I’m going to stop being nice
Openness and Trust
I’ll be the first to admit – it’s hard for me to offer feedback and coaching. I try to be a “nice person,” and don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. So it really struck me when I read leadership expert Peter Bregman’s recent blog post, Don’t Be Nice, Be Helpful.
In this post, he pointed out that, at its heart, coaching and feedback is a vote of confidence, and a sign of commitment to the larger goal; it helps us uncover our blind spots, and make changes that help us realize greater success. Not sharing strengthening coaching is actually hurtful to the other person, and the organization.
“Giving people feedback is an act of trust and confidence. It shows that you believe in their ability to change. That you believe they will use the information to become better. And that you have faith in their potential. It's also a sign of commitment to the team and to the larger purpose and goals of the organization. Because, ultimately, we're all responsible for our collective success.
“Because as long as what you say comes from your care and support for the other person — not your sympathy (which feels patronizing) or your power (which feels humiliating) or your anger (which feels abusive) — choosing to offer a critical insight to another is a deeply considerate act.”
Wow. So even though it feels uncomfortable to point out people's "flaws," it's actually NOT nice to keep things to yourself. When you look at it that way, we should all be clamoring to offer and receive coaching and feedback.
So why aren't we engaging in coaching and feedback every day? Earlier this year, the Medical Center asked what barriers prevent people from offering coaching and feedback in the Your 2 Cents poll. The responses people gave were:
- The person might get mad at me/not take it well: 43%
- I don’t have enough information or experience to offer valuable coaching: 22%
- I’m not sure how to offer coaching and feedback/I’m not comfortable doing it: 20%
- It takes too much time: 15%
While the poll represents a smaller group, my guess is the responses also apply across the university.
It’s not surprising that the biggest barrier is concern that the other person will get mad or not take it well. But, if you approach coaching and feedback in a positive, helpful way, people will appreciate it. And, the more we offer each other coaching and feedback, the easier it is to give and receive. The rapport-based* coaching model is an easy, effective way to offer coaching. It works like this:
- Build rapport: Take time to create and convey respect for the person you want to coach. Also, ask yourself if you are in the right mindset to offer coaching. Building rapport ensures you have the other person's best interests at heart, and will focus on helping the other person improve.
- Ask permission: Ask if it’s a good time to receive coaching. Be respectful if the answer is no, and approach it another time. If you are turned down two or more times in a row, you may need to build more rapport with that person.
- Offer forward-focused, strengthening coaching and feedback. Don’t focus on past mistakes, or only what when wrong. Effective coaching is supportive and identifies ways to strengthen results in the future. To help focus your coaching, consider using one of these scripts:
- “What I appreciate about you is… I feel you could be even more effective/have an even greater impact if…”
- I feel supported by you when... I would feel even more supported if...".
When you use the rapport-based model, it removes the biggest barrier to coaching. It creates a positive experience because it ensures you have a strong relationship with the person, that both of you are in the right frame of mind, and focuses on success.
As you practice rapport-based coaching, think about the times you've received helpful coaching and feedback. Think about how it made you feel, and how the other person approached you. Chances are, you felt the other person cared about you and wanted to help you succeed, and you learned something that could help you achieve greater results. When you have that experience, as corny as it sounds, feedback is a gift. And we all love to give and receive gifts!
So, as Bregman eloquently points out in the headline of his blog post, I’m going to make an effort stop being nice, and start being helpful. After all, isn’t being helpful part of being nice?
*See pages 108-111 of the Human Operating System manual for more information.