Working Transitions

It's not you it's me: How managers need better coaching skills to improve feedback

Appraisals are a common occurrence in the workplace, yet the majority of employees find that they are something to dread – and not a process that they are able to gain much that is positive from. This week it was reported that Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, are planning to dramatically change their appraisal process.

The investment bank believes that appraisals are more likely to damage morale than boost it – as appraisals tend to focus on negative aspects of performance rather than exploring the positive things that an employee has achieved. Instead of the current method, the company will introduce an online process, where continuous feedback can be given in a constructive way. It is thought that this will make it much easier for employees to know where and how they can improve, rather than simply being told their weaknesses. Employees will be able to access this information at any time, rather than just at one specific point in the year, giving immediacy and relevance to the feedback.

Yet, the quality of feedback given is the most important aspect in improving performance and engagement. Many Managers do not deliver appraisals well, often seeing it as an administrative process and one more thing on their busy ‘must get done’ list. Few see it as a genuine developmental opportunity in which they can make a tangible difference to their team members’ productivity and happiness at work. The key to an effective appraisal conversation is to adopt coaching style and those managers who have themselves been coached are usually much better equipped to provide feedback in a way that is beneficial to those receiving it. To give feedback well, there are certain things to consider:

Have the right attitude

Attitude is everything, and if your team members feel as though you don’t care and are just going through a superficial “tick box” exercise, they won’t feel that your feedback is actually valid and worth acting upon, as it’s not sincerely given. Feedback is a key part of employee development, however it is important to deliver it in a positive, and supportive, fashion.

Be accessible

After giving feedback, you should ensure that you are available to discuss issues raised at a later stage, if necessary on an ongoing basis. Giving feedback and then leaving employees to deal with it on their own is not a good way to achieve desired outcomes and any extra support is certain to be appreciated.

Clarify expectations

When feedback is given, it is important that employees understand what they are expected to do to act upon it. There is little point in saying what is positive or negative about an employee’s performance if they don’t understand what to do next with this information.

Focus on positives

One of the best ways to make feedback as effective as possible is to ensure that you focus on the positive aspects of the way they do their job, as this means that they understand that they are valued. In addition to this, the behaviour that you focus on as positive is something that they are likely to want to repeat, as they know that it is appreciated, and this means that their performance is likely to improve. It is important to be able to give positive examples of how their performance has benefited the company as a whole, as this is certain to boost morale.

Have a focused conversation

In any meetings regarding performance, it is important to have focus with regards to what needs to be discussed. Making notes before the meeting keeps the conversation structured. Make sure that you know your intended outcome for every single piece of feedback that you deliver and prepare yourself for a range of possible responses. It is important that your employee is able to be involved in the conversation – so asking questions such as “ do you recognise that situation” or “ what’s your view of that” or “Why do you think that happened” after each piece of feedback is a great way to do this. Direct the conversation in a positive direction, and try to avoid allowing employees to make excuses for negative actions in the workplace – instead focusing on the facts and how behaviour can be improved upon in the future.

Make feedback a regular event

Many companies provide feedback annually; however it is important to do it as regularly as possible – while the behaviour you’re giving feedback on is fresh in their memory. This means that you are more likely to be able to focus thoughts on the issue at hand, as issues that are up to a year previous may be too long ago to remember properly.

Consider how your employees can be successful

When you’re giving feedback, you need to think about the best possible environment for your employees to perform to their best ability. Do they work best when left to their own devices, or do they thrive from being constantly guided through the working day? Understanding how best to replicate a successful environment gives you a much better chance of being able to improve performance in the future.

It is clear that every organisation can benefit from implementing an effective appraisal system – however it is vital that this feedback is given in the best possible way to ensure that strengths can be built upon. Managers have a key role in ensuring that their employees are nurtured in a way that encourages them to respond positively to feedback, as this is certain to have a progressive impact on the company as a whole. Adopting a coaching style and providing feedback in a continuous manner, enables all stakeholders to maximise the benefits over the long term.


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Working Transitions
10 June 2016
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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