Business Coaching: Developing Trust and Honest Appraisal through Feedback
Business has never been so publicly exposed as it is today. This is an important factor for business coaches and mentors. The opportunity to give real-time customer feedback on social media is ever present. Leaders sometimes need support through the coaching and mentoring process to adapt to that reality because failing to adapt can seriously compromise business and personal success.
Be careful with your words. It really isn’t appropriate to give lots of feedback to a client on what you’ve observed about him and his organization in the first session. Doing so can create a degree of defensiveness at a time when you’re looking to build trust.
Business is highly personal; the founder, CEO, leaders, board members, and loyal employees are emotionally and financially invested in it. So give the feedback in a coaching style to help him see an alternative view.
The difference is between
This business plan is just awful. Little wonder no one beyond your immediate team understands what they’re supposed to be doing.
I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on why your operations team, the finance group, and the sales team are finding it difficult to articulate how their month-to-month activities relate to the business plan?
If you’re plugging away and he still doesn’t get it, try giving an example of something similar from your own experience and ask the client how your story may relate to his current situation. Alternatively, you can give him carefully worded feedback after asking, “Can I offer you some feedback?”
Encouraging clients to be open to regular feedback
The leadership of key issues becomes an organizational story that can make or break a business. The business response to negative feedback can wipe percentage points off share value overnight. Leaders who disregard critique and view feedback as personal criticism may need to ask themselves whether they’re sitting in the right seat.
Helping business leaders to welcome the feedback, to genuinely thank stakeholders for their comments, and to act on the ones that point to missteps is a real differentiator in business. It requires a real ability to help your client cut through the assumptions, distortions, and generalizations; to depersonalize and consider what message or story he wants to give out in response.
Using feedback to feed forward in business coaching
A world of difference exists between a leader who primarily focuses on the company’s real-time information and one who focuses on historical analysis.
In some sectors, such as the leisure and entertainment industry, people’s bonuses are linked to how many positive Twitter and Facebook hits they get for their business. Whole departments are dedicated to providing a customer response to issues raised in social media in real time. This data provides a wealth of potential stories. It can be helpful for leaders to ask what is coming through in real time and experience the customer journey as it plays out rather than in retrospect. With careful handling, a business can take corrective action and mitigate risk of adverse publicity quite quickly.
In general, a focus on real-time stakeholder experience indicates a desire to find quick solutions and mitigate current risk, and a retrospective look may suggest a focus on identifying how to avoid similar instances in the future. Great leaders pay attention to both.
Helping a leader develop the future story he tells by paying attention to his vision and the threads of previous stories rather than simply reacting to current feedback is an important role in coaching and mentoring. Sometimes a coach or mentor is the only objective observer who can help a business leader keep it real and maintain perspective. Supporting a client to consider how he wants his response to be experienced by others and holding the space for him in that place until he can do that may be in order.