How to give and receive Effective Feedback

by Gloria Auth

Much of this material is adapted from Toastmasters' International.

To develop coaching skills, practice is a must. Coaching with triads/buddies will develop your coaching skills with people who are there for the same reason you are. You practice being a coach; you practice being a client; you practice being the observer. The relationship draws strength as you take pride in helping each other grow and develop. It's a mutual support system that makes learning fun.

For the Coach: How to receive feedback
Be aware that some nervousness is normal and a common trait of most coaches who are being observed. Try to understand that your observer is trying to help you. Don't allow yourself to become defensive. Concentrate on how the comments can help you improve your coaching. Notice if there are patterns from your observers with similar recommendations for improvement. Focus on these areas for improvement. Consider everything your observer says. Some of the comments may not be useful, but attempt to understand the point of view of the observer. If it doesn't apply, let it fly. Ask questions to clarify the feedback. The feedback is an opportunity for you to change.

Specific requests by the coach: If you have a specific area that you want your observer to look for, let them know in advance. For example, "I would like to work on developing my skill of asking provocative conversations. Would you please be on the lookout to see if I am using that proficiency?"

If you truly want to improve as a coach, you need feedback. You get to see areas where you are improving, and with more feedback, how to continue improving. Thank the observer for their feedback.

For the Observer: How to give feedback
You don't have to be an expert to offer worthwhile feedback. Everyone has valid and worthwhile feedback, regardless of level of experience or expertise. Your role is primarily to hold up the mirror to the coach, and tell the coach your observation of the coaching. Your critique is from your point of view. Keep your tone light and neutral. It's not just what you say, but how you say it.

Your goal is to provide honest reaction to the coach's coaching skills in a constructive manner. You are not a judge or person with all the answers, but a source of potentially helpful feedback. You are a friend trying to help. Your job is to provide the coach with information on the basis of which the coach may consider changes in his coaching.

Write down a few triggers. You don't need to write extensive notes, just a few key words to help you remember what you were thinking. You don't want to take your focus away from the coaching.

Be sensitive of the level of the coach.

The novice coach needs a high level of motivation to keep them in coaching. They are terrified of being observed. Remember your first time being observed? Use the words "next time" throughout your evaluation as a form of encouragement for them to stay with coaching. Boost the coach's confidence by noting one or two coaching strengths you observed. It gives them a place to start the next time. This is not the time to mention all the other proficiencies they didn't use. Concentrate on a single proficiency for improvement. They will be overwhelmed if you give them 5 - 10 areas to work on. Pick the most serious problem that will have the greatest impact on improving his/her coaching. Share specific tips on how to do so. Consider paring a novice coach with a more experienced observer.

The experienced coach really wants to know how to make their coaching better. It's not easy to critique an experienced coach. They are not looking for a pat on the back; they are looking for ways to improve. They have enough confidence in their skills to take more critical critiques. Touchy-feely evaluations are not effective for the experienced coach.

The Oreo Cookie approach:
  1. Point out the strong points of the coaching session. People remember what earned them praise and will try to repeat those things in the future. Praising the coach's strong points will help reinforce them. Keep your tone positive so the coach feels good about him/herself.

    Start with a positive comment. Praise the coach for something done well.
    "What I admire about your style…
    "I'm impressed with the way you ……
    "I really liked how you…
    "That was very impressive how you…

  2. Every comment that points out a weakness should also have a suggestion for overcoming the weakness. Avoid the well-intentioned "whitewash" - or "soft-pedaling"(great coaching/wow) - not giving the coach comments on areas where they could improve. This will only allow small problems to grow into large problems. If you are confused, say so. Be sure to check with the coach to confirm he/she understands your remarks, so there is no misinterpretation of your meaning. Your job is to help the coach grow - in an open, safe, supportive, sensitive environment.

    Avoid phrases such as, "You did… or "You were…. "You should…"You must…Or "They say. Also avoid "Do's and Don'ts" and "Rights and Wrongs".

    Use personal statements whenever possible, describing your reactions to the coaching. "I felt…", "It seemed to me…"I wonder if…"I sense

    Avoid "but" and "however" - "You started out very strong, but/however… The "but" and "however" negates everything you said before. Make two separate sentences or connect them with "and."

    Give honest, helpful appropriate suggestions. Point out tactfully some area for improvement.

    "There may have been a missed opportunity…
    "It's a small thing, but be aware of….
    "The one thing you might look for is…

  3. End with a positive encouraging remark. Never end with a negative.

    "I really admire your courage in stepping up for this demonstration."
    "Overall, I very much enjoyed…"
    "We are very pleased and lucky to have you as a member of CoachVille/our community…
    "You have some wonderful …natural coaching skills …and with practicing and learning new skills, you will be a masterful coach."
Top Ten Behaviors of Effective Observers
  • Show that you care.
  • Suit your evaluation to the coach.
  • Know the coach's objectives.
  • Listen actively.
  • Personalize your language.
  • Give positive reinforcement.
  • Help the coach become motivated (inspired).
  • Evaluate the coaching - not the person.
  • Nourish self-esteem
  • Show the coach how to improve.
Use the IAC scorecard at
Giving feedback is not for bullies; receiving feedback is not for sissies.
Everyone benefits from effective feedback.

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