The Difference between Coaching and Feedback

Coaching vs. Feedback

Perhaps this is a matter of semantics; but in my leadership consulting, I help managers identify the following nuances between coaching and feedback.

In the following discussion, ‘feedback’ refers chiefly to corrective or “negative” feedback. Appreciative or “positive” feedback in the form of honest praises, approvals, and compliments are just as essential as corrective feedback. As I’ve written in previous articles, great managers communicate corrective feedback and appreciative feedback distinctly instead of interspersing them in the form of “feedback sandwiches.”

Differences between Coaching and Feedback

  • Coaching is preparative. Feedback is corrective.
  • Coaching focuses on possibilities. Feedback focuses on adjustment.
  • Coaching is about future behavior. Feedback is about past (and current) behavior.
  • Coaching is inquiry-oriented. Feedback is scrutiny-oriented.
  • Coaching stems from developmental needs. Feedback stems from judgmental needs.
  • Coaching is about assisting employees reach their goals for the future. Feedback is about helping employees understand what prevents them from reaching their current goals.
  • Coaching is about advocating optimal performance. Feedback is about reinforcing appropriate behavior.
  • Coaching is more about helping employees grow. Feedback is more about helping employees not fail. (Both coaching and feedback are about helping employees succeed.)
  • Coaching guides employees in the direction that suits them best. Feedback ensures that employees uphold espoused values and meet expectations.


  1. says

    Is Feedback really always critical? I think you offer feedback in a non-critical or threatening manner and then it becomes a coaching moment. Thoughts?

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