Volume 4, Issue 5

May 2015

Blue Ridge Conference

Save the Date:

October 14 - 16, 2015

Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

Black Mountain, NC


In my last newsletter (March 2014), I provided a simple coaching model that all leaders can use to help their team members reach their full potential. A 2008 American Management Association study found that coaching is associated with higher performance in organizations; more and more, providing effective feedback is recognized as one of the key competencies in developing future leaders. Effective feedback creates an environment that results in employee growth, purposeful action and sustained improvement. It is used to improve performance, to develop people, to help with career advancement, to support learning and to create a learning culture.

Effective feedback consists of 3 components:

1. Clarify expectations

The first component is to ensure that your team member is clear on the expectations whether it is a responsibility, a project or a task. There are 5 steps to effectively achieve this:

  1. Describe the desired performance – In a clear and straightforward manner, explain what needs to be accomplished.
  2. Explain the importance – Point out how the task or project will benefit your company, your team and/or the customer. This provides perspective and motivation.
  3. Clarify the standards – Ensure that the team member knows the particulars of the project of task such as deadlines, budgets, special requirements, etc.
  4. Check for understanding – Often time, this step is overlooked; it is important make sure that the team member clearly understands what is being asked.
  5. Express confidence and support – As a last step, tell the person that you have confidence in his or her successful completion of the task or project and let them know you are available if help is needed.

2. Monitor progress

Depending on the team member’s expertise for the task at hand and his/her confidence, you will need to adjust how often and how closely you monitor progress. In any case, this is an important component of effective feedback and there are three things you want to keep in mind when monitoring progress:

  1. Ask questions – Regularly ask the team member how things are going; another way to get to this information is to ask them if he/she is having difficulty in any area. Ask open ended questions and assess progress based on the responses you receive.
  2. Spot check – This does not mean you should spy; in fact you shouldn’t! Consider creating mutually agreed upon milestones where you would either receive a verbal update or a written progress report. The intervals would be determined by factors such as the team member’s experience and confidence for such work, the magnitude and the importance of the work being performed.
  3. Be available – From the start, make sure people know you are available, approachable and willing to help. When people approach you, avoid being critical and provide feedback in a constructive way as described in component 3.

3. Provide feedback

Feedback is information about behavior that allows employees to know how they are doing in relation to what is expected. It is essential in maintaining desired behavior or changing below expectations behavior. Without feedback, employees will draw their own conclusions on how they are doing; these conclusions may or may not be aligned with what your observations are. Feedback is a most critical component of coaching and, regardless if it is positive or constructive, must meet the following criteria:

  • Planned – Plan what you will say and how you will say it.
  • Focused on behavior – There is no place for feedback based on personality or on physical features (“you are a lazy old man”). This type of feedback is unjustified and will only create a defensive and demeaning environment. Feedback must always be focused on behavior, given with the intention to reinforce expected behavior or correct ineffective behavior.
  • Specific – Be specific as possible so the team member knows exactly what behavior to maintain or correct. Compare the following feedback: “your weekly reports are never on time” and “you sent me your weekly reports late two times in the last three weeks”. The latter example is specific and focused on behavior.
  • Timely – Provide feedback as soon as possible so that it is meaningful and that it gives the employee with an opportunity to correct the situation, if necessary.
  • Balanced – This is important when providing constructive feedback: if you only focus on what is wrong, team members will get discouraged and/or frustrated. Highlight some of the positives (there are generally some positive behaviors that you want to reinforce), such as the desire to succeed or the effort demonstrated.
  • Private – Even when recognizing good work, it is better to provide feedback in private; if it is warranted to praise in public, make sure the employee will not be embarrassed by it.

As mentioned earlier, feedback can be positive or constructive. Effective positive feedback, while respecting the criteria above, follows two simple steps: say what you liked and then explain why.

However, constructive feedback requires additional steps:

Step 1: Say what you did not like. Don’t forget to be specific about the undesirable behavior.

Step 2: Explain why. As it is for positive feedback, it’s important to explain the impact of the less than expected behavior and why it needs to be corrected.

Step 3: Describe the desired behavior. Tell the team member what he/she should be doing instead; be specific and remain focused on behaviors.

Step 4: Ask for reactions. Engage the team member; make sure you answer his/her questions.

Step 5: End on a positive note. Express your confidence in the team member’s ability to improve and make sure they know you remain available.

Providing feedback, when done well, is a very effective way of leading team members and achieving goals. As a leader, it is a most important contribution to your team.

-Gary Droghini

The Contributor to this month's newsletter is Gary Droghini

Board Member, Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

Director of Learning and Development, COATS 


A quick reminder:
  1. Please like us on Facebook at:

©2011 / 2012 / 2013 Blue Ridge Leadership Conference. All Right Reserved.