People seek out coaches when they need help with their goals, but telling someone they’re doing it wrong always requires more than just tact. Clients can only benefit from your feedback if they feel empowered by it — not discouraged or annoyed.
Why does giving feedback matter?
Step out of your coaching shoes for a minute and think of the last time you faced a challenging problem. Did you wonder if you were doing the right thing or if there was another way to approach the problem? Can you recall how hard decision-making was because you couldn’t see the whole picture? Now imagine the same scenario, but with a coach to discuss matters with; someone to run your ideas by who’ll help you find a solution and tell you honestly when something you’re doing isn’t going to work.
This personalized attention is why feedback matters. Clients feel motivated and engaged when we do this effectively. It helps them be productive.
In the best-case scenario, our clients receive the information we give them and calibrate their technique or behavior to become more effective. While giving constructive criticism, we don’t judge or condemn our clients but point out areas for improvement. A feedback session is a learning opportunity.
Making feedback effective
Giving timely and relevant feedback is central to the role of a coach. Since our goal is performance improvement, constructive feedback is our single most powerful tool.
As long as both parties engage in the interaction with good faith, effective feedback results in positive changes and the will to improve. When the goal is to set performance goals, receiving feedback is the fastest way to achieve these results.
Feedback best practices: 6 things to do
Clients who are sensitive to feedback can sometimes become defensive or angry. That’s why knowing how to deliver feedback tactfully is essential. Here are six ways to make your input valuable:
- Give it often: Feedback doesn’t have to be a performance review. It doesn’t have to be elaborately planned and executive formally with a long list of comments. Feedback is most effective when it’s continuously provided to keep your clients on track to reaching their goals. Don’t wait for them to derail before you go with a list of things they should’ve done.
- Make it timely: Feedback is most effective while it’s still relevant. Your feedback doesn't have much value if the problem isn’t a problem anymore. If you provide input while it can still be implemented for positive change, it’s valuable. Timely feedback also has greater recall. Especially if implementing the feedback causes noticeable improvement in an area.
- Be kind and caring: Always think of the people giving and receiving feedback as a team working towards a common goal. A coach-client relationship should always be honest and empathetic. As a coach, you’re a source of support, mentorship, and guidance.
An excellent way to keep feedback positive is by being descriptive and focusing on building strengths instead of highlighting weaknesses. In a face-to-face setting, body language also plays a significant role in showing positive intentions.
- Make it conversational: One way to keep your feedback casual is by asking open-ended questions. This allows clients to take ownership of their own progress and feel empowered to participate in problem-solving.
Receiving feedback should be a learning opportunity for your client; not one where you instruct them to behave differently. Keeping the feedback process casual will also encourage an open dialogue and keep the conversation comfortable.
- Be specific: General feedback is of little use to clients. Remember, the point of coaches giving feedback is to achieve a goal or improve performance. The easiest way to encourage this is by providing clients with clear action steps to tackle a specific problem.
- Follow up: Never forget the goal of providing feedback is performance improvement. When we check in regularly, we ensure our clients are taking our feedback into account and implementing it. This motivates clients and makes them feel supported, which empowers them to take the next steps toward their goals.
Recognizing effective feedback
The type of feedback we give and how we offer it is important. Whether it’s positive feedback or constructive criticism, we must ensure that our words are:
- Honest: Honesty does not mean being brutal or rude. It means we’re to the point and free of judgment. Sometimes, feedback is hard to hear but say it anyway. Always be clear and direct for maximum impact, and honestly identify areas of improvement, so there’s no chance of miscommunication.
- Descriptive: Much of the struggle of giving and receiving feedback lies with the problem-solving aspect of it. For feedback to be effective, clients must understand what they must improve and how to do so. We can aid with examples or help them brainstorm solutions. The more we work together to solve problems, the more invested our clients are in their own growth.
- Focused on strengths: When working towards a goal, there’s usually more than one way to be successful. Instead of focusing only on a client’s weakness, try leveraging their strengths to complete a task. This will make the feedback process more enjoyable and encourage creative problem-solving.
- Goal-oriented: This is the heart of effective feedback. When giving advice, ensure that it’s relevant and helpful to the person hearing it — don’t just give feedback for the sake of it. If our clients are doing well, congratulate them. If they’re not, ensure that our advice is direct and applicable before offering it.
Wrapping up: How to give good feedback
Feedback is a two-way street. If clients can benefit from our advice and opinion tailored for clarity and functionality, we can also benefit from theirs. Receiving feedback raises self-awareness and improves performance in both parties. In fact, asking clients for feedback on our coaching method can improve our skills and help us serve them better.
If you’d like to have an organized and symbiotic relationship with your clients, Practice can help. Try our all-in-one client management system today.