The Trap of Non-Specific Feedback As a Replacement For Coaching...

If you look around long enough in your life - especially if you have kids - you'll see a pattern emerge.

People are trying to coach others as much as they can, but they default to non-specific feedback that is unhelpful at best and counter-productive at worst.

Want some examples?  Sweet!  Here you go:

"Try Harder"

"You Just Need To Work More"

"Focus"

"Be Patient"

"Give Them What They Want"

Read that list.  Odds are that you've used most, if not all, of these in the course of your day to day life coaching someone - a friend, a kid, a parent, a team member at work, and yes - someone you manage.

Those non-specific words feel like coaching, but they're not. They're proxies for you actually taking the time to figure out why someone is failing (big and small), as well as analyzing how they could help themselves.

Most coaching tools engage the person who needs coaching to ask them what they can do differently.  That's a start for getting to specifics that might make a difference.

But in the corporate world as well as non-work life, it's easy to be prescriptive and tell the person what to do in order to get better results.

That's failure #1 if you're responsible for coaching someone.  You didn't engage them, you told them what to do based on what you see.

Failure #2? Using any of the phrases above or anything similar.

You gotta really try harder.  Focus on it.  Be the ball, Danny.

Non-descriptive feedback sucks.  Stop telling people to focus and try hard. 

Lead them in a conversation about what they can do (specifics!) to get better results in any circumstance/scenario you're coaching them in.


Here's The Video I Send Team Members When I Think People Are Stupid...

If there's anything I've tried to live up to in my professional life, it's the need to communicate things to the lowest common denominator in any organization.  After all, life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop to look around and consider whether all the people you are communicating to understand what you're saying, you're destined for failure.

So we (you and me) work to communicate to that lowest common denominator.  But sometimes you find yourself putting out a training guide on how to mute a call on the iPhone - because someone told you that was needed.

I've had that type of moment in the last month.  It was surreal, and I was part of putting out a guide so remedial that I could hear this Talking Heads song playing in the background.  

How did I get here?  The days go by...

Do some people need a guide for how to mute calls on an iPhone? (not the real situation, but work with me...)

No. No they don't.  We create these types of guides 10% of the time because people aren't intelligent enough to figure out what's in front of them.  The other 90% of the time?  We create these guides in response to people not using a technology/process because they're too lazy. 

So of course - we MUST create a training guide to take that excuse off the table.  

Then they don't use the tech/process moving forward and the managers in question never address it in performance.  Because you know, that's hard.

When all this goes down, I have a simple video I send the people I care about who are impacted by doing the aforementioned work that will be ignored.  It's called "Spelling Bee" from a comedian named Brian Regan (rare clean comedian) and the set is Regan making fun of how dumb he was in school.  Play the video below (email subscribers click through for video) to hear about his challenges in Spelling Bees and Science Fairs.  It's gold.

Soon you'll be sharing this with your own team and saying "IT'S A CUP...OF...DIRT.  I CALL IT CUP OF DIRT"....

Enjoy. 


CAPITALIST DEFINITIONS: "Renegade Demo"

From a meeting with a client last week:

Renegade Demo (ˈrenəˌɡād/ˈdemō) - The time when you walk by an office or your cube as a leader in your company and realized your growth has outpaced your ability to properly train new hires at your company, especially those charged with evangelizing your product.

In use: "Damn, it happened again.  I popped into a call the new guy Bill was having with a prospect and his positioning of what we do was all ####ed up. It was another renegade demo. He has no clue and it's probably not his fault. We've got to get our arms around this quick."

There are worse things than growth - like going out of business.  But most companies who go through a growth spurt experience an inflection point when renegade demos are alive and well.  It doesn't have to be a sales position - it can be anyone who interfaces with the customer or prospects. What you used to communicate through small office conversations and personal onboarding is now left unsaid/undone.  You've reached the point in your growth where you can no longer do things the way you did when you were a team of <insert FTE count here> people, and as a result, there's a gap in knowledge and ability to pitch.

Enter the Renegade Demo.

The solution? Stop what you're doing and figure out how you're going to institutionalize the knowledge in your head via an increased commitment to positioning, documentation and yes, training.  You probably need to block out a couple of days this week and get your game together.

You know - like the grown up companies and leaders do.