Leaders, here’s a piece of advice for coaching, mentoring and giving feedback: don’t generalize, be very specific!
When you generalize, it causes frustration. It glosses over and makes things binary. So much in life is nuanced in the middle with much more detail and granularity than that. When you give generalized feedback, I think it can create disengagement because people don’t think you really understand what you are talking about or you are holding something back afraid to tell the unvarnished truth.
One of my pet peeves regarding coaching is when people say, “just keep working hard.” What does that mean? That’s a general cop-out from someone who doesn’t want to give you feedback. Work hard on what? What specifically needs to improve, and what’s going well that you can continue to build on? I think it’s great when you give very specific feedback that points people in the right direction.
The same is true in the workplace; you don’t just say “keep at it” or “keep grinding” or “keep working hard.” That’s not helpful coaching at all. If you need to tell someone to keep working hard, you have the wrong person on your team. They’ll bring hard work to the table, and you need to provide them with specific feedback.
- Where do they need to improve?
- What do they need to improve?
- How can you help them?
- What roadblocks can you remove to help them?
- Where are they having success?
- Where do they need support?
Generalizing can frustrate people because they don’t get the true coaching they need to improve. General feedback also lacks credibility. When you generalize, and people know what you’re trying to say and know that you’re off, you lose credibility right away. People will tune out, and no matter what the rest of your message says, you’ve lost them. Remember that!