Our last blog about giving positive feedback to colleagues noted that even unmitigated praise must be handled thoughtfully to assure that it’s perceived as credible and meaningful by the “coachee.” Now, the real innovative team selling dilemma: the consultative salesperson’s challenges increase dramatically when faced with discussing coachee behaviors that must change. Even so, careful structure and delivery make critical feedback work, too.
Paradoxically, virtually every business professional wants feedback on his/her performance; even (some) bad news is better than no news at all. On the other hand, everyone’s fantasy is to be told she/he is perfect— anything less invites coachee resistance.
This conundrum demands that the coach be especially adept at discussing constructive criticism: our goal is to describe the “improvement area” so clearly, so accurately, so objectively, and so reassuringly that the coachee has little if any reason or need to challenge it. If his/her response to constructive criticism is something like, “Sounds right, so what should I do about it?”— we’ve just hit the feedback jackpot!
- We’ll discuss answering that question, and other elements of a complete, soup-to-nuts coaching session, in future blogs.
Five “rules of the road” when offering feedback for improvement:
- Wherever possible, avoid giving feedback based on third-party reports; we should have observed the behavior ourselves. This eliminates “he said, she said” rebuttals from the coachee (which might even be accurate?). Can we set up a situation to personally experience reported coachee behavior?
- Only give feedback on observable actions and behaviors: things said (or not said, but should have been) and things done (or not done, but should have been). Maybe our perception of the coachee’s underlying attitudes and motivations is wrong and, ultimately, we only really care about actions and their results. Some technique here:
- Use verbatim quotes and detailed actions/events to communicate feedback— specificity and detail, not vague generalizations. Example: “Telling the client, ‘Your response is off-agenda’ was disrespectful” is better feedback than, “You were disrespectful to the client.”
- Always spell out the tangible “business consequences” that result from this kind of behavior. If we can’t do that convincingly, the behavior may not actually be a valid coaching subject— could it be a personal bias? (Example: if a behavior merely annoys us, it’s probably not coachable; if it annoys the client or our sales team, it probably is.)
- Wherever possible, lead into the improvement area with something (probably, small) that’s good about it. (An example: repeatedly missing deadlines might show that the coachee is trying to perfect his/her work.) Such mitigation makes it much easier for the coachee to acknowledge a behavior which, overall, needs to be changed.
Successful coaching based on effective feedback is an important element supporting innovative team selling. Click on the links that follow to read an introduction, Testimonials, and a Free Sample Chapter of Innovative Team Selling, or to visit the Innovative Team Selling website.