| I recently had a friend call me with this question. My friend (we’ll call her Jill) had been asked to talk with the coach to provide insight and information about the boss’s strong and weak points. Jill was a little concerned about this process. I advised Jill in the following way.
First, congratulations. Your boss is working on himself, and that’s a good thing. We all need to improve, and a coach is a good way to help us on that journey. I encouraged Jill to see it as a positive thing.
Second, ask questions. Before you talk with the coach about your boss, ask about the ground rules. What information will be shared with the boss? How many people are participating in this process? Will your information be combined with others so that you don’t risk putting yourself in a tough situation because of your honest responses? These are fair and reasonable questions. Each coach is different and you want to feel comfortable before you start baring your soul.
Third, give honest and balanced feedback. Almost everyone has positive and negative points. You may really like your boss, but you can still see areas where improvements could be made. Conversely, you may really dislike your boss, but even the worst boss usually has a positive characteristic or two that could be built on.
Fourth, after you’ve participated in the data gathering phase, be supportive of your boss’s efforts. As you notice behaviors changing, let the boss know you appreciate the effort. Positive reinforcement will go a long way toward helping your boss continue his progress. It takes effort to change behavior, and effort that goes unrewarded will not likely be sustained.
Jill felt better after our discussion. She did ask the coach about confidentiality and learned that a fairly large number of people were being polled, and her comments would not be directly attributed to her. That freed her to speak frankly.
Since the coaching has begun, Jill has noticed subtle changes. She can see that her boss is making an effort to be more approachable and interactive with the team. She’s been able to let him know she appreciates the effort. The boss’s coaching is proving to be a positive experience for the whole team.
Denise Altman is president of Altman Initiative Group, Inc., providing targeted coaching processes to bosses and employees. Contact her at 704-315-9090 or visit www.altmaninitiative.com.