Blog Post

A How-to on Effective Feedback and Coaching Conversations

Anita Bowness

Principal Product Manager: Cornerstone

It's great to be a coach in the movies. All you need is some memorable one-liners and a tough-as-nails attitude and you'll inspire success. In Rocky, boxing coach Mickey Goldmill excels at tough love, calling Rocky Balboa a ’bum' and a ’tomato'. In A League of their Own, coach Jimmy Dugan firmly believes there is no crying in baseball.

Coaching your business team takes a lot more than attitude and a well-timed punchline. A smart manager takes the time to learn what motivates each employee and looks for ways to encourage them.

Unlike in the movies, a good coach doesn't need to make long-winded motivational speeches or take bold action. Great feedback can be given in the time it takes to go for a coffee with an employee, or while de-briefing a colleague after a meeting.

The key to giving effective feedback isn't how much time you dedicate to doing it, but the quality of the information that you give. And no matter how much you dread performance review season, you can't lead a successful team without giving them insightful feedback and coaching (on a regular basis) that helps them develop and be more productive.

Whether you're a new or seasoned manager the key to doing this well is preparation.

Before the Performance Review Meeting

Before you sit down with an employee, you need to make sure you have:

Built a relationship of trust and respect with the employee;

Prepared feedback that is helpful for the employee and ideally is feedback you've already shared with the employee;

Acknowledged any biases, personal preferences or judgments; and

Cataloged specific examples of successful behavior and poor performance.*

* It helps if you've done this step throughout the year.

For a feedback conversation to be truly helpful and effective, it needs to be a dialogue.

Getting the Performance Review Conversation Started

If your coaching skills are a little rusty, we’ve included tips for effective coaching conversations with your employees, such as how to:

Work with the employee to identify the root cause of successful behavior;

Brainstorm how the success can be replicated in other areas;

Listen carefully to the employee's perspective without judgment; and

Draft a development plan.

Following Up

The conversation doesn't end when the performance review wraps up. Managers and employees need to:

Set dates for a follow-up session;

Discuss consequences for poor performance; and

Schedule regular check-ins to ensure the employee has needed support (regular one-on-one meetings can help!)

Managers, you also need to continuously communicate your confidence in your employees. Why? Because the best managers play a starring role in engaging and motivating their employees. If you want to build an exceptional team, your performance management process must include thoughtful coaching and feedback delivered the whole year through.

Your Turn: What's your best coaching tip for managers?

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