March 21, 2018

6 Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Feedback

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6 Coaching Mistakes to Avoid When Giving Feedback

Helping employees perform at their best is exciting, but it isn’t always easy. Well-meaning mangers can sometimes counteract their own efforts by approaching employee coaching the wrong way. Giving feedback constructively can be invaluable to employees’ career growth and can help them develop critical skills they will carry with them as they ascend toward roles of greater responsibility. Through thoughtful coaching—and by avoiding the leadership pitfalls below—you can help set up your employees for long-term success.


Here are six of the most common mistakes managers make while giving feedback:


Mistake #1: Not Giving Feedback at All

It’s human nature to want to be nice and avoid rocking the boat. Few of us relish conflict, but giving feedback directly is critical for your employees to be able to improve themselves. They need your help recognizing where they have fallen short, as well as their areas of success, in order to grow and reach their potential. Without that information, they are likely to continue along the same path.


Mistake #2: Letting it Pile Up

Because providing constructive criticism is uncomfortable, some managers wait until there is a laundry list of issues that need to be corrected before they set up meetings to coach employees. This is unfair to the employee, because he or she may have no idea that they were doing anything wrong, and now they face a long and overwhelming list of errors they must correct. Delays in giving feedback set up employees for failure. Instead, check in frequently with your employees to let them know how they are performing and how they are pacing against the objectives for their role.


Mistake #3: Not Setting Clear Expectations

Employees should not have to be mind readers when it comes to what is expected of them. Coaching employees effectively includes working with them to clearly define what success looks like for their role. Having well-defined goals and expectations gives the employee the opportunity to plan ahead and maintain control of their own progress. With increased clarity comes faster, better results.


Coaching employees effectively includes helping them clearly define what success looks like for their role. Share on X


Mistake #4: Giving Vague Feedback

When offering your employees constructive criticism, make sure to always be specific and offer examples. If you tell your employee, “I really need you to learn to write better,” it will be very hard for the employee to correct or improve the behavior—what exactly does “better” mean? Instead, say something like, “Before you turn in reports, please make sure to proofread for spelling and punctuation errors. Your last report had several errors, which could have been avoided with a little more time and attention paid to accuracy.” Giving feedback of this kind lets the employee know exactly what you are referring to and what they can do to improve.


Mistake #5: Doing All the Talking

Mentoring and coaching employees should be a two-way process. Employees should be given the opportunity to explain themselves, ask questions, and provide ideas. By speaking with, rather than at, employees, leaders gain perspective and allow employees the opportunity to clarify feedback and solutions necessary to correct their performance missteps.


Mentoring and coaching employees should be a two-way process. Share on X


Mistake #6: Prescribing Solutions

You’ve been around the block, and you probably have great ideas to help your employee improve his or her performance. At the same time, no one solution is right for everyone. While your ideas will certainly be helpful, they should be offered as suggestions rather than directives. Allowing employees to devise their own plans of action also helps them learn to be more self-sufficient going forward, and enlisting their help encourages them to look at problems from a different angle.


When employee coaching is done in a positive and collaborative way, managers find that employees become eager for feedback rather than fearful of it. Great coaching empowers employees by providing clear paths to success and opportunities to build on their strengths.


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