Leaders should not be afraid of giving clear and powerful feedback just because it can be hard to hear – they just need to do it the right way. The best coaching, while always respectful, is not always gentle. When I improve I know my lasting breakthroughs usually start with a “slap my own forehead” realization that I have been doing it SO wrong! Overcoming our challenges is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it. Too many leaders miss opportunities for employee transformation because we want to avoid upset.
As a coach and leader, it is important to create the kind of resilient relationships with your team and colleagues that allows for this kind of high impact/low drama coaching.
I recently experienced this from the learner perspective.
This week I worked on my online presentation skills with a very effective coach. One segment of her process was to give feedback on lighting, dress and other production elements. Black clothing had always been my “go to” color for presentations in person so I assumed that worked online as well. But online black clothing can be hard on some skin tones and was making me look older. Another tip was to stand to provide energy. Having just done a number of on line presentations sitting down and wearing black, I had that “oh my, I really did not do that correctly” moment. As she continued her feedback my understanding of the mistakes I had been making started to add up. There was a flash of pain (my ego saying “Hi!”) but I was so thankful for the unvarnished coaching.
The strong input actually increased the trust and respect between us, building a more resilient relationship.
What were the key elements in place that made her input, while intense, “receivable” by me to absorb and use?
- The goal and purpose of the feedback was very clear and in line with what I wanted, not just what she wanted – her intention was to help me achieve my outcomes.
- We had an agreement in place that I wanted direct feedback as part of our business relationship. It was not a surprise or un-asked for.
- The coach was competent in this area and her feedback was fair and based on science, experience and results.
- The input was “respectfully submitted”: she had been empathetic about the reasons I had been doing things “another way.” While unambiguous in her view of what was holding me back, she was open to my reactions and never argued.
If you have a team member or colleague who has difficult behaviors that are holding them back and have been hard to change, remember that you could be the leader who finally helps them make a breakthrough to the next level.
I will forever be thankful to those leaders and colleagues who were not afraid to give it to me strait. Your employees will feel the same.