior change.
Traditionally, people use feedback to inform others that they perceive something the other person is doing is “wrong” or “bad” and is causing problems. The person offering feedback may even tell the receiver what they need to do differently to “correct” the problem. Many assume that once feedback has been delivered, their job is finished and the problem is solved.
The real problem with this approach is that simply informing someone you want them to do something differently is not likely to result in behavior change—for many reasons. Think about the last time someone told you to change your behavior ... did you say to yourself, “Of course! Let me get right on that!”? Probably not. Assuming that people will, of their own accord, understand the benefit of learning a new approach and sort out what they need to do differently to attain that outcome is a recipe for frustration on both sides. The person receiving feedback will be frustrated that they don’t know what to do with what they were told, and the person offering feedback will be frustrated that the receiver hasn’t changed.
Pair Feedback and Coaching
To avoid this all-too-common outcome, it’s essential to offer developmental feedback within coaching conversations. Feedback can be offered with a coaching approach to appreciatively inform people that they are limiting themselves is some way. That’s the sole focus of feedback. Coaching can then be used to illuminate the underlying assumptions, beliefs, fears, and skill gaps driving the limiting behavior. This pairing of feedback and coaching helps employees understand how they will benefit from doing something differently and gives them the support they need to move into meaningful action.
That’s why when Cylient partners with organizations to build coaching cultures, we ensure that people learn solid “in the moment” coaching skills before they learn how to offer feedback. Teaching people coaching skills first provides the additional benefit of equipping them to appreciate the uniqueness of other employees’ perspectives and approaches, which enables people to deliver feedback in more appreciative ways—and without the wrapping of judgment that often causes others to reject the gift they are being offered.
Effective feedback conversations result in an authentic, uncoerced commitment to learn a new way of doing something. That’s what happens when feedback is woven into real coaching conversations--it helps people turn the insights they gained from well-delivered feedback into actions that support them to attain outcomes that truly matter. Sparking this kind of feedback to happen “in the moment” all the time is essential for energizing a culture of coaching and learning.