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 easily become confrontational and end up hurting the relationship. The COIN formula is therefore especially valuable for people who struggle to set boundaries and be assertive 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 always because an important underlying value of yours has been violated. In this post, I will, therefore, show you how you can pimp up the COIN formula by identifying and naming this particular value. It is easier to unite around values, so if both parties agree on an important value that needs to be honoured in the context of the relationship or issue in question, it will greatly boost your creativity when searching for possible collaborative solutions.
Let’s illustrate the Value-COIN process with a simple example:
1. CONNECTION: 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 and get promoted.”
2. OBSERVATION: 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…”
3. IMPACT: 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 it is 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 by suggesting or asking 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: “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 inform each other up front if we expect to be delayed. Is that OK with you?
Since steps two and three in the process are slightly aggressive, all four steps must be done in order for the process to be effective. The method is not guaranteed to work in every situation; however, the chances of success are good if both parties have a vested interest in maintaining a good working relationship.
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. This framework can, therefore, be of great use to help you find the right words, especially by highlighting the important value that was honoured in an exemplary way by the other person.