We live in worlds of ever increasing complexity. Somehow, in our attempts to deal with complexity, we seem to seek simplistic answers (There is a huge difference between simplifying and simplistic)
The most recent example I’ve run across ans an article posing the issue as Coaching or Feedback, seeking to show which approach was most effective. The reality is rather than treating these issues as “either/or” we need to address them as “both/and.”
Coaching and feedback really go hand in hand. Done independently, each can be helpful–as long as we are providing good coaching and effective/impactful feedback. But taken together there is a huge magnifying impact.
I think part of the problem we have with issues around coaching and feedback is that too often, managers fail to do either, or when they do, they do it poorly. For example, feedback too often focuses on finding the person doing something wrong, rather than something they are doing right. It tends to be used in evaluative ways–and again, too often, focused on poor evaluations. Finally, feedback should be part of a learning/growth conversation (Hmmm, sounding a little like coaching…..), not just a series of evaluative statements.
Coaching falls victim to the same issues. Manager fail to coach, or when they do, their coaching is ineffective. Too often, I see managers in and evaluative mode, telling people what to do (or what they are doing wrong), but not focused on a learning/growth conversation (Hmmm, sounds a little like feedback….)
Likewise, some people tend to look at feedback as what has happened, where coaching focuses on a future state. But effective coaching or feedback always encompasses both. What has happened provides a context and focus. For example, a great way to start providing feedback is through saying, “I observed you doing this in these types of situations……” But great feedback doesn’t stop there, it looks at why the individual may have done those things, and helps the person discover and choose things they might do in the future.
Trying to position coaching and feedback as choices of what managers should be doing to grow the capabilities of their people really misses the point. We should be doing both, they go hand in hand. But what we need to focus on is how do we most effectively provide feedback and coaching, and how do we incorporate these into our normal conversations with our people?
Before I leave this, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this discussion one step further. As managers, we must develop our skills in providing ongoing coaching and feedback. But, this can be a little like one hand clapping. We must make sure the people we have are receptive to getting feedback and are coachable. As I started this post, these are not either/or conditions, these are both/and.
Just imagine what can be achieved with a manager providing great coaching and feedback to a person eager to learn, grow and develop.
Afterword: Feedback is an important issue, that, like coaching, we get wrong. The best advice I’ve gotten on coaching and feedback came from a mentor, Dr. George Lehner. I’ve summarized George advice on “Giving And Receiving Feedback,” in a free white paper. Just reach out for a copy.