Giving and Receiving Feedback – A Process for Growth

Use Feedback as a Teaching and Development Tool

Frequent and specific feedback is critical to learning. It’s even more important than when you’re coaching an intern, new employee, or employee with performance issues. Depending on the length and intensity of the training needs, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly scheduled feedback is necessary for growth and development. Don’t underestimate the power of impromptu, positive feedback as you notice your intern/employee doing work or behaving in a way that meets or exceeds your expectations. Catching someone doing the right thing is far more effective than jumping on errors.

When corrective action is necessary, use this quick process to make sure your feedback is focused on the development of your intern’s/employee’s skills.

  1. Begin by describing the behavior you’d like to see. How should the report look? How does a professional employee act and dress?
  2. Follow up with the behavior you have observed. Try filling in the following sentence(s), “I’ve noticed ________ and it’s important to ____________ because it will help you _____________.”
  3. End by discussing (not prescribing) how to bridge the gap between what you’d like to happen and what you have observed. Make sure to include the intern/employee in the problem solving by asking for input.

It’s also important to open yourself to feedback. Coaching your intern/employee to learn to give feedback is as valuable as teaching them to receive it. Modeling the appropriate behavior is essential.

  • Listen without interrupting and without defensiveness. Take the opportunity to receive feedback as a growth opportunity for yourself and your business.
  • Ask questions to clarify the feedback. Guide the intern toward the example above. What did the intern expect to see and why? What did the intern observe?
  • Discuss what could account for the gap.
  • Thank the intern for providing feedback.

As managers and business owners we often develop tunnel vision. Using a clear process to coach an intern or employee is a great way to encourage an open flow of communication. Who knows what heights you’ll reach with a new set of eyes.

Name the Game Part 2: Coaching or Consulting?

In 2008 Workforce.com published an article that business coaching was booming (http://bit.ly/93JGYs). I read this article again today, and just came upon a blog post titled, “Are you doing OD, Training, Consulting, Coaching, all of these?” ( http://bit.ly/asSdV9) and I got to thinking; what’s in the name?

The distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, yet a recent search on Google returned over 3 million results for Business Coach, over 4 million for Organizational Develop Consultant, and over 24 million for Organizational Training. At the core, these functions are the same; they are based on awareness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for marketing and branding. I’m an MBA in marketing after all. I’ll make the case here for describing OD’s value to the client in an authentic way. The current system of differentiating based on fine distinctions is adding a complexity to the profession that is doing more to confuse than add clarity.

Merriam Webster defines “authentic” as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” In this case the fact that underlies training, OD consulting, and coaching is genuine awareness. The difference is not found in the stature of the profession, the results possible, or even the length of time or client relationship. The real difference is in the approach to reaching awareness and balance. Balance, then, can lead to results.

  • Training uses needs analysis to gain awareness into the knowledge gaps of employees and the company. Trainers then plan a program to close those gaps.
  • Coaches use a Socratic method to question and probe individuals to uncover areas for improvement and growth. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence reign in this approach and can lead to more dynamic leadership.
  • OD consultants use qualitative, quantitative, and process based approaches to identify “road blocks” within the organization. Although further removed than in coaching, the leadership team must be brought to an understanding, an awareness, of issues in the organization that are limiting success.

It’s not easy to face the deficiencies that may be stopping you, your group, or your organization from succeeding. There is plenty of advice on choosing a coach, a trainer, or a consultant, but at the core, I suggest you find one that can authentically bring awareness to you and your organization.

I invite your comments.

It’s just a piece of paper–right?

What are we training for anyway? Is a Bachelor’s degree or leadership training part of a checklist – yup, done. What alarms me about the story I read in the Star Tribune today titled “Fines follow 15 hours of work in 59 minutes” (http://www.startribune.com/investigators/102918284.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU), are the self-proclaimed professionals who still consider the piece of paper more valuable than the education. Leadership and training is my “thing.” I’m passionate about it and love to pursue knowledge for the sake of learning and getting better at what I do. That’s what I believe separates quality leaders from the wannabes.

Even in the new age of consumerism a mind that craves learning for its own sake will be in demand. A mind that explores solutions to problems that have not yet affected the bottom-line will drive business forward. To my students I reinforce over and over again the value of education over the attainment of “the grade” or “the degree.” It looks like someone forgot to reinforce the concept with the insurance agents who earned credit without the work.

Is this how training is viewed in your company? Are your employees after the piece of paper that says they’ve met their burden? If so, what are you going to do about it? They are your employees after all. Let’s take a look at a little checklist of our own shall we?

  1. Have you communicated the value of the training within the scope of their jobs and the strategy of the company?
  2. Are you truly committed to the training or are you expecting your employees to stay connected during the critical instruction time?
  3. Will you discuss key learnings after the training and see if any skills can be integrated into individual development plans?
  4. Have you assigned a coach or mentor if the training involved a change in behavior? Is there someone to hold them accountable for the changes in behavior?
  5. Is there an opportunity to incorporate enhanced goals or objectives in performance evaluations?

I could go on for quite a few more bullet points on ways to bring action and accountability to training. What have you tried and what has worked for you?