A Coach Approach to Giving Feedback – 4 Lessons Learned from a Coaching Perspective

Those of us who work with or are followers of Ken Blanchard have all heard the expression “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” We’ve also read dozens of examples of when and how to give feedback to get to best possible outcome. Read on for a slightly different take on how to approach feedback.

As a professional coach, I often give feedback to my clients. I also give feedback to coaches I work with who are delivering coaching to our Blanchard clients. I’ve learned four valuable lessons that can make feedback something to be treasured rather than feared.

Lesson 1: What you believe is as important as what you say. If I’m annoyed with someone for flubbing up in front of a client, and now I’m in the hot seat hoping to save an account, I’m likely to rain down on my team with fire and brimstone. Oops! I’ve just terrified everyone into flight or freeze. On the other hand, if I genuinely believe people don’t make mistakes on purpose, I’m more likely to explore with my team what happened and how we might recover—and treat the mistake as a learning moment. In this way, we have participated together in a genuine learning experience that will help the team grow and keep them from making the same mistake again.

Lesson 2: Assume the best. This is a riff on lesson 1. Assume your team wants to perform well. Assume mistakes will be made. Help your team understand when to get you involved and give them the autonomy to make course corrections without you.

Lesson 3: Be specific in your redirection.  It’s not enough to point out a mistake. The mistake is often obvious. What’s sometimes not so clear is exactly what you want them to do differently in the future. For example, I recently told one of my team members that it wasn’t necessary to send a long introductory communication to a new client. But then he kept doing it.  I learned he interpreted my “not necessary” as meaning “Okay to do if it makes you feel good.”  What I should have said to him was “Don’t send an email with the same information that has already been sent. Let’s craft together a better message for you to send.”

Lesson 4: Water the flowers. You read that right. Watering the flowers is a metaphor for recognizing the hard work your team is putting in. Thank them often, and publicly. Be specific here, too—acknowledge what’s going well. As Ken Blanchard says, praise is free. And, like flowers in the rain, we thrive when we get enough.

How do these four lessons support a coach approach?  Because to be a great coach you have to know your own mind and adjust, flex, and control your thoughts (some would call this emotional intelligence). Giving feedback is life’s blood to a coach. Without the ability to do so, we would simply be cheerleaders for our clients—which would be fun but not nearly as effective. And as coaches, we are in service to our clients. We do what needs to be done in order to help the client grow, learn, and achieve desired outcomes. Don’t we owe that to our teams, too?

About the Author

Patricia OverlandPatricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team.  Since 2000, Blanchard’s 150 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services.

One thought on “A Coach Approach to Giving Feedback – 4 Lessons Learned from a Coaching Perspective

  1. Oh how I wish I had learned these lessons years ago as a manager and father. The other lesson i might dare to add is “Don’t assume I wouldn’t have made the same or similar mistake”. As coach I have the benefit of hindsight. good article

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