Friday, December 21, 2012

Five Tips for Effective Feedback

Good coaching offers good feedback
Guest Post fron Liza Provenzano

As an HR professional, I’ve been engaged in many conversations in the workplace about the importance of feedback and what effective feedback looks like. However, one of the best examples of effective feedback that I’d like to share took place behind the bench at a hockey game. I have been playing women’s recreational hockey for about five years. While I grew up,  girls hockey didn’t exist. But, as an adult, I found an opportunity to take up the sport and get engaged in a game that had always intrigued me. I was a little nervous to start because I didn’t know the game that well but I could skate and I was eager.

The first season was fun but at times, I was frustrated because I wasn’t sure what I should be doing to improve. We didn’t have a coach behind the bench and unless a supportive teammate gave a suggestion here or there, I was left to figure it out myself. In our second season, we had a coach. He knew hockey and he loved teaching the game. As soon as I would complete a shift and come off the ice, he would give me feedback.  When I would step back on the ice for my next shift one minute later, I would feel more confident and knowledgeable about how to play this exciting sport.

If we look at this simple example, we can see the characteristics of great feedback.
  • It is immediate. The coach’s feedback was much more salient when it was provided right after my shift as opposed to after the game and I could accurately recall exactly what play he would be talking about.
  • It is specific.      He would refer to one play and be able to tell me exactly what I did, or didn’t do, that helped or hurt my performance.
  • It is a source of recognition. He pointed out positive performance and I knew what to continue doing.
  • It is constructive. In those shifts where I made a mistake, he didn’t sugar coat his comments but instead, outlined other options that I had in how could have handled the play and explained how those other options may resulted in better outcomes.
  • It is quick. Hockey is a fast game and I wasn’t the only one that he was talking to behind that bench. He had to get to the point. It was a classic example of how “less is more”.
Finally, one of the most important aspects of effective feedback is that it is most powerful when the relationship between the person giving it, and the person receiving it, is based on trust and respect. In that hockey season, I knew that the coach was working hard to make us a better team.  In that climate, the recipient can be confident that the feedback is being given in the spirit of genuine support and care which will only serve to deepen the commitment one has to perform and give it their best.

Liza Provenzano is the Founder and CEO of SparkHR, a human resources consulting company that helps small and medium sized businesses achieve their goals by building productive, capable and engaged teams. To learn more about SparkHR, visit our website at www.sparkhr.ca

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