As an executive coach, I’ve always encouraged my clients to seek out feedback. I often gather it on their behalf. But when it came to my own feedback, something felt lacking. Sure, I sought it out, but not in a structured way. To support my own development as a coach, I decided to start gathering comprehensive feedback from my clients on my own performance. With their permission, I started sharing it publicly.
What feedback do I ask for?
Halfway through coaching engagements I ask for Mid-Engagement Feedback. I don’t share this feedback publicly as it’s purpose is to understand my overall performance and areas for development with that particular client, and course correct as required. I ask:
- What has been useful and beneficial to you, so far?
- What could I do that would make your sessions even more useful?
- Is there anything I should stop doing or change in our sessions?
- Is there anything that we have not yet covered in our sessions that you would really like to?
This is the form that I use for End-of-Engagement Feedback. I ask a similar set of questions, plus a few more, and share the final feedback publicly:
- How have our coaching sessions been useful and beneficial to you?
- What could I have done, and do more of in the future, that would make our sessions even more useful?
- Is there anything I should stop doing or change in sessions?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you recommend me to someone you know (Net Promoter Score)?
- Would you be willing to write a testimonial? (with sharing permissions)
Why is feedback so important for coaches?
Feedback is the lifeblood of change in a complex world. Without a constant diet of data and perspectives from those around them, people are trapped inside their own perspective and the quirks of their own, beautifully human brains. The ability to give and receive feedback, and to organise work and conversations so that feedback is richly available, is a core change capability.Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders, by Jennifer Garvey Berger
In her previous book, Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, Jennifer emphasises that a coach’s growth edge matters, too. She asks, what do we need to know about our own development, as coaches, to make the most off our opportunity to support and help our clients? One of her recommendations for continually developing as a coach is to put yourself at risk for growth:
Coaches are constantly supporting the growth and development of the clients; it’s one of our central jobs. We ask our clients to try new things, to question their beliefs and assumptions, to see a bigger picture with a different set of possibilities. Part of being a developmentally oriented coach is remembering to do all those things for ourselves, to question our own assumptions, to put treasured ideas at risk.
Asking for feedback was a first iteration of finding my growth edge. Beyond just practicing what I preach, it allows me to genuinely develop as a coach. Putting my reputation at risk by sharing my feedback publicly feels like the next leap.
If I help my clients, they will reward me with positive feedback. If I don’t do my best work, they won’t. This way I have skin in the game; incentivising me to provide the best possible coaching experience for my clients.
It’s easy to get a great testimonial from a favourite client, but how much is really known about what goes on inside a coaching engagement? I think the answer to that question is ‘not much’. Beyond continuing to find my own growth edge, I hope that giving clients the opportunity to share their feedback provides potential clients, and anyone else who is interested, a better understanding of how coaching works and what they might get out of it.
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