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Don't Mistake Feedback for Coaching

feedback isnt coaching

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Coaching Sharpens Employee Development

What skill is more important for managers to master, coaching or giving feedback? Feedback often comes as a reaction – responding to current performance, or even past performance, while coaching should be more proactive – bringing employees along and bolstering their future performance.

Feedback is fundamental

Feedback is a foundational building block of the manager-employee relationship. Providing helpful feedback–constructive and positive–is one of the most critical skills for managers to master.

Ongoing feedback helps employees measure progress toward goals and understand if they are meeting expectations. It’s also useful to provide direction, focus, and allow them to adjust performance and behaviors if necessary. Feedback can even help employees become more committed to their own work as well as the organization’s success.

Feedback can (and should) be both in-the-moment and a long-term relationship to establish and improve a trusting relationship with employees. Over time, tough feedback becomes easier to understand and discuss when direct reports know a manager has their best interests at heart and is able to point out the good the employee has done as well as the things that could be improved.

Managers who provide feedback—any feedback at all, whether positive or negativesee an increase in employee engagement.


So it’s clear that feedback is an important part of the manager-employee relationship, providing many positive outcomes for both the employee and the organization. On our blog we’ve also talked about how establishing coaching relationships with employees can increase employee engagement. Where does coaching fit into giving feedback?


Coaching is developmental

The International Coach Federation defines coaching with the following sentence: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Coaches help people improve their performance and enhance the quality of their lives. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the individual already has. One-on-one coaching is frequently used for developing a specific skill or set of skills, assimilating a new leader and team, helping a leader transition to a new role, or accelerating development in the context of a larger program.

In addition, we’ve seen benefits of encouraging managers to implement a “coach approach” with their employees. When used in this manner, coaching can be a method of examining feedback with a direct report or discussing a challenge or opportunity that has arisen. It’s a developmental experience based on good questioning and listening skills to allow employees to grow and solve their own problems.


As one of our consultants often says, coaching is a skill you can wrap around anything you do—whether that’s giving constructive feedback, discussing an employee’s career goals, or even problem-solving a tough situation. There’s no shortage of coaching scenarios for managers to take advantage of if they know where to look.

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Rachel Semple

Rachel Semple works across the FlashPoint client journey, from crafting initial proposals to developing and reviewing program deliverables.