A Coaching Power Tool Created by Florence Adu
(Life Coach, GHANA)
This power tool is an exploration of the concepts of Feedback and Criticism.
I chose these two concepts as an important Power Tool to explore because understanding these are foundations for my journey to becoming a Coach. Feedback is a core competency. These are concepts that can cause conflicting feelings thus presented as an interesting assignment.
Definitions of Feedback and Criticism
Feedback and criticism are different but are often applied interchangeably without thought or understanding. Both feedback and criticism are on a continuum. How do we navigate between them? What are their uses and how do they serve both coach and client. Either a coach or client at any point can become a giver or a receiver of feedback or criticism. Can all feedback lead to improvement, action or learning? Does criticism or judgement have any role in coaching?
Definition of criticism
The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes. “Oxford Dictionary’
I would add criticism is judgemental. Criticism can also be disguised as feedback when directed at something that cannot be changed. Out of one’s control, and unlikely to offer the opportunity for improvement or any learning. The purpose, of criticism, is not for the benefit of the receiver, but it more about the giver.
Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography,
Oscar Wilde said because it tells you more about the psychology of the critic than the people he or she criticises.
Criticism is potentially damaging and hurtful, to the receiver. We protect ourselves from criticism; we protect our ego and personalities, our constructs of self, from attack. Criticism has no role and benefit for coaches. However, a client may have a tendency to be critical.
Criticism can be coercive and controlling. The focus is on what is wrong. Coaches are working with clients on how to improve. A highly critical client may need a shift in perspective to move forward.
Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement. ‘Oxford Dictionary’
Feedback is described as neutral. Feedback should be neutral observations without judgement. Feedback can affect behavioural and learning; its most significant achievement is when it contributes to behavioural change that can bring about real lasting change for a client.
Giving feedback as a coach requires skilled delivery, the words, the tone, body language, all this takes practice. Giving feedback requires coaches to be courageous. Personal experience as a peer client, when the word feedback is used, resistance builds. I have never found a way in coaching to say I do not want feedback, but a careful examination of my body language will show my resistance building and physical bracing. Feedback having been used as disguised criticism and judgement outside of the safe space of coaching triggers these reactions and questions. What do you have to say? Do I want it or am I ready to hear this? Do I trust you?
Receiving feedback can impact a client on a physical, and emotional level.
Feedback may stir up memories and emotions, hurt and pain, activating the same protection we use for criticism. This armour and shield can be utilised with feedback, blocking learning.
The delivery, the practice and language need continual refining as we gain trust and learn how our clients respond. We watch our Why’s useful this question maybe it should be used cautiously. “The delivery can be softened but not the integrity of objective feedback. This gives the client the opportunity to learn and transform which crucial to the coaching relationship. The responsibility is with the coach to provide observations and reflections that, with the skill and training gives a 360-degree view. The client has a window into the unseen, unsaid and unheard. Coaching requires feedback, and this is where courage comes from. As coaches, we need to be courageous. This means to be able to say what we see and observe without the filters of our fears and needs and judgements. Research shows feeling uncomfortable and challenged we find growth and learning. This can apply for both the coach and the client.
Brene Brown, research states that “vulnerability is at the centre of feedback” elaborating in her book Daring Greatly. 2017
Practical Application and Resources
This power tool evolved from the ICA modules. This following modules and resources provided support to the effect of Criticism /Judgment and Feedback have on the individual and our coaching practice.
- Effective feedback,
- Active listening,
- Releasing judgement
Brene Brown’s checklist –Daring Greatly 2017
This a simple summary of key considerations supported by research
The checklist is a great foundation document; although I remove the reference to I and you. for the purpose of coaching.
- I'm ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
- I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
- I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
- I want to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
- I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
- I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming you.
- I’m willing to own my part.
- I can genuinely thank you for your efforts rather than criticize you for your failings.
- I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to your growth and opportunity.
- I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.
To conclude, criticism and judgement are associated with hurt, pain, are about personality or characteristic. Feedback is behaviour learning as we shut down and rather go into protection mode avoidance. Feedback for it not to be criticism has to be approached without judgement and should be neutral. No positive or negative; an objective reflection. It must involve the courage to give or receive it. To be genuinely neutral it needs to be intentional. To provide an insight that supports ” awareness, acceptance and action”.
ICA MODULES 2017
Brene Brown: Daring Greatly 2017
Steven Stosny, PhD. What’s wrong with criticism: Psychology Today 2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC