You’re entitled to think I’ll say ‘Feedback of course!’ as you’re reading a blog post on The Feedback Book’s website. Or maybe you’re wondering if it’s a trick question.
We need to give colleagues feedback – whether the feedback is positive (known as ‘praise’ in plain English) or negative (I like ‘corrective’ as that’s the aim when it’s done right, rather than just dumping criticism on people). There will also be times when we need to coach team members.
And there will be conversations that call for both.
How does that actually work?
Let’s say a team member is preparing to do a presentation by themselves for the first time. Until now, they’ve always been your sidekick, covering detailed slides in more depth whilst you delivered the opening, headlines and close. The presentation format is a template they know their way around, and they’re gaining confidence as a presenter. Now’s the time to coach this person on what they need to do more of so that they can step up, take on the whole presentation and do a great job in the client’s eyes.
Coaching questions you could use to have a great conversation include:
- “What’s important to you about taking this on?”
- “On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is super-confident and 1 is nervous, how confident are you about this presentation?”
- [If the score is 5 or less] “What needs to be different for you, to say you’re higher up that scale?”
- “What aspects of your presentation skills do you see as your strengths?”
- “How will you apply those strengths to this presentation?”
- “What steps can you take to prepare the presentation?”
- “What steps can you take to prepare yourself for the presentation?”
- “How will you find the time to do what needs to be done?”
- “Who can help?”
- “What support do you need from me to do a great job?”
In reality, this is unlikely to be just one coaching conversation. There may be short catch-ups, quick 1:1s and several cups of coffee between the first conversation the first rehearsal. Because you will of course allow the person time to rehearse, alone and with you observing. That way you can give them feedback and coach them at the same time. You can:
- Make notes on what they’re doing well and what they need to work on.
- Ask the person how they think it went (rather than leaping in with your comments first). They may be over-critical or over-confident – and you may therefore need to adjust your feedback and coaching accordingly.
- Clearly articulate the behaviours that are working and why, e.g. “In the intro, you give compelling reasons why the audience needs to pay attention to this presentation.” “You speak fluently and clearly about the details, which conveys knowledge and confidence.” “You link the slides with questions, which shows you’re prepared and know what’s next.”
- Coach them on what they need to do more or less of in order to improve, e.g.
- “How can you make the close as compelling as the opening?”
- “How will your audience know you’re enthusiastic about this?”
- “How do you want to handle questions?”
- “What’s the smallest thing that will make the biggest difference?”
As your team member makes the presentation, observe what they’re doing and the impact it has. Are they speaking clearly? How’s their body language and what is it conveying? How is the audience responding? You need to nail the detail if you’re going to give them feedback that’s considered and clear. It’s not a game show. It’s your job.
After your team member has given the presentation, you’ll give them feedback. No S*%t sandwiches please. If they crashed and burned they’ll be only too aware of it. If that was the case you can ask them how they thought it went and reassure your team member that you’re going to support them. Give them just enough time to collect themselves and reflect on the experience then have a more clear-headed conversation – before the day is out if at all possible. If they fluffed a few lines but overall did a great job, no need to nit-pick. But let’s assume they did a good job and you’re giving them feedback:
- “I observed you used your voice and gestures to convey your enthusiasm. And I noticed that Gemma wrote down your answers to her questions, which is a good sign she took note of your views. How do you think it went?”
- [nudge: this is the bit where you give them the mic and let them speak…]
- “They all seemed very pleased with your presentation – and so am I. Shall we make some time before the next presentation for a 1:1?”