Prepare to step into a coaching role and switch from just telling to asking

Close up of baffled man and dollar signsThere is always likely to be some resistance to top-down solutions no matter how well-intentioned – and this is definitively one of the limitations of the STAR model. The approach of the STAR is essentially one of telling and this may have a negative impact on the engagement and potential creativity of the person receiving the feedback. Applying the model simply as written also leaves no space for the person being given the feedback to come up with their own suggestions. The result is to close the door to the exploration and integration of any more creative options that, after discussion and consideration, might lead to an even better outcome.

We encourage you to make the switch from the traditional way of giving feedback to a process that permits you to step into a coaching role, using questions to nudge the person to whom you are giving feedback towards their own solutions and multiple options for moving forward. This means retaining the first phase of the traditional STAR model for feedback and then diverging to allow active participation in the process from both people.

Here is an outline of the kind of conversation this would entail:

STATE THE FACTS: objectively and non–judgementally, describe the Situation, the Task, the Action and the Result (impact).

DEFINE A (NEW) MUTUALLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME: discuss and agree any essential revisions to the previously achieved Result.

Sample coaching questions:

“What would have been / be a better outcome?”

“What is it that you / we would like to achieve now?”


ASK QUESTIONS: with curiosity and genuine interest in the answers from the other person, and referring to the past Action (or Behaviours), ask for suggestions about what could be done differently in the future and which would lead to a different Result (Impact).

Sample coaching questions:

“With the benefit of hindsight, what could you have done differently?”

“If the same situation reoccurs, what could you do differently?”


GENERATE MULTIPLE OPTIONS: ask the person to whom you have been giving feedback what else might work and lead to the mutually accepted or agreed outcome; make your own suggestions.

Sample coaching questions:

“What else could you have done / could you do to achieve the desired result?”

“What else?”


EXPLORE AND EVALUATE THE OPTIONS: together, consider the impact of each option both on the outcome and on all those who might be affected.

Sample coaching questions:

 “How would that help us to achieve what we want to achieve?”

“If we do X, what is the impact?”


SELECT AND DECIDE: eliminate the least acceptable options and narrow down the choice to the option which offers the best chance of achieving the defined mutually acceptable outcome.

Sample coaching questions:

 “Which options do you think would work best?”

“Which option will you go for?”


Of course, some people receiving feedback may not be used to this approach and they may even feel a bit threatened by it. After all, they are now actively expected to make a contribution and not just wait for others to tell them what to do. Over time though, using this approach and seeing feedback as an opportunity to ask rather than tell is more likely to encourage bigger thinking in others. It will also have a positive impact on their engagement, commitment and motivation and enable them to become more secure in their sense of ownership about any actions that are agreed.


Adapted from “Coaching for Innovation” (2014, Palgrave McMillan) by Cristina Bianchi and Maureen Steele. Explore