Does My Bum Look Big In This…? Perhaps It’s The COIN In My Pocket!

Photo by André François McKenzie on Unsplash

We have all done it right? Rather than give an honest reply to the question “does my bum look big in this?” We duck the issue. We say “yes you look lovely” – a blatant lie, “yes it’s fine”- sitting on the fence or “what about those trousers you wore last week?” – diplomatic and positive but it doesn’t answer the question!

My executive coaching clients often ask what’s the best way of giving feedback as there are many conflicting approaches. Some people recommend delivering good news with bad, others say you should just tell them straight “don’t hold back just tell them like it is”.

Research shows that positivity is one of the most important factors in the development of productive, sustainable relationships and high performing teams. The research by Losanda and Heaphy found that the ratio between positive and negative interactions determines the level of performance of the team.

A high performing team’s positive to negative ratio is 5:1, an averagely  performing team 2:1 and a poor performing team 0.36:1. Therefore, any negative feedback where a behavioural shift is required needs to be given in a climate of positivity so that it’s heard and acted upon.

This doesn’t mean giving five positive things just before you say one negative thing. It means that in your workplace you create a climate that is positive. Asking people: how are you? what you do at the weekend? how are the family? or whether they want a cup of tea all build positivity.

In my experience the best way to give feedback is to connect to your heart, ensure that feedback is being given against a backdrop of positivity and be authentic.

One of the easiest ways I have found to help me give feedback comes as a handy mnemonic – COIN

1) First you open the discussion with the CONTEXT of the problem. For example “yesterday, you did not deliver project X on time”.

2) Next state factually what you OBSERVE. For example “I’ve observed that you have missed a number of deadlines recently”. It’s important to be factual and to minimise emotive or descriptive language. You are aiming to keep this neutral.

3) Then address the IMPACT of the issues. For example “when you missed this deadline, it meant that I had to step in and a number of other people in the team have not been able to continue with the work on this project …”

At this moment it’s good to get them to share what they see as the issue. An open ended question like “what’s been going on?” Should do it. There may be many reasons why this situation has occurred perhaps none of them in their control and this will allow for you to step into the other person’s shoes and see the situation from their side.

4) When its time to draw the situation to a close you need to be clear about the NEXT steps. What have you agreed? What is the new time line? When will you want updating? etc.

One extra tip, I often recommend that you CHECK to see what they heard and if they have the same understanding as you. It’s not uncommon for people to stop listening when they hear something they perceive negatively.

To put it simply, the brain is designed to remember negative things more easily than positive ones. Neuroscience research shows that when the limbic system becomes overloaded with negative information it takes control of the brain. Effectively people switch off. They either mentally flee or fight.

What’s your preference when it comes to giving feedback? What about how you like to receive it? Leave me you thoughts and comments on giving or receiving difficult feedback.

If you are avoiding having a difficult conversation or need help with planning one, email me and book a coaching session to get some practice.