When I think of the truly great leaders I have had in my life and career, there is one common characteristic they share: the ability to effectively provide coaching and feedback with the primary goal of improving performance and the secondary goal of making me and the team better. Coaching and providing feedback are essential skills you must possess as a leader. They are critical to the success of your team and probably two of the best ways to gain influence and demonstrate C5 leadership (for a refresher on C5 leadership, visit https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/frontline-fundamentals-developing-a-complete-definition).
Demonstrating C5 Leadership
My son and I got involved with the Pinewood Derby when he was in Cub Scouts. Luckily for me, I have a friend whose son never lost a heat during his tenure as a Cub Scout. So, every year when it was time to make the derby car, I would call my friend and ask for advice on how I could help my son build his car (we all know the scouts do most of the work in Pinewood Derby construction). We would also seek his feedback during the construction process.
Why did I do that?
Because of his past success, he had credibility and competence. I viewed him as the subject matter expert. Because we are friends, he cared and demonstrated commitment to our success. During our interactions, he had the courage to provide honest and constructive coaching and feedback. Can you think of a better way to gain influence than for someone to ask for your help and want you to be their mentor?
Prior to providing coaching and feedback, it’s important to establish expectations so that those you are coaching know the standard to which they are being held. Here’s one example of what to do – and what not to do.
Kid: I’m going outside to play.
Very Wise Parent: OK. Be careful and don’t get too close to the road.
Kid goes outside. Very Wise Parent looks out the window and sees Kid playing beside the road.
Very Wise Parent (yelling): What are you doing? I told you not to get too close to the road!
Kid: I’m not!
Very Wise Parent is going to have a difficult time providing feedback and holding Kid accountable because no specific expectation was established. There must be a standard. We use a dogwood tree in our front yard. Rather than saying, “Don’t get too close to the road,” we say, “Stay on this side of the dogwood tree. If you go past the tree, you will be too close to the road.”
Coaching and Feedback
If you have done a good job of establishing expectations – remembering that communication must result in mutual understanding – coaching and feedback are relatively simple given that you have competence in the task being performed, are committed to your team’s success, care about each individual, and have the courage and credibility to speak up and be honest. Following are some practical tips for providing effective coaching and feedback.
Sources of Feedback
Lastly, there are three sources of feedback:
Just like leadership, communication and developing relationships, coaching and feedback are skills that can be learned, practiced and improved. It’s great to do all that in real-world, on-the-job situations, but I also encourage leaders to find a partner and practice difficult scenarios with them. For example, one difficult scenario could be that a member of your team has a terrible body odor that needs to be addressed. You and your partner should take turns giving and receiving feedback to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s likely that you will find the most difficult and critical step is having the courage to start the conversation and provide honest feedback.
Coaching and feedback are one of your best opportunities to demonstrate your leadership skills. They require a relationship with at least one other person and good communication skills, and they allow you to gain influence through competence, commitment, caring, courage and credibility.
About Frontline: The Frontline program provides interactive, engaging classroom training that empowers employees to become better utility safety leaders. Subject matter experts facilitate the learning process and cover three areas – safety leadership, incident prevention and human performance – critical to safety success. Visit https://frontlineutilityleader.com for more information.
Webinar on Coaching and Feedback that Maximize Performance
September 18 at 3 p.m. Eastern
Visit https://frontlineutilityleader.com for more information.
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