Performance Coaching: Part 3

In this final blog on Performance Coaching, we will continue to review the Performance Coaching Model introduced in our last two blogs, specifically looking at feedback.

Five Steps for a Performance Coach - Image of an extended handPerformance Coaching is an ongoing process designed to help the Person Being Coached gain greater competence and overcome barriers to improving performance. Our earlier blogs discussed the importance of:

  • Observing and Creating Rapport
  • Listening
  • Using Questions Effectively

Performance Coach Feedback:

Central to the Performance Coaching Process is giving feedback. When done correctly, feedback is a valuable tool to help the PBC improve performance. If done poorly, it can be de-motivating, and in some cases, lower the PBC’s self-confidence.

When the Performance Coach can use effective questions in giving feedback, the PBC is compelled to think and get involved. The following is an example of question-based feedback:

Performance Coach to the PBC: “What is the essential purpose of your report?” “To what extent do you think this draft achieves that”? “What are the other points you feel need to be emphasized?” “Who do you see as the target reader?” etc.

The PBC is required to formulate his/her thoughts before offering responses. This type of question-based feedback helps the PBC evaluate their own work and become self-reliant. The PBC owns the performance as well as the assessment of it.

There are two types of feedback: evaluative and reinforcing. Evaluative Feedback focuses on the past and is designed to assess the PBC’s performance, such as in a formal performance management process.

Reinforcing Feedback on the other hand, focuses on the future and is designed to help the PBC raise performance or prepare for the next level of effort. For our purposes, we will limit the discussion to reinforcing feedback.

Reinforcing Feedback constitutes crediting and constructive feedback.

  1. Crediting Feedback: When the Performance Coach wants to maintain or enhance the PBC’s performance or ideas.
  2. Constructive Feedback: When the Performance Coach wants to change performance and/or ideas of the PBC that are not acceptable.

Crediting Feedback

Crediting is the skill of giving recognition to your PBC when the Performance Coach wants to maintain or enhance good performance. Effective credits are more than a pat on the back or a vague statement such as, “Good job.” Effective Crediting Feedback provides information that helps the PBC maintain adequate or superior performance and motivates them to meet or exceed standards. Crediting can be spoken or written. An effective credit can be planned or delivered spontaneously when the Performance Coach observes good performance. Remember, the Performance Coach credits when they want to see more of this type of behavior and the behavior has no element that requires change (see constructive feedback for changing behavior below).

There are three types of situations in which the Performance Coach can help maintain or improve the PBC’s level of performance. When the PBC:

  1. Exceeds standards
  2. Consistently meets standards
  3. Meets standards not usually met

Four Elements of an Effective Credit

  1. General Reference: It’s a good communication practice by the Performance Coach to let the PBC know the topic you want to discuss before you get into the specifics and details. A general reference prepares the PBC by providing context for what the Performance Coach is about to say. “Bill, I want you to know how useful last week’s safety report was.”
  2. Specific Examples: The Performance Coach should mention the specific examples of the behavior or activities that made the PBC’s performance worth crediting. Specific examples make the credit believable and gives the PBC useful information about the behavior or activities the Performance Coach values. “In addition to reporting the week’s accidents, you noted safety hazards and suggested some ways to prevent accidents.”
  3. Personal Qualities: By recognizing personal qualities and individual values that contributed to the successful performance, the Performance Coach encourages the PBC to exhibit those qualities in the future. “Because you took the initiative……”
  4. Resulting Benefits: The Performance Coach can both inform and motivate by letting the PBC know how their performance has benefited the business unit, the organization, the customer, the team, or themselves. This enables the PBC to see the results of their efforts and provides information about outcomes that are valued and will be rewarded. “……we may be able to cut insurance costs and definitely head off future accidents.”

Performance Coach Constructive Feedback

Crediting Feedback is not appropriate when the PBC’s work or suggestion is not acceptable, in other words, the performance or suggestion is substandard, misdirected or contains serious flaws. As a Performance Coach, you want to change this using constructive feedback.

The key to making sure the feedback is constructive is to use an itemized response. After confirming understanding (see Listening from Performance Coaching Part 2) of the PBC’s work or suggestion, the Performance Coach itemizes what they liked and didn’t like, or the merits of the performance along with the drawbacks and concerns. By specifying merits first, the Performance Coach shows that they have listened or observed what was said or done. This also makes it easier for the PBC to hear and accept the Performance Coach’s concerns.

For Merits:

  • “What I like about your plan is.…..”
  • “The good things about what you did are……”
  • “I particularly liked……”
  • “That would help because……”

For Concern:

  • “What concerns me is…….”
  • “I’m worried about these things.…..”
  • “Let’s see if we can overcome the issues around……”

Since the intent is to improve the PBC’s performance or suggestion, the Performance Coach must go on to identify ways to retain merits and eliminate the concerns. The Performance Coach does this by inviting and/or making suggestions, and by making sure the PBC responds to those suggestions.

1. Give an itemized response:

  • Specify the merits
  • Specify the concerns

2. Identify ways to retain merits and eliminate concerns:

  • Invite/make suggestions
  • Give/invite reactions

3. Summarize suggestions/steps agreed to.

Performance Coach:

“I like the idea of redesigning this form to make it smaller and easier to handle. I have some concerns, however, about eliminating production information on the form. Is there a way that we can leave the production information on the form and still keep it in the smaller format?”


“Sure, we could……”

Remember these Feedback Issues:

  • It is timely
  • It’s focused on performance, behavior and its consequences
  • Its motivated by a sincere desire to help
  • It is not imposed
  • The Performance Coach giving the feedback has earned the right (i.e. is credible)

Handling Challenges

Handling Challenges is one of the final but ultimately one of the most important skills of Performance Coaching. Dialogue cannot begin until mutual purpose exists. Without common objectives, there is no reason to converse. Without mutual purpose, the chances for productive dialogue is slim. That’s why mutual purpose is the entrance condition to handling difficult conversations and challenges.

Commit to Seek Mutual Purpose:

  • Point out that you are at cross-purposes
  • Commit to search for a desired outcome that will benefit both parties


“It appears we’re at an impasse. I’d like to see if we can come up with some shared goals.”

Reaching Agreement

The purpose of this final Performance Coaching skill is to convert discussion into action. Effective Performance Coaches do not impose anything; rather, activate the will of the PBC to make the final decisions and take ownership of their actions.

The following are some of the questions that the Performance Coach and the PBC will explore in reaching agreement:

  • What are you going to do?
  • When are you going to do it?
  • Will this action meet your goal?
  • What obstacles might you meet along the way?
  • What support do you need?

Performance Coaching requires a safe and comfortable environment. To be a successful Performance Coach, you will need to observe and create rapport with your PBC; listen effectively; use purposeful questions; give reinforcing feedback; handle challenges as they arise; and reach agreement in order for the PBC to meet and exceed their performance goals.

For more information on how FKA can customize a Performance Coaching program for you, contact us at 1-800-FKA-5585.

FKA President
Michael Nolan