Leadership Essentials: Giving Feedback

My 6-year-old daughter loves her tumbling class. I love it too. I generally use this time to read but several weeks ago, I looked up from my book and looked around the gym and how one of the coaches interacted with his class caught my attention.

This coach (likely in his early 20s) works with a class a of mid-level tumblers and he is fantastic! I don’t use that word lightly. He truly is great at what he does, especially at providing feedback (aka, coaching). I’ve learned a lot from his example:

  1. He’s focused. As each member of his class performs a routine, he is fully engaged in what they are doing. He’s not distracted with the other girls in his class or anything else going on in the gym.
  2. He provides immediate feedback, often during the routine itself allowing for immediate correction. At the end of the routine, he spends 30-seconds with each girl and tells them what they did well and what they can improve.
  3. He demonstrates specific movements the girls need to work on. This gives them a visual cue to think of during the next routine.
  4. He asks questions to ensure the tumblers are engaged in this process with him and that they understand his feedback.
  5. He is confident in his knowledge and ability to help these girls. He is also confident in the girls’ ability to improve and he expresses that to them.

What can you learn from this? Here are some tips:

  • Be focused. When working with your team, be focused on them entirely. Granted, you probably can’t go sit and look over the shoulder of a team member while they perform their job but you can be sure you know what’s going on with each team member. This can be done by managing by walking around and regular (I recommend weekly) 1-on-1s.
  • Give immediate feedback. If you notice something that could become an issue in your team members’ performance, address it immediately. Don’t wait until the end of the day or their next performance evaluation. Make this a habit and your team will learn to expect it from you. You will all improve as you do this. The Radical Candor podcast has some excellent episodes that can help you be better at giving feedback!
  • Ask questions. You may not understand the entire situation so ask question. Unlike the tumbling coach, you likely don’t see everything your team produces so make sure you understand their point-of-view.
    • For example, if you manage a team of IT developers and you see that a certain piece of code fails to pass tests (repeatedly), you could approach the developer and say, “I see this code didn’t pass the necessary tests the last 3 times you submitted it, what’s going on?” Maybe, you will learn that this new developer didn’t follow your company standards and you can then demonstrate where the standards are found and how to implement these in the code.
  • Be confident. Make sure you know what your are talking about and that you have the facts. Don’t assume.
    • from the example above, if you assume the developer on your team is making mistake after mistake, you may approach her with an accusation stating, “if you can’t get this code to pass test, I’m going to have to give it to someone who can.” What you may not know, though, is that the requirements have changed and the testers, is testing against the latest requirements, which hadn’t been communicated to your developer. (This is why you ask questions!)

Throughout this process, it is likely that you learn something new about the situation that will allow you to provide additional feedback. This is a coaching loop (more on that later). Keep it up and you will see great results!

2 thoughts on “Leadership Essentials: Giving Feedback

    • Thank you, Aaron! If we look around we will see leadership everywhere. I think, unfortunately, many of us choose not to see it. I hope to highlight as many of these situations as I can.

      Liked by 1 person

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