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Feedback versus coaching

Feedback has the power to motivate our team members. Learn about the distinction between feedback and coaching to effectively motivate your team.

Feedback

Whether you’re a leader or a team member, feedback plays a valuable role in helping employees understand how they are performing and identify areas for improvement. Research has shown that while many people believe they are self-aware, those that are truly self-aware are rare; with only an estimated 10–15% of participants considered to be accurately self-aware (Eurich[4]).  

This is where there’s strength in having an external perspective, and that is where feedback can help us. As team leaders, we’re able to build on this and use feedback to shape our teams and help them to improve, grow, and reach their goals. Feedback has the power to motivate our team members, which means they will strive to achieve in their roles and our goals will be more easily achieved as an organisation.  

This is especially important when we have multiple teams working towards a goal. Sometimes, these teams can become isolated from each other, and it’s only through transparent feedback about what’s working and what we can do to improve that we can establish better collaboration and communication. Leaders can also lose track of their own reality and become siloed.  

Successful feedback is often that which is: 

  • specific – it pinpoints specific behaviours and actions rather than being vague 
  • timely – we don’t wait too long to provide it or we may miss the learning moment 
  • objective – based on facts, not feelings or biases 
  • relevant – the feedback aligns with organisational goals, behaviours, or values depending on the context, eg focusing on feedback that provides the biggest impact 
  • constructive – it supports team members to improve rather than being overly critical 
  • actionable – it provides concrete steps to follow 
  • respectful – it avoids being condescending or offensive 
  • balanced – it includes both the positives and the negatives. 

It’s not surprising that many of the characteristics of successful feedback are shared with the characteristics of successful goals (think back to our SMART goals from Week 2). 

Coaching

Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on unlocking a person’s potential and encourages them to learn. We can do this as leaders by asking great questions and helping people shape the direction in which they want to go. It can be useful to think about coaching differently to other areas, such as mentoring or therapy. Mentoring focuses on being a role model and setting an example. Coaching philosophies focus on the belief that the answers are within people, and by asking the right questions and giving people a space, we can help them uncover these. Therapy is focused on psychological or physical symptoms; they focus on strategies and relief from these symptoms. Coaching deals with growth and aims to advance the person being coached, rather than focusing on interventions.

References

4. Eurich, T, Woznyj, M, Van Wagoner, P, Heggestad, ED and Brodersen, A. 2018. What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It) [Online]. Harvard Business Review. [cited 2022 Dec 22]. Available from: https://membership.amavic.com.au/files/What%20self-awareness%20is%20and%20how%20to%20cultivate%20it_HBR_2018.pdf

5. Ibarra, H and Schoular, A. 2019. The Leader as a Coach [online]. Harvard Business Review. [Cited: 2022 Dec 22]. Available from: https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-leader-as-coach

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