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Stop Calling It ‘Coaching’ When All You’re Really Doing Is Scolding Your Team

Constructive criticism is perhaps the most important and least common leadership skill

Source | | Phil La Duke

In the past three months or so a small cadre of people from disparate backgrounds complained to me that they were “coached”. Not coached mind you, but full blown, angry air quotes “coached”.

The difference between being coached and “coached” is more than a minor semantic distinction; it’s the difference between being treated like a misbehaving toddler and a valued professional and team member. In the latter case, you will likely take the criticism well and earnestly work to do better, while in the former case you will like think of the person as a hypercritical ass-hat who neither likes nor values you. You may comply with their request, but you will also lose respect for them and may become passive aggressive. It’s tough to give your all for people who can do nothing but find fault and it’s easy to decide that if you’re not valued at one company you risk very little going to work for another.

Coaching is about enhancing positive performance and reducing negative performance. Professional athletic coaches seldom coach by yelling “stop losing” at their players. Good coaching involves feedback, so if you haven’t read my seminal piece on the subject, feel free to take a break and read it now Six Rules For Effective Feedback, if you have read it feel free to send a copy to whomever makes you contort your arms and fingers like a T-Rex at a surprise party (angry air quotes). 

There are in my book four basic forms of feedback easily to remembered using the acronym SCAR (Silence, Criticism, Advice, and Reinforcement). While each has an appropriate use, misusing these forms of feedback can and will lead to catastrophic and long lasting results.

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