Should feedback only be delivered to the individual by those trained in feedback techniques such as a trained coach? (Part 9 of 10)

9. Should feedback only be delivered to the individual by those trained in feedback techniques such as a trained coach?

The debate here is that best practice states that 360° feedback sessions should always be run by a trained coach, however many organisations do not have the resources to provide this service, despite wanting to get the most out of their investment in the 360° feedback process. So is it always necessary to use a trained coach to deliver feedback?

Receiving performance feedback can be difficult for anyone and no matter how prepared an individual may feel most will still run through the typical cycle of rejection and non-acceptance before they emerge onto acceptance of feedback content. The area of non-acceptance can be quite emotionally difficult and if not dealt with effectively may impact on self-esteem, engagement, performance, morale and team work, especially if feedback has highlighted a lot of development areas.

A „novice‟ feedback provider or the employer themselves may not have the experience to effectively move an individual through this phase onto acceptance.

The impact of an experienced coach may also be greater as the individual themselves will have a greater „trust‟ in their input and may be more likely to accept feedback from an expert. Greater trust may also encourage greater openness. In additional to increased trust in the process, an individual may feel more valued by the organisation if they know their development has been invested in. The support of an experienced coach also has benefits outside of the feedback session. A study by Smither, London et al (2003) showed that managers who worked with an executive coach after having received 360 feedback were „more likely to set specific (rather than vague) goals, to solicit ideas for improvement from their supervisors, and to show greater improvement in direct report and supervisor ratings‟ compared with those that had not worked with a coach..

Despite the benefits, not all organisations use a coach to provide feedback, especially if the individual has received 360 feedback previously. Research by 3D Group showed that 57% of those surveyed provided feedback to participants electronically. It could be argued that for those with prior experience of the process, this method is beneficial as the individual is treated as an adult and given ownership of using their information in a way that benefits their own personal learning process.

In addition the use of an external coach may come with some drawbacks. For example, although they may be able to bring insights from different organisations that they have worked with, they may not have a depth of understanding of the individual‟s organisational context. There may also be a greater cost involved with an external coach.
Overall using a trained coach to provide 360° feedback received overwhelming support both in research and popular opinion. For example, 3D Group states that “coaching sessions should be mandatory for all 360 participants”. Research they have conducted also showed that 65% of organisations surveyed offered individual coaching to participants, with 33% stating that use of a coach was mandatory, especially if they were new to the 360 process.

Talent Innovations have been providing courses that can provide a „novice‟ with the skills needed to provide 360° feedback for over ten years, these have proved extremely successful; I cannot emphasise enough however the added value of an experienced executive/ career coach, especially for the cases where a lot of development points have been highlighted. Our overall view is that yes a coach can clearly add benefits but if it is a choice between implementing a 360 process with non-trained career coaches providing feedback and not implementing the 360 process, we would always advise to implement the process as it is extremely insightful and beneficial, with or without a coach.

Last part in this series of challenging common topics of 360° feedback best practice discusses whether 360° feedback reports should be provided to the individual before the feedback session?

For the full paper, download it for free here.


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