Coaching and Providing Feedback

There are likely many definitions for the term "feedback" - for the purpose of this article, we will define feedback as "useful information that helps people decide whether their behaviour has met or achieved performance expectations".

In simpler terms, any and all feedback must be relevant to the employee's performance. Telling someone that his or her hairstyle or clothing style is unacceptable is not relevant, unless it is in conflict with a specific performance expectation (such as meeting with an investor or a client, etc).

Before you decide to give feedback to someone, ask yourself the question: "Will this be useful information that will help that person decide whether or not his or her behaviour meets or achieves performance expectations?"

There are some key components to feedback that help differentiate whether the process will be effective or ineffective. Perhaps picture feedback, if you will, as a "pause in the action" - when the "action resumes", effective feedback will help to move the action forward in an appropriate (and even faster) manner. On the other hand, if the feedback is ineffective, the action can be negatively affected to such a degree that it may "fall off the tracks" and never move forward again.

In support of providing effective feedback, here are those key components:

  • Timeliness - deliver the feedback as soon as appropriate - the fresher is better
  • Balance - use positive statements, words and/or suggestions for improvement
  • Specificity - deal only with behaviour seen and/or heard - give specific examples
  • Objectivity - focus on the performance, not on the person or the personality
  • Positive Intent - position the feedback as intending to help, even if unpleasant

This last point - positive intent can be captured within a written developmental plan aimed at strengthening, enhancing, or improving an employee's overall performance.

In this written plan, you can record the specific developmental actions and/or any formal training sessions that the employee needs to address as a means of moving his or her performance to the appropriate level i.e.: to meet the specific performance expectations that have been previously communicated to the employee and which are not being met to the satisfaction of the manager or the organization.

The keys here are to (1) reach a clear agreement with the employee on the actions that need to be taken and (2) demonstrate the positive impact that such development will have on the employee's overall performance level. Then, should the employee want to strengthen his or her performance, there is a written plan or "road map" to be followed. Conversely, if the employee is not interested or committed to strengthening his or her performance, you have a written "agreement" with that employee to which you can refer should further action or discipline be required.

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