ProImpress | The Workplace IS The Classroom (Part II)
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18 Feb The Workplace IS The Classroom (Part II)


The Feedback Formula: The Second Skill for Cultivating a Peer Coaching Culture


In last week’s post, The Workplace IS the Classroom (Part I), we described how Openness to Listening and Learning is a critical skill for Cultivating a Peer-Coaching Culture. In this post, you’ll hear about The Feedback Formula.

Companies and their people have a lot of skin in the game. Having professionals who are thin-skinned – and therefore, unable to give and receive feedback – doesn’t help the company (nor the individuals) to stay in – and win – their game.

The Feedback Formula: In giving feedback, you, the coach are responsible TO your teammate, not FOR your teammate. How others receive your feedback isn’t your responsibility. But at a minimum, as the coach, you can follow a simple method that can increase the likelihood that your feedback is well received by others. The Feedback Formula is simple; you probably know much of it already. Surprisingly, just knowing these skills DOES NOT mean that you’re using them. Take time this week to notice if you use these skills consistently:

  • Start with pluses: These aren’t gratuitous, flattering phrases like “atta boy” and “that was smooth.” Non-specific compliments, full of adjectives but no behavioral insight, just undermines your credibility and lessens the other’s trust in your input over time.
  • Describe specific behaviors: If your feedback isn’t about observable, repeatable behavior, dig deeper. Take notes, too; that can help you notice and remember.
  • Add benefits: Others might be glad that you like them and their approach to their jobs, but the only reason most of us will embrace someone else’s feedback – and actually start to use the recommended changes – is if we see value for ourselves or for those we care about (like our clients or our team). Hearing how what I say or do is of value to me, or my constituents, motivates me to do it again, more often and with greater intention.
  • Avoid BUT: When transitioning to your suggestions for improvement, use the word “AND,” not the word “BUT.” The word “but” acts as an eraser of the words and sentiments that come before it in a sentence. Since you might have just shared something in a teammate’s behavior that you liked and want to see your colleague continue to do or say, don’t erase the value you just imparted with an unintended slight. The word “and” connects the front part of your feedback (what you liked) with the back part of your feedback (what you suggest). The receiver has the positive reinforcement of “both/and” instead of “either/or.”
  • State suggestions in the future tense: In coaching, nothing good can come with speaking too long about what happened in the past. Past tense punishing; future tense potential. When your feedback dwells on what did or didn’t happen in the past, the possibility arises that the person whom you’re coaching will either argue in a “he said/she said” manner, or he might wonder, “I can’t change that now, so what’s your point?” Go to the past for data, not drama. In other words, speak in the past tense to quickly reference facts. Don’t drag up a lot of stories, suppositions or adjectives with your facts; these are arguable, and you aren’t intending to argue. Besides, the only good that can come from developmental feedback is what your peer might do next time; he can’t change his past performance, but he can commit to acting differently next time.

It’s key to cultivate a peer-coaching culture, so that teams and teammates are capable and willing to coach one another, and get smarter with every peer discussion.