Why Don’t Managers Provide Coaching and Feedback?

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There are many possible answers to this question. Generally, managers

don’t provide coaching and feedback because:

They fear or dread confronting an employee with criticism without

hurting, offending, creating defensiveness, alienating the employee,

getting into an argument, or losing control of their own emotions.

Too many of them are simply pressed into service on so many projects

that they feel they have little time to actually observe an employee’s

progress over the long haul.

They fear they will fail. True coaching and genuine, responsible feedback

are higher-level people skills, but are not taught to managers as

anything more complicated than ‘‘useful techniques.’’

True progress is gradual, and managing step-by-step employee development

requires far closer proximity—both physically and emotionally—

to workers than most management jobs permit.

Feedback in a world filled with virtual assignments, domestic and

global travel, interminable meetings, and endless client contacts simply

does not allow for the required immediacy of the effort—wait a

day to give feedback on something and the effect is lost.

They have never received skilled feedback or positive coaching

themselves, or have worked too long in a culture that doesn’t encourage

it.

Reviewing this list makes one wonder how any feedback and coaching

ever gets done, and it should raise our levels of appreciation and admiration

for the managers who somehow do make time for it in their weekly schedules.

Many managers actually believe they are providing sufficient feedback

and coaching, but if you talk to their direct reports, you hear a different

story.

Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Allied-Signal, believes that most CEOs

are unaware of the lack of feedback their direct reports are receiving. ‘‘If

you ask any CEO if their direct reports know what the CEO thinks of

them,’’ said Bossidy, ‘‘the CEO will slam the table and say, ‘Absolutely! I’m

with them all the time. I travel with them. We are always discussing their

results.’ ’’ But he added, ‘‘If you then ask the direct reports the same question,

nine out of ten will say, ‘I don’t have a clue, I haven’t had a performance

review or any feedback in the last five years.’ ’’8

In the sports world, it would be unimaginable to think of a coach not

giving feedback to a player for extended periods of time. Consider this

ridiculous scenario: A basketball coach begins the season by telling his players,

‘‘OK, here’s the deal. You’re going to go out there and play thirty

games, and at the end of the season I’ll sit down with each of you and we’ll

go over how you did and how you can get better in the future.’’ And yet,

this is exactly what is happening in untold numbers of companies, where

managers give feedback to employees once and only once each year—at

the annual formal performance appraisal meeting.