So far in this series we’ve looked at how to provide clear instruction, effective demonstrations, enable practice in a safe environment and the under-rated element of observing this practice. In this section we’ll be looking at how to make an effective coaching intervention and provide feedback to the staff member.
In fact, the very phrase, provide feedback to the staff member is wrong. This implies that feedback is a one way process whereas it really should be a two way discussion. Wherever possible, the staff member should be encouraged to review their own performance or progression in the task or skill area with a view to identifying what has worked well and what can be improved. The coach’s role is to ask great questions and listen actively. In Brilliant Leader I recommend the use of the communication funnel as a key coaching technique for such interventions.
Apart from being a two way discussion, what are the other aspects of a feedback intervention that we should consider?
1. Positive Reinforcement – It is vital that people understand what they have done well and why. This is much more than simply praising the individual. It is about helping them to understand the positive behaviours they have employed so that they learn when and how to employ these behaviours in the future.
2. Constructive Improvement – When something hasn’t gone as well as was intended, it is important for the staff member to understand what they needed to do differently and how. The key guideline here is that if they were to perform this task again will they be able to exhibit different and more effective behaviours.
3. Support Interventions – Often, a feedback intervention occurs because the staff member asks for help – usually because they encounter something new or different in relation to the task or skill area. In the early stages of the coaching cycle, the coach might simply provide a recommendation or even an instruction. However, as the individual becomes more accomplished, the coach’s role is to challenge the staff member to come up with their own solutions or recommendations. These can then be shaped, if necessary, before being ratified.
4. Timely – Coaching interventions should be timely. The longer it is left after the event before the staff member receives feedback, the less relevant the feedback becomes. This presents particular challenges for those who are coaching remotely. This might involve coaching via the telephone or video conferencing. It might also indicate a need to meet with the staff member more frequently or to involve additional help in the coaching process from those who are on the same site or location.
5. Motivational – While remembering that the purpose of a feedback conversation is for the staff member to learn, it is also important that the environment that is created is motivational and inspirational. This requires that encouragement is provided even when correcting or improving behaviour. The feedback session should finish on the development of an action plan or a summary of key points that will be taken away from the session and the coach should instil a sense of belief in the staff member that they can successfully implement and apply these actions.
The final point to make when considering the coaching cycle is to remember precisely that – it is a cycle and not a straight line process. The cycle will repeat less and less frequently until the staff member becomes fully competent in the task or skill area. This implies that coaching is an ongoing process not a one off exercise. To be clear on this, coaching is a fundamental part of managing and leading people – it is a core part of the job.
This will be an important point to note in the next part of this series we explore how to find the time to coach.
Simon Cooper is chief executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops.
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