Coaching - The Power of Feedback


I would like to share with you one of the powerful mechanisms by which coaching can bring about the very changes that we believe to be within our reach but that we just can’t get to.


It doesn’t matter whether it is personal; losing weight, exercising more, drinking less or professional; implementing plans, measuring performance, delegating more. It is difficult to do by ourselves, despite best intentions, we keep on doing what we always do, even when we know it isn’t the right choice for us.


Imagine driving, happily obeying the speed limit of 60 miles an hour.  We see the “30mph Ahead” warning and may choose to slow down slightly at that point, but chances are we will continue at our speed or something close to it. Why?  1. The new speed limit remains ahead, so it isn’t an instruction but a warning at this point, and 2. because it is the easier choice.  Path of least resistance. Inertia.


On entering the new speed limit, we may slow down, but probably not adhere fully to the new speed limit.  Again why?  Are we anarchists?  Do we not understand the dangers?


Unlikely to be either.  The truth is, unless we can see a compulsive reason to slow down we remain within our habitual or previous action state.  The law of inertia in action (I know – contradiction).  


But this is the Key!  We let habitual triggers overcome rational ones.  Not one of us good people in the cold light of day could make a sensible and comfortable excuse for driving too fast if we were called to do so. And yet too often we do.   


So let’s introduce the mechanism.  The Feedback Loop.   The digital radar speed indicator. We see the “Your Speed  38mph” sign flash up before us and instinctively we slow down.  So why does that happen when the static 30mph sign doesn’t induce that response?


The answer is simple.  We are being given feedback on our performance.  And it isn’t good.  Our Target is to be travelling at 30mph or less.  We are judged to have missed that target. We don’t like to miss our targets.  So we slow down.  We make a behavioural change. 


It is an Action, Information, Reaction feedback loop.  Our action is measured (38mph in this case), the information is conveyed (in bright orange digits – and flashing to boot!) and our behaviour change is prompted.


The feedback loop is based on evidence (the radar reading), relevance (missing your expected performance targets), consequence (injury, fine, points, ego….) and action (we slow down).


The difference in behaviour-change chances for the two systems (a static sign and a radar sign) is the feedback loop


So what is the relevance to coaching?  Well, much of coaching is about the feedback loop.  The evidence comes from the person being coached and their wider environment.  Let’s imagine this was you.  Pick a current frustration in that you have wanted to make a behavioural change but haven’t been above to. Perhaps it was to more consciously recognise the contributions and successes of others who work with you, but despite you best intentions, you just have not managed to bring that change in yourself about.

It may well be that you recognise the benefits; A Happier, recognised, rewarded workforce is a happier, more productive, successful workforce.  But it hasn’t happened.


Coaching is about inspiration, implementation, resourcing and accountability.  Coaching as a tool to secure behavioural changes also incorporates the feedback loop.  Being held to account is an important part of the process.  You and the coach agreed the laws, and now the coach is flashing “38mph” at you.  And guess what.  You want to please the coach, you want to hit your targets, you want to make the behavioural change and there is someone there to assess with you whether that change has been made or not.


And that is powerful stuff.


And when the coach is sitting in the passenger seat next to you… doubly so.

To your success