Kevin Eikenberry

This week, I had the incredible opportunity to tour one of the most productive coal mining operations in the United States. The River View Mine outside of Waverly, Ky., is also the largest mine of its type in the U.S. — bringing 62,000 tons of coal and rock out of the mine each day. I had the opportunity to go down 400 feet and see how this operation works. The tour happened because we are in conversation about how we might help this operation continue to improve the skills, confidence and results of their leaders.

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So you are a leader and a coach — and you need to give someone some feedback. Most people would focus on getting their facts together and thinking about how they are going to give feedback. That is fine preparation, but it is only half of what you should do, based on what I call the biggest secret when giving feedback.

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We as leaders make a big mistake sometimes, and when we fall prey to this mistake it spreads throughout our organization. I’m going to tell you what this mistake is, why it happens and how to fix it, in less than 400 words. Are you ready?

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Yes, there are many times when coaching needs to be a formal sit down, with clear expectations, and planning. But effective coaching can also be a clear, quick conversation that is heard, understood and acted on.

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The feedback I give you is about something you did. It isn’t about me at all, is it? Not so fast, my friend.

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I’m writing this on December 19th, and I believe the only way to prepare for your most successful next year starts now. Don’t worry — the lessons I’m suggesting will apply at any time; my point is you can’t expect a few minutes spent before the ball drops in Times Square (or you leave the office for the year) to set the start for your best year ever.

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Perhaps the most viral video on YouTube this week is a Santa Surprise put together by WestJet, a Canadian airline. I’d like to highlight a deeper and more lasting leadership lesson the video provides.

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Over the years, I’ve come to believe and have told many groups that feedback often says as much about us as it does the performance we are giving feedback about. Even if you wouldn’t go quite that far, it is safe to say that it is difficult/impossible for our feedback not to be, at least in part, about us. This fact is something we must deal with as coaches.

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I don’t often (OK, basically never) write about politics or the political system, except to look for lessons we can learn from what our leaders are doing (or not doing). That’s where this piece will end, but first, a bit of a rant. Why can’t our Congress and our president get along? I mean, we have serious issues facing us as a nation and they just keep kicking issues further out on the calendar like a little boy kicks a dented can down the sidewalk.

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Last week, I wrote about a dialogue disaster, and this week I want to talk more about dialogue because it is such an important way to communicate with others.

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