You might already be familiar with the COIN acronym, which provides an easy-to-remember, four-step process to plan and structure constructive feedback conversations:
CONNECTION > OBSERVATION > IMPACT > NEXT STEPS
In the heat of the moment, difficult conversations can easily become confrontational and end up hurting the relationship. COIN is therefore a golden formula if you sometimes struggle to express assertiveness in a way that is both fair, firm and clear. And let’s be honest, this probably applies to most of us!
It is important to remember that whenever you get upset about something, it is often because an important value of yours has been violated. In this post, I will therefore show you how you can enhance the traditional COIN formula by identifying and naming this particular value.
It is easier to unite around values, so make sure you elevate the conversation to include a reflection on the values you both agree on. This will also allow you to become more creative when searching for possible collaborative solutions.
Here is an example to illustrate the Value-COIN process:
Connect to the other person’s goals and interests by showing that you understand their situation or by acknowledging something that is important to them.
Example: “I know you are working very hard and that one of your personal goals is to successfully complete this project so that you can increase your chances of getting promoted.”
Share specific, accurate, and quick factual observations about their behaviour in a neutral way and without passing any judgment.
Example: “Recently, I have noticed that you always come late to our weekly coordination meetings…”
Clarify the impact that their actions had on you, the team, or the business in order to inspire empathy. Use “I” statements, and focus on feelings, not facts and logic. This is also where you should reflect on which important value you feel has been disregarded and make sure you highlight the same in your conversation.
Example: “When you don’t show up on time, I get the feeling you don’t think our meetings are important, or that you don’t respect me and my time.”
4. NEXT STEPS
Specify why honouring this value is important for the relationship and tell them what you need from them. Suggest or ask for their ideas on what could/should be done differently in the future. It is important to remain encouraging and to focus on finding a collaborative solution.
Example: “This is a good opportunity to reflect on what values we would like to foster within the team. I’m sure we both agree that mutual respect is vital for us to work well together and successfully complete this project on time. I would therefore like us to commit to respecting each other’s time and role in this project by being on time for our next meetings, and to inform each other up front if we expect to be delayed. Is that OK with you?
Remember that feedback is something best delivered in private and in a timely fashion, and that the main intention should be to help the other person grow. People are less defensive and more receptive when they understand that you are aware of their challenges, interested in their development, and appreciative of their efforts. As a result, difficult conversations are much easier to navigate if you have invested time in building trust beforehand
Finally, I encourage you to also use the same process for positive feedback conversations. Giving praise in a profound and meaningful way can be challenging too. The COIN framework can therefore help you find the right words. And make sure you mention the positive value modelled by the other person’s behaviour.