Performance & Feedback: Is Coaching The Missing Link?

Nov 04 2020 | Insights
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When it comes to feedback from performance reviews and improving employee responses, could coaching be the key factor that too many businesses are missing out on?

Could coaching be the missing link in the feedback conundrum?

Let’s face it, well before the pandemic hit, most of your employees were craving feedback. They wanted to know how they were doing, how they could do better and how they fit into the organization’s future plans. The pandemic has not extinguished that craving; in fact, it may have made it more acute because feedback is harder to come by these days.

Everyone is struggling to manage workforces that have been forced to work remotely. Leaders and their teams are still searching for new ways of keeping in touch and measuring progress. The line between ‘work’ and ‘home’ continues to blur, which is straining relationships.

But through all this disruption, employees still have a genuine desire to know how they are faring. A major challenge before the pandemic struck, winning strategies for regular, effective feedback seem to be even more elusive than ever.

The pre-pandemic deficit in feedback

A Gallup survey released earlier this year found that Millennial employees – the fastest growing cohort in the global labour force – were increasingly desperate to get “meaningful, individualized feedback.” Gallup defined this as feedback that helps the individual learn, grow and succeed at their jobs. And they’re desperate because – for the most part – they are not getting that feedback in a regular or meaningful way.

Gallup found that only 19 percent of Millennial workers worldwide strongly agree that they receive routine feedback at work; only 17 percent reported receiving meaningful feedback.

Gallup attributed part of the problem here to a general breakdown in the effectiveness of performance reviews. It’s not just Millennials; Gallup found that fewer than one in five American workers believe that existing performance reviews inspire them to be better and achieve more at work.

The chronic feedback gap

Not being able to ask for or give meaningful feedback is something researchers call “the feedback gap.” Much of the issue stems from managers who are simply bad at talking to their employees, but there is an argument that employees ultimately share in the blame.

Since employees aren’t getting the kind of feedback they want, or sense that managers are reluctant to engage in honest performance discussions, they stop asking. Gallup found that only 15 percent of the millennial workers it surveyed – a group infamous for its appetite for guidance and advice – actually asked managers for feedback.

If employees are bad at asking for feedback, largely because managers are bad at providing it, then what’s the solution? This is where coaching comes in.

Coaching to make people better at asking for, and providing, meaningful feedback

Feedback is one of those commodities that requires both a willing employee and a committed leader. Both parties need to be high in emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy. And one of the best ways of developing these qualities is through one-on-one coaching.

Coaching guru Daniel Goleman has consistently linked effective coaching with emotional intelligence and the capacity to provide meaningful, productive feedback.

“As a coach, you know that the feedback from people who know you well lets you recognize gaps between your self-awareness and others’ perceptions of you,” Goleman said in an essay for the International Coach Federation. “This lets you spotlight your limitations, as well as strengths, and gives you potential targets for strengthening your emotional intelligence.”

Coaching is the missing ingredient in a truly constructive feedback culture. Leaders who have been coached know themselves better, and are willing and able to provide meaningful feedback to the people they lead. And those employees are better able to process and apply feedback when they have worked on their own emotional intelligence with a coach.

Quality, meaningful feedback can boost engagement, performance and employee retention. And that raises an important question:

Given the close association between feedback and those major drivers of business success, it makes you wonder why more organizations don’t take the time to coach managers and employees to give and receive feedback more constructively?

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