Feedback: The Essence of Coaching

Central to the coaching process is giving feedback. When done correctly, feedback is a valuable tool to help the learner/employee improve performance.
If done poorly, it can demotivate and, in some cases, destroy a person’s self-confidence.
There are two types of feedback: Evaluate and developmental.
Evaluative feedback focuses on the past and is designed to grade the learner/employee’s performance, such as in a formal performance-appraisal process.
Developmental feedback, on the other hand, focuses on the future and is designed to help the learner/employee raise performance or prepare for the next level of effort. For our purposes, we will limit our discussion to developmental feedback.
When giving feedback, concentrate on using “I-messages” instead of “you-messages.” I-messages are statements designed to give the receiver feedback about his or her behavior.
Using I-messages promotes dialogue because they reduce the other person’s defensiveness and resistance to communication. You-messages that blame, accuse, or attack the other person, cause him or her to respond emotionally and negatively.
The responsibility for keeping lines of communication open rests with the coach who delivers the message honestly and focuses on behaviour description, not evaluation.
A behaviour is something the learner/employee does that can be observed and measured, and that can be discussed objectively. On the other hand, a discussion dealing with attitude is a conclusion one makes about an observed behaviour.
Because an I-message communicates how the coach experiences the other person’s behaviour as well as the impact or consequences of that behaviour, the learner/employee is more likely to accept the coach’s comments as positive and constructive.
For example, when an learner/employee submits reports late and full of errors, the coach might be tempted to say, “You’re careless and irresponsible!”
A far more effective reaction would be, “I am annoyed when you submit reports after the deadline and with errors or inaccurate information because it prevents us from finishing this project on time.”
Make feedback immediate and relevant
Feedback is more effective when it immediately follow performance. It should be relevant to the task and should provide the learner with information on how to improve task performance
Feedback Guidelines

     Be descriptive rather than evaluative
     Be specific rather than general
     Discuss only behaviour the person can change
     Consider both your needs and the learner’s/employee’s
     Communicate clearly

Encourage learner self-assessment
For coaching to be effective, the learner/employee has to accept the process. A way to probe the coaching process is to ask the learner /employee to evaluate his or her own performance.
Once the learner/employee has identified areas for improvement, he or she is more likely to make the commitment to improve.
Reach meaningful agreement
In many cases the learner/employee agrees that a problem exists but place the blame on someone or something else.
Careful documentation will be of invaluable support, particularly in situations where a learner/employee repeatedly makes excuses.
An effective coach would point out that the learner/employee has used the same approach on more that one occasion.
Through two-way communication both parties agree that the required performance has not been met and agree on an action plan
Solving problems during a feedback session
Sometimes during coaching sessions learner/employees bring up problems and what you to tell them how to solve them. The is often an outgrowth of the self-assessment process. It is more effective, however, if the coach helps the learner/employee solve his or her own problem.
The problem–solving model comprises of three parts:

     Diagnosing the problems
     Generation alternative actions or behaviour
     Identifying consequences for each action

The most important skill for any problem-solving situation is critical thinking, which is accomplished through a distinct, eight-step process that should not be confused with traditional problem solving.
Getting the employee to commit to a plan of action
An important part of the developmental coaching process is letting learners/employees participate actively in goal setting.
The coach and learner/employee establish performance improvement goals that are:
 Specific
 Realistic
 Attainable
 Simple
 Time bound as well as
 Strategies for overcoming the barriers
Questions to ask when planning to do improve performance
 What do you want to improve?
 How will you know when you have reached the improvement goal?
 What obstacles may hinder your attempt to reach your goal?
 Who or what can be a source of help to you in reaching your goals?
 What action steps will you take to accomplish your goal?
Arrange Follow-up Sessions
Successful coaching requires an action plan and follow-up. You should state exactly what you want the learner/employee to do. It’s a good idea to ask the learner/employee to summarise the session by stating what he or she is going to work on
Before concluding the coaching session, you and the learner/employee must agree on a time to meet to discuss progress. The next meeting should be scheduled to give enough time to the learner/employee to practice the skills.