Why My Feedback May Not Be Worthwhile (part two)

On Monday, I wrote about Bill Hader’s insight about identifying what’s wrong versus knowing how to fix it. You can read part one here.

This is part two.

It’s important for me to say that as a coach, sometimes my suggestions on how to fix things are wrong. The point of coaching is that the client has the answers, and we help them figure out what they are. This is especially true with leadership coaching, but surprisingly, it’s also often true when we are coaching something more skills-based, like public speaking.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I’m working with someone who has to give a big report to the board of directors. We’re practicing, and I notice that my client isn’t really “landing” his thoughts. Instead, he’s connecting them all into one long run-on sentence. It’s hard to tell what his primary points are and what’s really relevant.

We stop, and I say, “Hey, your thoughts are all running together, and you’re not making eye contact.” At this point, I have some options. I could ask, “What’s your intention? What are you hoping we will feel, think, or do?” These questions serve to remind my client that he’s there to connect and engage, not just to rattle off his talking points. Or I might say, “I think you should practice your eye contact. Take one sentence or idea to a part of the audience, then shift.”

Both of these could work. I have certainly used both. But the first choice, asking a question about what outcome the client is hoping to achieve, allows them to come up with the solution themselves. They are more likely to believe in the solution and to remember it when it matters. It’s a deep fix, not a surface one.

Most adults want a solution they feel connected and committed to, ideally, one they came up with themselves. It may feel more efficient to be very directive and prescriptive, but the solution that sticks is the one they create.

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