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Archive for the ‘Constructive Criticism’ Category

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Lead Star | News and Insights | On Our Minds | The Lies We Tell Ourselves.

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All Things Workplace: Four Ways to Help People Learn

August 12, 2009 2 comments

Be a Guest Blogger

Do you already blog? Do you enjoy writing?  Are you looking for a way to improve your communication skills?  Blogging has become a key tool for professional development — listen to these two top, well-known bloggers (Seth Goodin and Tom Peters) discuss why YOU should be blogging.

Coaching Staff — Part V

The 5th Installment of Coaching Staff from the Brilliant Leadership Blog. Share other topics you’d like to learn about! ~Kristin

Coaching Staff — Part V
The Brilliant Leadership Blog
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.

Coaching Staff — Part IV

The 4th Installment of Coaching Staff from the Brilliant Leadership Blog. Let me know what other topics you’d like to hear about! ~Kristin

Coaching Staff — Part IV
The Brilliant Leadership Blog

So far in this series we have looked at how to instruct staff members in a task or skill area, provide effective demonstrations and enable opportunities for them to practice, ideally in a safe or non-urgent environment. An often overlooked and under-rated aspect of coaching is monitoring and observing how the staff member is developing in the task or skill area. This then, is our focus for the next stage of the coaching cycle.

One of the workshops I run frequently is presentation skills. These are highly practical workshops that involve a lot of practice and feedback. When a presentation has not gone entirely as planned, I will often ask both the group and the presenter how it could have been improved. While they often come up with some useful ideas, they rarely get to the root of the issue. And this is where I have to earn my crust as a coach – by not just observing what everyone else has seen but also, identifying what is happening and why. I have to see the things that other people haven’t spotted in order to suggest one or two changes that would transform the presentation.

This is at the heart of coaching observation. The coach has to observe what is happening and also what is not happening. They must see the things that others can’t and identify why things are happening. This enables them to provide feedback that gets to the root of the issue and enables the staff member to improve, noticeably, when they next try to practice the task or skill.

I believe this is an intuitive part of coaching and as such, it is difficult to be specific on how to develop this aspect of the coaching toolbox. However, I offer the following guidance.

1. Observe what is happening but more importantly, identify why it is happening.

2. Observe what isn’t being applied.

3. Ask the staff member to reflect on what you have observed.

4. Get to the root of the issue.

5. Don’t try to improve too many areas at once. Identify the base learning that needs to take place before building on this to improve the finer details later.

In the next part of this series we’ll be looking in depth at the art of providing feedback to staff with a view to reinforcing what they are doing well and improving things that could be done better.

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.

Leadership Lesson: Constructive Criticism

 To ensure a productive work environment, managers must ensure they are providing continuous feedback.  This feedback must be balanced, meaning positive feedback is just as important as the negative.


The term “constructive criticism” usually has an obvious negative connotation associated with it.  But if it’s approached correctly, corrective criticism can provide powerful insight designed to aid improvement.  Often, managers will avoid providing feedback due to the fear of not knowing how the person receiving the feedback will react.  If you make an effort to know your employees, you shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting your communication approach so that the employee appreciates your feedback, and sees it as constructive.  Managers must know that constructive criticism is only helpful when it contains specific action steps for improvement.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of positive feedback. We’re quick to point out mistakes and sometimes we forget to acknowledge employees when they do something right. Giving positive feedback can be a powerful (AND EASY) tool for getting more of the results you want, while improving your employees’ job satisfaction.