CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 83, 13th December 2004


  1. Editorial: Getting ready for next year
  2. Coaching notes: The truth about feedback

1.     Editorial: Getting ready for next year

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultantOur readers in the southern hemisphere are preparing for their annual holiday and many of us in the north are also expecting a short break before the new year. New Year is a time for making resolutions. I thought it would be useful to set you thinking about what you would like to achieve next year so that, when the time comes, your subconscious has done a lot of the preparation.

I have been picking up messages this year about how visualisation and goal setting can be explained by quantum theory, and I have just been introduced to a book that seeks to explain the relationship. It is certainly a challenge, with its concept that we live in an infinite number of realities. However, there is plenty of evidence that applying the practical approach really does work, whatever the theory. It is an easy read and I recommend Success Engineering by Phil Gosling. Indeed, I have bought a special journal in order to act on some of its recommendations.

If you have any doubt about things being the result of a personal visualisation, you should come to Dubai. Just twenty or so years ago it was a small port and fishing town on a large patch of sand. Now it is a major regional centre. Wherever I look from my hotel there are either skyscrapers or cranes. The rate of growth is phenomenal, as is the creativity. Things did not happen here. They were made to happen – a real example of leadership. It is not just buildings. In spite of the number of large hotels, there is often a shortage of rooms, because so many people want to come here for business, conferences, exhibitions and holidays.

Here is a summary of the approach to goal setting taken in Success Engineering: -

  1. Write out your goals
  2. Every morning read them out to yourself and visualise them. Feel the buzz.
  3. Take in an encouraging chapter from one of the many self development books or audio tapes/CDs available.
  4. At lunchtime, let yourself go in the "power" state of deep subconscious conditioning.
  5. Just before retiring, read out your goals and visualise them.

There are many books available to give similar advice. But there is much more to Success Engineering, that you will only be able sample if you read it!

Setting goals is fine, but perhaps you do not really know what you want to do with your life. Now is a good season to work through Andrew Halfacre's 7 Ways to Figure out What You Want?

Andrew is one of our senior associates and I am delighted to include his article on feedback in our coaching tips section, below.

When you know what you want and are ready to do something practical, then you need to set a goal.

Kathleen Alexander of Clever FoxHere is an extract from Clever News, edited by Kathleen Alexander in Australia. Setting well formed outcomes is one of the most valuable processes in coaching so I am happy to publish a slightly different version from the one I use.

Well formed outcomes sets the scene for the game plan and allows you to map out your steps whilst considering different angles. It precedes other techniques of goal setting such as writing your goals down and visualising.

The seven conditions of a well formed outcome are:

  1. Describe what you want in positive terms. For example, if one of your goals is to “lose 10 lbs”, change it to “attain and maintain weight at XXX lbs" (specify your weight at 10lbs less than current).
  2. Is it achievable? Ask yourself if any other human has decreased their weight by 10 lbs. If yes, you meet this criteria.
  3. What sensory based evidence will you accept as having reached your target? In other words, what might you see, feel, touch or hear that act as proof. Taking the weight example, this could mean seeing yourself fit into your favourite outfit, looking at your muscle definition in the mirror, imagining how energetic you would feel or hearing yourself being congratulated by friends on your achievement.
  4. Is getting the outcome within your control? Getting yourself to the gym to work out is within your control, but getting your partner to do the same isn’t. You can encourage them to do so, give them information about the gym, but whether or not they decide to go to the gym is not within your control.
  5. Can you accept the cost and consequences of achieving your outcome? Here, consider time, money, the environment and people around you who may be affected.
  6. Do you have all the resources needed? This includes your internal and external resources such as skills, beliefs, time, money, expertise, etc. If you don’t have the necessary resources, how can you get them?
  7. If you could have the outcome now, would you take it?

Once you have met the above conditions, by all means use other goal setting techniques such as writing down your goals, creating a more detailed action plan and engaging all your senses to imagine what it would be like to achieve your outcome.

I hope the above suggestions will help you achieve compelling outcomes in 2005.

This is the last CorporateCoach this year, so may I take this opportunity to wish all our readers – and contributors – an enjoyable holiday season.



We sailed past 7,900 subscribers to CorporateCoach last week. It would be great to reach 8,000 by 31 December. How many people could you forward this issue and recommend that they subscribe? Let's see what we can achieve together. And if you would like to contribute an article, that would be great too.

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2.     Coaching notes: The truth about feedback
Andrew Halfacre

Andrew Halfacre - senior associate of Brefi Group and training director of Consultant Training LimitedThe holidays are approaching and my children are already wired. They can hardly sit still with excitement. I expect that up and down the land, in homes like mine, parents are already giving their little ones plenty of "feedback".

Speaking of which, I recently heard a cracking example which I think is about typical of the natural feedback model many of us use by reflex. I was helping my daughter get changed after her swimming lesson and not too far away was a mother giving her son some feedback on his performance.

Given that the lad was about eight and had just spent an hour swimming up and down more times than I could, I thought he'd done pretty well but as I listened, she berated him at length about his performance; criticising this and that. As he began, understandably, to get upset and well up she turned to the other parents, and with a sort of shared, knowing smile, said to us generally "See, he's not very good at taking criticism either" turning to her son she said to him "You'll have to get used to criticism if you want to be any good".

Resisting the urge to shake her by the throat, it did occur to me that, one day, that little boy will be consulting an executive coach about his inability to give (and receive) good feedback.

My stream of future clients is assured as long as parents like that are around!

We're not very good at feedback, are we? We tend to give feedback by reflex, using a feedback model given to us by the significant adults in our lives.

In fact, I find that managers tend to fall into three groups when giving feedback.

Mr Critical

Never happy, always finding something to complain about, hard on people. Largely believes that you have to keep on top of people to get results.

Mr Nice

The other extreme, wants to be mates with his people, likes a laugh, we're all one happy family. Oddly, his feedback is likely to be vague and useless.

Mr No Feedback

Never says much, expects people to get on with it. Has plenty of feedback for his team but only ever tells other people, never them. May believe that giving people a salary is feedback enough.

The feedback sandwich

Alternatively, some managers have heard of the feedback sandwich, you know – say something nice, deliver criticism, say something nice. I've even heard praise described as the bread with criticism described as the meat in the sandwich – just think what that implies; that the negative part of the feedback is the most important part!! What a limiting belief.

Here's the truth about the feedback sandwich - IT DOESN'T WORK!

At least it doesn't work the way most people use it. It doesn't work for two reasons:

  1. Managers usually pay scant attention to the positive feedback and;
  2. Because of this most people can hear the "but" coming a mile off and treat anything else with cynicism.

In fact, I've seen one article recently that seriously advocated not using the feedback sandwich in case you said so many positive things that the person did not listen to the important part of the feedback.

Again, think what that implies, that a change in performance is what feedback is for AND that the negative part is the most important. What a limiting belief.

So, how can you give feedback that works?

First, we need to consider...

Some home truths about feedback

People are, most of the time, hungry for more love, affection, warmth and respect, particularly at work.

– sincere appreciation is like an oasis in the desert, like giving water to a thirsty traveller.

Feedback starts with you

– your success or not with feedback depends on how well you learn to give feedback to yourself. You'll tend to treat others pretty much the way you treat yourself and so the place to start is with the way you talk to yourself, about yourself and about your own results. Learning to give yourself helpful constructive feedback is the single most important change you can make to how you manage others.

– a journal, a learning log or an action learning set can all be very helpful here in beginning the process of giving yourself structured feedback.

Consider your role in their results

– before launching into feedback, consider the role that you might have played in creating their results. What could you do differently that would make it easier for them to get the result you want to see?

Say it the way you want it

– remember, your brain can't "don't" something or "not" something, it can only do positive things. When someone says to you "don't think of a purple frog!" what hops into your mind? With feedback, you need to say it the way you want it – "think of a red frog".

Feedback really is a gift

– it's an old cliché but giving people feedback, of the sort described below, really is a gift. And being a gift giver may have powerful affect on your career.

How to use the feedback sandwich properly

Having said all that, the feedback sandwich (used properly) remains one of the most powerful ways to rapidly improve someone's performance. Here's the detail on how to use it with the biggest impact:

1. Give feedback within five minutes

People find it easier to both confirm good performance and change current performance while events are recent. All of the steps below work extra well when you use them within five minutes of the behaviour you want to comment on.

As above, remember that you need to give yourself quick feedback as well.

2. Start with three or four specific behaviours to praise, appreciate or draw attention to.

Be specific about their behaviour.

"I thought the way you explained that by using your story was really helpful"

"I noticed you listening carefully to that customer explaining her problem and I was impressed, well done."

This is the most important part of the feedback because you are drawing attention to stuff that you want them to do more of. Make it pleasurable for them to do more of it.

3. Highlight a single specific behaviour that would make it even better next time.

"You could be even better next time if you remembered to write down their phone number and repeat it back to them as they told you."

4. Finish with an overall positive comment

This time make the comment about their identity, NOT their behaviour.

"You're a good salesman and I really value having you on my team"

5. Start with yourself

Notice that this way of using the feedback sandwich is about hunting for positive behaviours to reinforce and keeping the focus firmly on future performance.

This avoids the kind of "post-mortem feedback" that bedevils so many performance reviews.

As I said before, the way to get really good at giving feedback is to practice and the best person to start practising on is yourself. Practise using this feedback model with your own performance by taking just 10 minutes at the start of the day to reflect, journal, meditate or just think about how you did in the last 24hrs.

Then you can practise on your boss, children, partner or the man in the newsagent!

Andrew Halfacre is a senior associate with Brefi Group
and Training Director of
Consultant Training Limited.
This article is extracted from his newsletter
Tips from the Lighthouse.


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