Why We Should All Provide Feedback Through Coaching


Feedback is a difficult concept to employ as a new manager. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, as indicated by a study that ranked the top challenges faced by managers.  To complicate matters, managers are expected to provide individualized feedback to a diverse team to maintain momentum and keep everyone on track. One approach to providing effective feedback as a new manager? Approach the conversation through coaching.

Coaching is working with your employee through a lens that considers their whole being. This perspective does not focus solely on the task at hand, the title they may have, or a position this employee wishes to hold in the future.  Instead, it seeks to develop a whole being to enhance performance and increase results.  Here are strategies for providing constructive feedback through coaching.

Communicating the Expectations

Starting strong with clear expectations provides a solid framework for a team to work within. This approach also empowers every individual to make decisions on how best to achieve the mission which positively affects other tasks as employees are inadvertently more productive when empowered. When communicating expectations concerning employee performance, it is best to keep it simple and communicate them often. Focusing on a specific area of improvement also separates the person from the task and lessens the difficulty of providing negative feedback.

Facilitate the Conversation

A recent study shows that employees who have difficulty receiving feedback are less likely to be successful. One approach to mitigating this potential pitfall is to guide the recipient of the feedback along a continuum that forces him/her to become aware of areas of improvement through their own processing. This revelation may come at the moment in which the feedback conversation is taking place or it may come several weeks down the road. It is important to note that it is a process that also encourages increased self-awareness. Employees receive feedback differently or, in some cases, are not willing to receive feedback at all.  By cultivating self-awareness, an employee will soon self-correct thus placing a manager in the position of trusted mentor.

Model Credibility

Effective managers are not only relatable but they are able to model the behavior they wish to cultivate in the workplace. One strategy to work around the challenge of providing constructive feedback is by taking the initiative to solicit feedback as well.  This is surely easier said than done but the reward is two-fold.  By taking the initiative to solicit feedback or by acknowledging a commitment to genuinely improve one’s managerial style establishes the proverbial circle of trust that decreases defenses.  One knows how impactful conversations are when the agents are in their most comfortable mental and emotional state.

Feedback is both an art and a science in which one is continuously dancing between the two tactics.  However, it can be implemented by adopting the skills of coaching.  A coach empowers their team to become self-aware of their own areas of improvement, fosters an environment of open and transparent feedback, as well as maintains relatability by taking the initiative to provide self-reflection creates a workplace that will continue to progress towards one’s goals.

In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Melinda Burks is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Rita Burgess

I am interested in learning how I can “guide the recipient of the feedback along a continuum that forces him/her to become aware of areas of improvement through their own processing.” Do you have any suggestions?

Melinda Burks

Hi Rita!

One strategy is to encourage whomever may be the recipient of constructive feedback to develop the practice of reflective thinking. This is to, essentially, guide the employee to an “aha” moment on their own by posing focused and thoughtful questions. These queries by the manager should encourage an employee to think on a deeper level about behavior/practice/perspective that is being critiqued . These questions can be thought of in four categories which makeup the continuum: 1) Backward-looking, 2) Inward-Looking 3). Outward-looking 4). Forward-looking.

When these are used sequentially, the manager encourages the employee to reflect on past behavior, think about the reason for that behavior/practice/perspective, analyze his/her position in relation to the work culture, and think about ways to improve upon all of these information in the future.

Here is a great resource that breaks the art of “questioning” down a bit further: http://www.schoolimprovementcoach.org/manual/3%20Asking%20Questions.pdf

All the best!