Why it can be important in coaching to understand what comes first – feedback or solutions?

I recently finished reading a book about supporting families going through significant trauma and it reminded me about an approach I think is underutilised in coaching.

I find coaching to be very emotive and the book reminded me of how to think about situations that will probably generate powerful emotions and the decision to either…

  • help someone develop the tools to manage their emotions before you put powerful emotion generating feedback on the agenda.
  • put powerful emotion generating feedback on the agenda and then work with them to develop the tools to manage how they feel (or just leave it to them?).

I’m sure you can see the distinction. And also why this would be so important in a therapeutic setting where emotions can be overwhelming and learning to manage them can take time.

If you’re not a therapist this may not seem relevant but I think this plays out in many ways in everyday life.

Imagine you have some feedback for a colleague that you think will sting and you’re not sure if how they’ll respond will improve performance (increase motivation?) or make it worse (a visible lack of confidence or they hide from challenges?). Do you know how their response might be impacted by previous experiences, the beliefs they hold about themselves and their capacity to manage their emotions in a way that will positively impact the situation? If you do then feedback then tools seems appropriate. If you don’t then tools then feedback might be the better option.

This leaves us with an important question – if the performance area you want to help someone focus on is highly emotive for them (it’s their lifelong passion, being good has become part of their identity, they really need this job to pay the bills etc..) then how good are you at being able to help them manage their emotions and do you even consider their ability to do this before you drop feedback on them?

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