Updated: Jun 10, 2019
Of course, the coaches don’t play the game. But the best players become the best by understanding their strengths, their weaknesses, and learning from great feedback how to become better and better. The players want to get any advantage they can in order to win. Great coaches provide great quality feedback.
Each of these incredible athletes is or was at the top of his profession for a long time, as far as athletics go. Each of them has had one or more tremendous coach that helped them achieve greatness. As we noted in our blog of April 24, 2018, great coaches understand how to apply the magic of Self-fulfilling Prophecy (SFP) to help individuals and teams. A key factor of SFP is high quality information; feedback, upon which to build genuine positive belief. People intuitively understand that BS, positive or negative, cannot be trusted and it fouls up the SFP process. Great coaches understand their players’ motivations and how to help them keep making progress whether it is the beginning, middle, or near the end of their professional career.
Feedback Needs Careful Definition – Easy to Miss the Real Thing
Feedback can be defined as information about behavior and its impact. Information is not positive or negative until the provider or receiver attaches an emotion to it; it is simply the facts and the context for the observed behavior. Way too often, people think in terms of positive or negative feedback.
Solid feedback provides specific information. So positive feedback with specific information about behavior and its impact encourages the receiver to repeat the good behavior. Constructive feedback with specific information about behavior and its impact includes information about what the receiver can do differently in the future to achieve the desired performance. In contrast, negative feedback simply identifies what was wrong or undesirable. Great coaches never deliver negative feedback. They provide constructive feedback that includes ideas, insights and suggestions about how to improve performance.
But really great feedback is different than ordinary feedback. Or what passes for feedback in many organizations. You can name the mistakes that typically mess up the feedback process. 1) It is delivered long after the behavior occurs. 2) It is delivered while the person involved or coach is angry. 3) Good performance is complimented rather than used to create useful, specific feedback. There’s nothing wrong with genuine compliments, but don’t mistake it for feedback.
However, the feedback mistake that most commonly occurs is the absence of feedback. Survey after survey show that today’s workforce wants frequent, substantive feedback. And that it isn’t happening.
Providing Feedback Is A Discipline
Great coaches don’t just give feedback when they feel like it. They practice a discipline of providing substantive feedback routinely. That is partly because they understand that developing great players requires specific feedback. They also know that their players want to understand what their coach knows about their performance and how they can build on the positive and eliminate mistakes. And great coaches deliver feedback no matter what because they understand the need for immediacy. Letting a player continue mediocre behavior is unacceptable. Both sides want excellence.
Should our work be different? If you are a manager and want your workgroup to excel, become very disciplined about providing high quality feedback routinely. Do not manage feedback by exception, that is, getting involved when there is an exception to good practice.
Great players practice their skills a lot. In Six Sigma terms, they get process feedback with every practice session. They get information about each skill practiced in real time, so that they can modify their efforts to produce better results. Much of the feedback in the workplace is results feedback – given when a project is complete, a presentation is done, a week, month or quarter of sales is on the books.
All too often, only sales people get process feedback. Their managers know that to change the results for the better, they have to see exactly how the salesperson is behaving. They know they cannot simply listen to the salesperson describe what they thought happened in the customer meeting; the manager has to see, hear, and fully experience the sales call in order to provide great feedback and advice on what and how to change. All employees need to be treated as though what they do is as important as sales activities.
Finally, as managers, we need feedback on how we are performing our people management and leadership responsibilities. All too often, managers are ‘graded’ on their results. Good results, lots of praise (not feedback.) Poor results, short, sharp criticism. Again, that’s not feedback. But since this is the model we experience, we use it with our employees.
But none of that makes it right or useful in the least. If you’re not getting the feedback you need from your manager, have a discussion to manage your expectations. Be specific about the type of feedback you need to become the best manager you can be.
Then tackle giving great feedback for your team. You’ll become that positively memorable manager we all want to work for.