The importance of feedback in coaching

by Jake Smolarek
Game tiles put into words FEEDBACK

Ann H / Pexels

One of the most important parts of coaching is feedback. It is essential to success. But it is also challenging to get it right. The feedback that is too negative can be disheartening, frustrating, and sometimes leads to a loss of trust. But constructive feedback can provide a solid platform from which to grow and improve. Getting feedback wrong or providing no feedback can undermine someone's progression. Without feedback, how do you expect to grow?

As a coach, I both give and receive feedback on a daily basis. No one is above feedback. I provide feedback to my clients on how they are doing, and they provide me with feedback about how I can be a better coach. I know from personal experience that receiving negative feedback is hard, but it's also essential, especially if you are a life coach or working with a coach.

You might have received feedback before, or maybe you were the person giving feedback. For some people, feedback is natural and easy; for other people, it is hard to give and hard to take. But understanding why feedback is important for success, how you should give and take it, and the benefits of feedback can make a big difference.

In this guide, I've broken down everything you need to know about feedback. I've also included advice and tips on how to give feedback to another person and how to take negative feedback with a good attitude. As a coach, feedback is the bread and butter of my work. Over the years, I've found ways to deliver feedback in a gentle, encouraging way, and I know from experience that feedback is one of the most valuable tools in coaching.

Why is feedback important for life coaching?

Working as a coach or working with a lifestyle coach means your life will be full of feedback. Feedback in life coaching is essential to helping someone meet their goal. Without regular feedback, we cannot progress. Feedback provides an opportunity to reassess, get a fresh perspective, gather your thoughts, and formulate a new plan if necessary.

Feedback is also essential in coaching to help a person see where they stand. You could call it a fresh perspective or a new set of eyes. Regular communication about how someone is doing, their expectations, concerns, and progress is essential to improving. Having that continual dialogue allows both people to talk about complicated, confusing, or challenging things. It opens up possibilities in the future to succeed.

So, feedback is vital in every aspect of life. But the use of feedback in coaching is to provide a platform to move forward. We, as people, are constantly changing. This means that even if we are aiming for the same goal as before, we have changed. This means we need to reassess how we approach things, and we might need to make changes to our performance in order to achieve our goal. Feedback gives us the chance to reflect on how far we have come and make an informed plan for the next stage of the journey.

No one is perfect. And feedback is often a reminder to hustle, keep our head down, keep working, and never rest on our laurels. There is always something to improve. Receiving feedback is the perfect chance to see what else you have to work on. Having open conversations in which you can discuss issues and how they can be fixed is ideal for continuing to strive for more.

Receiving feedback also helps you aim for your next goal. If you have achieved what you set out to do, feedback can be a helpful tool to set your next target, improve your current position, and remain at the top of your game. To be successful, you can never take your eye off the ball, even when things are going well. Use feedback sessions to make sure all your previous hard work doesn't go to waste.

What are the different types of feedback?

Understanding the subtle differences between the types of feedback and what they are used for can be incredibly useful in understanding how to deliver and receive feedback. People respond differently to feedback, so as a coach, it's my job to adapt my approach based on the individual. Some people need strict, clear instructions on how to improve. Other people need a more encouraging, positive approach. If you want to get the best out of someone, you need to adapt how you deliver your feedback to suit their learning style. Knowing the three main types of feedback is key to delivering feedback effectively.

Positive feedback: Letting someone know they did well or that they are on the right track can be hugely encouraging. Positive feedback can be used to motivate someone to continue as they are or take things to the next level. Positive feedback can be used to reinforce positive actions and as a form of encouragement and motivation.

Constructive feedback: Constructive feedback is the feedback that is actionable. It is the feedback that can be used to improve a situation and reach an outcome. Constructive feedback is meant to feel encouraging and supportive rather than harmful. Constructive feedback is about engendering change. Usually, constructive feedback is positive and negative and is a balance between pointing out what is going well and what could be improved. Coaching and feedback go hand in hand with constructive criticism.

Negative feedback: Negative feedback is designed to discourage a person from a course of action. Giving someone negative feedback can be difficult, so it should be balanced with positive encouragement. Negative feedback should be used gently and as infrequently as possible to prevent someone from turning their back on you or their task. Usually, negative feedback focuses on what has gone wrong and why so you can make improvements.

Fact vs Opinion: Feedback can consist of both fact and opinion. Usually, coaching feedback is based on proven coaching techniques and previous research. This means that it has a basis in fact and has more weight, and is more persuasive. However, opinion-based feedback should not be disregarded. Life coaches have a lot of experience and can use their expertise to provide very informative advice and expert, opinion-based feedback. It doesn't matter if the feedback is based on fact or opinion; it should be seriously considered.

What are the benefits of getting feedback?

Feedback is almost always collaborative. As we've discussed, it's an excellent opportunity to build a solid platform from which you can confidently move towards your goal. But feedback also has great personal benefits. Expert feedback can also be used to develop and inform personal decisions and other individual issues.

For example, listening to feedback from a life coach can make you more receptive to other people's opinions. You will find yourself taking on comments from everyone in your life, from your business partner to your romantic partner. Being open to criticism and feedback will significantly impact your life than just your work with a life coach.

In addition, coaching and feedback can help you become a better critical thinker. As you open up to new perspectives and opinions, you'll find yourself with an open mind and able to think rationally and critically as you face further problems.

As well as improved critical thinking and openness, you'll also find that by receiving feedback, you'll find you are more approachable—people who can accept criticism, generally welcome feedback in other aspects of their life.

You may also find that receiving feedback helps you improve your self-esteem. Hearing what you have done well and where you can improve can help you gain confidence and self-worth. You will be able to accurately assess and appreciate your own skills meaning you can understand your own worth and talents.

By receiving feedback, you will also be able to better appreciate how to help and encourage others. Sometimes, negative feedback can be challenging to accept, which means you will be more empathetic when giving advice or criticism to others. In leadership positions, this can make you an inspiring and encouraging leader who raises up others and is capable of helping others.

How to give good feedback

Two women discussing something

mentatdgt / Pexels

You might think that giving feedback is easy; you just say what you think. But often, that isn't the case. When you give feedback, you need to provide it in a way that is received. Feedback is about communication, and you need to ensure the other person is receptive to your words. So, if you are wondering how to give negative feedback without being mean, read on for my top tips!

  • Allow Questions: Before giving feedback, ask questions to ascertain how they feel they have done. Ask if they want to raise any issues. You might find they agree with some of your feedback and want advice. You might also learn that they are overwhelmed, and therefore you give less feedback than you had intended. If you understand how they feel about the situation, you can adapt your feedback and approach to better suit them.
  • Keep it Regular: If you only provide feedback on the odd occasion, it can feel overwhelming. It's much more effective to have a continuous stream of dialogue that allows you to raise issues quickly before becoming a huge problem. It's also less overwhelming to get feedback in small amounts rather than all at once. They will be able to focus on one thing at a time instead of having to change lots of things together.
  • Ask don't Tell: When it comes to reacting to the feedback and looking for a way forward, don't tell someone the answer. Let them think about what they could change and talk with them to help them find the best solution. Not only will they find a solution that works for them personally, but they will also be open to receiving more feedback. It's you and them against the problem, not you against them.
  • How not Why: If you give negative or constructive feedback, try to move the conversation to focus on how things could be improved rather than why. Discussing how something can be improved leads to a focus on the situation rather than personal issues. This helps keep the conversation productive rather than focusing on personal flaws and mistakes. How we can move forward is much more effective than this is why you were wrong.
  • Give and Take: It might sound backward, but one of the best ways to give feedback is to receive it. If someone struggles to take feedback on board because they take the comments personally, allow them the opportunity to feedback to you. If you take feedback in a good way, it sets an example for them and will let them feel more comfortable receiving something they may perceive as unfavourable.

How to receive feedback well

There is actually a wrong way to receive feedback and a proper way to receive feedback. If you are wondering how to receive feedback well, read on for some tips. The most important thing to remember is that feedback is designed to help you improve. Even if it feels a little bit harsh, you should keep in mind that it's designed to help.

  • Actually listen: When you listen to people giving you feedback, don't listen, so you have something to say back; listen to understand what they are saying. Don't interrupt and really try to hear what you are being told. It isn't always easy, but you need to truly understand the feedback, even if you choose to ignore it.
  • Ask questions: If you are unsure of what is being said or want further advice or clarification on moving forward, don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll get a better understanding of how you can improve and progress. You'll also show the other person that you are actively engaging and interested in what they have to say.
  • Take your time: If you have received feedback that needs a response, you can always take your time in deciding your next step. Ask for a day or a week to think and reflect on the feedback you have been given. Use the feedback to inform our next choice and make sure you are confident moving forward. You don't have to respond to feedback immediately.
  • Ask for it: Don't wait until someone comes to you and says, "I have some feedback." Ask them how you are doing, catch problems and issues before it's too late. Seek out feedback when you feel you can handle it and want to tackle a new problem. If you are ready for feedback and willing to improve, you'll be much more prepared to receive feedback, even if it is negative.
  • Keep it in perspective: Getting negative feedback isn't the end of the world. It can feel very harsh or unnecessarily critical when someone points out something you did wrong or could improve. But they are only trying to help. Before you take it personally or get angry or upset, take a deep breath and try to gain some perspective. This is about getting better, and feedback is always good, even if it can feel bad.

When is feedback necessary?

Feedback should be an open and ongoing process. To be honest, the bottom line is that feedback is always necessary. Even when something is going well and you are on track for success, feedback is crucial.

Receiving feedback when everything is going well means you will be able to make sure you are still on track. You might even be able to aim a little higher or adjust your goal. You can make minor tweaks and improvements to ensure you meet your target early or go above and beyond.

Of course, If things aren't going to plan, the earlier you can get feedback, the better. This is why you should try to encourage open and honest feedback sessions as often as possible. If it is challenging to schedule formal feedback and review sessions, try to maintain an open dialogue with the opportunity to drop in feedback at any time.

Formal feedback meetings can feel overwhelming, and they discourage people from bringing up issues as soon as possible. You should foster an atmosphere in which feedback is welcomed at all times. This means you can catch problems and adapt quickly without waiting until the next official feedback meeting. It is also much easier to deal with feedback and changes a little at a time rather than dealing with multiple issues at once.

How to get comfortable with feedback

Like with many things in life, whether you are giving or receiving feedback, practice makes perfect. To begin with, it may feel unnatural to sit and listen to someone points out your flaws, errors, and mistakes. It may also be equally uncomfortable to listen to someone praising you. But over time, continuous feedback can be a handy tool.

Feedback should be based on fact and draw on experience rather than having a foundation in personal opinion. This means that you should be objective when giving and receiving feedback and always remember the end goal. The purpose of feedback is to improve, to get better, and to reach a final goal.

With feedback as a valuable tool to help build a strong plan, your chance of succeeding increases. So, even if feedback feels uncomfortable, it's worth getting used to it. Feedback could be what changes your life.

About the Author

Jake Smolarek

Life and Business Coach & Entrepreneur

For over 10 years I have been helping people achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals faster and easier than they've ever imagined.

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