“How do I get my team to listen to my feedback?” is probably the most common question managers ask during coaching workshops. However, there is a problem with that question: It is predicated on a few flawed notions:

Flawed Notion #1

The first flaw is the belief that if the manager can just find some “nice” way to give feedback, his or her team members will listen. We have all been exposed to the “feedback sandwich” (sandwich one piece of negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback), and most people can see it coming from a mile away. Not only does it not work, but it is also disingenuous and insulting. Throw it away as you would a tuna fish sandwich that has been sitting in the sun too long. There’s a better way.

Flawed Notion #2

The second flaw is the idea that the feedback the manager wants to give is the only feedback that matters. As the manager, of course, your feedback and insights are important. But there is another person whose feedback matters every bit as much as yours — maybe even more — and that’s the person you are coaching.

Flawed Notion #3

The third flaw is that there is a misguided belief that managers have to give feedback because there is no way their team members could know what their gaps might be. This belief is played out in coaching scenarios frequently, and it looks like this:

A well-intentioned manager sits down with her team member and starts to share her feedback about what could have gone better in a sales or service interaction. The team member listens and then says, “Yeah, I know, I know.” The manager then assumes that the person is being defensive. What if, however, the team member isn’t being defensive but, rather, is just expressing a truth — that he knows that there was a gap?

During a coaching interaction that had started down this path, both the manager and the rep were frustrated — and understandably so. The coach asked the rep, “It sounds like you’ve put some thought into this, and that’s great. Would you mind sharing with me your thoughts?” The rep went on to tell us exactly where the gap was and what he could do about it in the future. The manager was floored by the self-awareness of the rep — but she shouldn’t have been. Many people have good levels of self-awareness that their managers can tap into.

Flawed Notion #4

The fourth and final flaw is that managers believe that if they give well-meaning advice from a desire to help that the person receiving the advice, he or she will embrace it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Often, when we give unsolicited advice, the person receives it as criticism — and when people feel criticized, they shut down.

The vast majority of managers want to help their teams be their best. By improving their coaching skills, they can become more effective and have fewer headaches. Reducing the headaches begins with setting aside the four flawed notions outlined above. The next step? Stay tuned for my next article to find out.