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Feedback in Coaching

All coaches reading this will probably agree that the following outline, provided by Jonathan Moss, is a useful and accurate snapshot of the essential elements of coaching:

Collaboration – Both parties have to identify the goal and come up with a plan together. Coming up with an idea along with the input of both parties gains the necessary buy-in to make the plan successful.

Commitment – A commitment must be made by both parties to the plan and the behaviours that need to be exhibited to make the plan successful.

Consistency – The behaviours from the plan have to be put into action every day until they become a habit.

Follow-Up – Sitting down regularly to discuss progress is an essential part of coaching. Coaches must highlight the progress that is being made. People tend to focus on how far they have to go, instead of how far they have come. This type of thinking is why people frequently give up.

Accountability– Everyone must be held accountable―the coach for coaching consistently and the individual for exhibiting consistently the behaviours needed to reach the goal.

At the end of each day ask, “Are you better today, than you were yesterday?” This creates an open dialogue to start the feedback conversation.

Feedback is a critical part of the coaching process―the client needs it to gauge where he or she has been and where he or she is going, and the coach needs it to ensure that he or she is guiding the client correctly, as well as to improve his or her coaching skills.

Michael Seitchik offers a good comparison between feedback and coaching itself, which allows us to see how the latter supports and works with the former:


  • Can increase self-awareness
  • Focused on past behaviour
  • Reactive to a situation
  • Usually one-way communication to receiver
  • Telling or advice oriented
  • Goal is to get receiver to act a certain way
  • Focused on data and information
  • Telling
  • Controlled by giver
  • Describes consequences
  • Requires minimal training and skill
  • Something managers must do
  • Does not impact performance


  • Increases likelihood of change
  • Focused on future behaviour
  • Proactive to obtain a developmental goal
  • Only effective as two-way dialogue
  • Inquiry-oriented
  • Goal is to get recipient to explore options
  • Concentrate on unlocking potential
  • Engaging
  • Controlled by receiver
  • Explores alternatives
  • Requires training and specialised skills
  • Something direct reports must want
  • Can impact performance

Coach trainer Carol Wilson talks about the Coaching Feedback Model, which is about asking clients to give themselves feedback instead of, as, or before you give yours. This model is based on the framework of the traditional GROW coaching model. Here are the types of questions that you may wish to ask to encourage feedback:

  • What did you notice about your performance?
  • What did you like about what you did?
  • What I liked was…
  • If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
  • What will it be like when you can do that?
  • May I make a suggestion?
  • What will you do about it in the future?

Ensure that you ask people to give themselves some positive feedback so that they recognise their strengths. This process will help clients see the substance of the work they are doing and how much they have already done―not just how much they have yet to do.

When it comes time to give your feedback, honesty and authenticity are, of course, the most critical touchstones; but accentuating the positive is still to be privileged, as it makes people more receptive to hearing everything you have to say. Carol Wilson offers these guidelines on giving different kinds of feedback:

Give positive feedback

  • as often as deserved
  • be authentic
  • present it in public, if the recipient is not shy and if it will not belittle the contribution of other members of the team
  • tell the boss

Give all feedback 

  • immediately
  • directly to the person
  • be specific

Give learning feedback

  • only when helpful
  • for learning purposes, not to blame the recipient for something
  • in private
  • emphasise the positive

When receiving feedback

  • thank the giver
  • take ownership
  • do NOT give feedback on feedback

Feedback is one of the most useful tools a good coach can have. Get the most out of it.