Real-Time Feedback as a Coaching Strategy: The Pros & Cons

In a recent study, only 14 percent of employees strongly agreed that performance reviews motivate them to improve. Though annual performance reviews can offer good insight, these meetings often occur too late to inspire any behavioral improvements. This study also revealed that 79 percent of millennials would like their managers to be coaches or mentors.

In response to this trend, more businesses are incorporating real-time feedback in their performance-management strategy.

Coupling real-time feedback with annual reviews can help your leaders take on a coaching mentality and establish a team that thrives on continuous learning and development.

What Is Real-Time Feedback?

Real-time feedback is a performance-management method that keeps team members up to date on their productivity. Instead of waiting for annual reviews to occur, leaders provide smaller, on-the-spot coaching sessions to their team members.

For example, a leader reviewing a team member’s monthly report during a one-on-one meeting is an opportunity for real-time feedback. It’s smaller, day-to-day guidance that helps bolster employees’ growth.

Real-time feedback has grown in importance as business and organizational leaders have recognized that annual or even quarterly performance reviews are not sufficient to support employee growth and development.

Instead, formal reviews must be coupled with shorter and regular feedback sessions. This approach minimizes delayed responses and provides opportunities for leaders to reward and correct behavior sooner rather than later.

At CMOE, one of our consistent teachings has been the importance of using techniques like express coaching for situations where feedback is important but time is limited.

What Is Not Real-Time Feedback?

To gain a comprehensive understanding of what real-time feedback is, let’s discuss the things it is not.

Real-time feedback is not:

  • Feedback given when stress levels are high. Though real-time feedback is quick and ongoing, it is not rushed or lackluster. Coaches gather information and settle their emotions before providing feedback.
  • A one-way conversation. One person does not control the meeting, nor do they foster an authoritative atmosphere. Both parties—coaches and team members—pursue mutual understanding and work together toward a solution.
  • Prioritizing feedback over positive relationships. A leader should not provide feedback without also building a positive, supportive relationship with their team members. Real-time feedback should be a constructive yet helpful practice that not only enhances one’s performance but also builds the mentor-mentee relationship.

The Pros of Real-Time Feedback

There are six pros to providing team members with real-time feedback:

  • Corrects mistakes in a timely manner. Real-time feedback helps avoid delay, apathy, and stagnation. By the time annual reviews occur, it may be too late to address employee issues. What happened back in Q1 may not be applicable during Q4 annual reviews. Not to mention, team members will likely not have the will to invest their time and effort on the issue because the incident occurred so long ago.
  • Ensures people are rewarded. Real-time feedback does not always have to be corrective; it can include reinforcing a job well done or effective actions taken. Providing immediate rewards helps boost workplace morale and the overall employee experience..
  • Focuses on action and performance. Real-time feedback is based on specific action and performance; it is not based on generalizations or vague remembrances that are often discussed during annual performance reviews. Real-time feedback offers the specificity necessary to help team members consistently learn and improve.
  • Accelerates formal performance reviews. Team members are proactively coached, so information in their scheduled performance reviews will not be a surprise. Both the leader and team member will already have insightful perspectives on where the employee stands. This opens up more time and opportunity to discuss essential and “big picture” matters related to their development.
  • Fuels the growth of leadership teams. Since real-time feedback requires timely coaching, it also offers good development opportunities for leaders. By going beyond their comfort zone of larger, annual reviews and engaging in real-time feedback, they will have a chance to hone their coaching skills and become well-rounded leaders.
  • Creates transparency and trust. Real-time feedback gives coaches a chance to offer clarity on expectations and provide guidance on projects. By having quarterly check-ins and regular one-on-one meetings, team members receive individual attention that can boost transparency and trust in the workplace.

The Cons of Real-Time Feedback

If not managed well, real-time feedback can backfire and harm the employee experience. Here are five cons of mismanaged real-time feedback:

  • Can feel authoritative and hierarchical. When not executed well, real-time feedback can feel like a one-way street. This often occurs when leaders give feedback but fail to engage in an open conversation where team members have the opportunity to express their thoughts and ask questions. Speaking solely with authority and hierarchy discourages solution-oriented discussion and a collaborative mindset.
  • Can hinder creativity. With an authoritative and hierarchical approach, real-time feedback can also hinder creativity and encourage people to become “yes men.” This may also compel individuals to maintain the status quo in fear of negative feedback, which can stifle their professional development.
  • Can feel overwhelming. As employees receive more feedback, it may be difficult for them to keep track of expectations and make any necessary adjustments to their day-to-day tasks. This feeling of overwhelm may make it difficult for them to successfully internalize the learning and development benefits real-time feedback aims to provide. To counterbalance this, limit the feedback to one or two things at a time.
  • Can get time-consuming. Since meetings with team members are much more frequent, real-time feedback can take up more of a team member’s time, making it challenging to keep up with their other tasks. These feedback sessions may also require a good deal of preparation and time from the coaches.
  • Can compel leaders to get picky. A real-time feedback mindset can drive leaders to focus on the smallest details rather than the big picture. This approach can lead to micromanagement and crushed morale. Make sure you focus your feedback in the right areas.

How Can Organizational Coaches Minimize the Cons of Real-Time Feedback?

Fortunately, there are ways leaders can mitigate the cons of real-time feedback. Here are the four key takeaways.

1. Encourage and Solicit Everyday Feedback from Team Members

As we noted earlier, real-time feedback is not a one-way street. Leaders must facilitate open and honest dialogue for both parties to reap the benefits of this performance-management method.

Be sure to allocate a few minutes during each coaching session for team members to ask questions and provide feedback. The leader can gain important insights by asking some key questions. Was the feedback provided helpful? Will the team member commit to work on the skills, behaviors, or topics discussed in the feedback session? Is there anything confusing about the feedback give? This creates an environment of openness and collaboration.

2. Make Sure Real-Time Feedback Is Positive and Corrective

Striking the right balance between positive reinforcement and corrective feedback will help leaders create a culture of coaching and feedback. This makes real-time feedback less emotional and a more productive experience. When a leader sees a team member performing well and they would like them to continue with this performance, the leaders must acknowledge and reinforce this behavior. As a leader you can reinforce the behavior on the spot, highlight specifics about their performance in a group meeting, or illuminate their actions during formal one-on-one meetings. This can improve morale, help team members feel their good actions are valued, and boost performance.

When leaders would like a team member to change their behavior and performance results, the best path is to be candid but caring. Leaders should be specific about what behavior change needs to occur and why. For example, the leader can explain how a new behavior or strategy will benefit their project and professional development.

3. Give Team Members Time to Grow and Learn

Changes will not happen overnight. Therefore, leaders must give team members the time to take action on their feedback and grow from it.

Encourage your leadership team to periodically check in on their team’s progress and ask employees if there is anything they are struggling with or need further clarification on.

The key is to support employees throughout their learning journey. Every team member is different as well, so leaders must tailor their suggestions in ways employees can easily understand and implement.

Lean on CMOE for Your Coaching Solutions

Real-time feedback takes time to master. If you’d like more guidance on how to create a feedback and coaching culture, dive into CMOE’s Coaching Skills Portfolio and unleash the untapped potential of your team members.

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About the Author

CMOE Team

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.