Finding: Novices and Experts Want Different Kinds of Feedback

businessman and his son pulled his hands in the studioMost coaching programs make a passing reference to the fact that coachees require different kinds of feedback depending on their level of development.

This makes intuitive sense.

You wouldn’t give a beginner the same advice as someone who is an expert. However, that insight focuses mostly on the content of the feedback to be provided. In other words, whereas a novice requires repetition and reminders of the basics, that kind of input would be useless to someone who has more experience.

But what about the way in which the feedback is provided? That much harder question has rarely been addressed by more than anecdotes and stories. A recent paper by Stacey Finkelstein and Ayelet Fishbach sheds some light on this question with some interesting findings.

As they put it, “novices sought and responded to positive feedback, and experts sought and responded to negative feedback.” The reasons were simple – novices were more interested in increasing their motivation to improve, while experts were more interested in making tangible progress.

What does this mean for you as a time adviser?

1. You must do an accurate assessment.
It’s a big mistake to assume that one size coaching fits all, and you must perform a sound diagnosis to determine whether your coachee is a novice or expert. Without this knowledge, you are more likely to make mistakes.

2. You must vary your approach.
As you work with a client, it makes sense to start out giving lots of positive feedback and then change your advice over time to provide more negative feedback. Changing the blend of feedback might come intuitively to some coaches, but all would benefit from making this shift consciously.

I recommend my book and the forms it includes as a tested method for completing your diagnoses. You can also help your clients compare their skills against others who have also done this evaluation – it can reveal immediate opportunities for improvement and habit patterns that are working against their peace of mind.