Sunday, October 5, 2014

Choosing the correct type of feedback can improve your coaching

Helping people to grow and improve is very satisfying. Hence constructive and re-enforcing feedback seems natural to me and I use it often. However there is a continuum of behaviour that prompts me to give feedback and unfortunately it should not always result in re-enforcing feedback. The feedback approach coaches’ use should change to suit the type of behavior we are providing feedback about. Choosing the correct approach is crucial in effecting the outcome that will help the individual, team and yourself.

observed behaviour continuum feedback type style behavior



Adjusting feedback

Use Adjusting or Corrective feedback when someone is doing something that they must stop, or must change. I.e. Their behaviour is destructive, career limiting, negatively affecting others.

  • Do prepare (gather specific examples of the behaviour, talk to peers, draft what you will say, practice what you will say)
  • Do follow a structure and be directive in your delivery. Here is a template that you can use: it has been observed here, here and here, that you are doing X which is causing Y, this behaviour needs to stop, because it is causing Z. If the situation comes up again please do A instead.
  • Do give this feedback is private.
  • Do not give this feedback immediately after the event. Make sure you wait until everything has calmed down, so that it can be talked about in a rationale and deliberate manner.
  • Do not combine with other types of feedback, as it sends mixed messages.



Constructive feedback


Constructive or developmental feedback should be used when helping some to do better, or to help them see opportunities that they missed. 

This is covered in combination with Re-enforcing in my article Coaching Scrum Masters. The feedback sandwich puts two slices of re-enforcing feedback around a sliver of Constructive feedback. I have found this approach to be highly effective and have received plenty of positive feedback about it.

Re-enforcing / Encouraging feedback

Use it to praise people for effective behaviour and encourage them to do more of it, and perhaps do it even better next time.


  • Can be given in public (as it publicly promoting the behaviour that is appropriate), however be aware of who you are giving it to, some people will be embarrassed through to down-right upset at public acknowledgement. 
  • This type of feedback should be approached as discussion with the recipient. You are not telling them to repeat their behaviour you are merely discussing the benefits that you noticed and that you would like to see more of that behaviour.