Coaching = no judgement by Paul Kaye



Paul Kaye

By Paul Kaye

PSR Contributor


Wednesday November 16th, 2016



Coaching = no judgement


Im often asked what the greatest mistake I see during concept sessions is.  The answer is judgment.  Judgement has no place in coaching.  I find it interesting how some managers wear their job title like its a badge a badge that allows them to make assumptions and judgments about those they manage.  These managers dont think twice about judging the work, intent, effort and/or performance of others.  I heard one employee recently refer to their boss as the CJO; chief judgement officer!  Thats definitely not a nickname anyone wants.

When asked why judgement has no place in coaching I like to recount a story I had a front row seat for

A manager had asked me to be in the room with them as they gave a member of their team some constructive feedback. It seemed like a simple and straight forward request. It also meant I could avoid a budget meeting so I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I sat unassumingly, and a little disengaged, on the manager’s couch as he began to speak with his employee. It took just a matter of seconds and three quick sentences before the room was charged with emotion. I was completely blindsided by what had happened. The employee’s face was red with rage, their arms flailing around in anger. The manager had, in response, leapt to his feet in an awkward attempt to assert his dominance. More awkward was the hands on hips stance the manager had settled upon. Their raised voices boomed loudly causing an echo that rippled down the hall for everyone to hear. Suddenly, that budget meeting didn’t look so bad!

What had the manager said that caused this situation to explode with emotion? It had nothing to do with the content he was attempting to share; the employee wasn’t getting fired or being told some devastating news. In fact, the manager had every right to be drawing the employee’s attention to the area of concern. The content shouldn’t have caused this kind of nuclear meltdown. So, if it wasn’t the content, what was it? Thinking about it after things had calmed down, I realized it was what the manager had said that had changed the way their message was heard.

“You aren’t as committed to your work as you used to be and you are making lots of mistakes.”

Uh-oh! That statement was dripping in judgment. Making a judgement about someone else serves only to trigger an emotional response. “Excuse me! How dare you tell me I am not as committed to my work as I once was? Who the hell do you think you are?” You, as the manager, may be right in your observation but you can’t deliver the message from a place of judgment without causing the other person to have a defensive response. Unfortunately, once the other person has moved into an emotional state your message is likely to go unheard until the emotion is dealt with. Sometimes, that is easier said than done.

For feedback to be heard it needs to be free of judgment and opinion.

Next time you are giving feedback make sure it comes from the “I” place. Never the “you” place. A “you” statement is nothing more than judgment; your judgment or opinion about the other persons work. It is not your place to be judgmental. Your role is to increase the other person’s awareness by sharing the observations you have made. When the feedback comes from the “I” place it is fact. “I feel like you aren’t as engaged with your work recently” Facts aren’t emotional. When feedback comes from the “I” place it is factual to you.


  • “I can see” — this is you making an observation
  • “I feel” — this is you telling someone what you’re feeling
  • “I would prefer” — this is you explaining what you want
  • “I would like” — this is you explaining the next steps


If you want your message to be heard, the language you choose to use during the delivery is crucial. Your language choice will help to keep emotion out of the conversation so you can focus on the content. The only way to do this is to use the word “I” and frame the feedback from your perspective.

When judgement creeps into coaching it elicits an emotional response.  Barriers come up within the coachee.  They close themselves off to their manager after all, it feels like the manager is out to get them.  Judgement feels like an accusation.  When presented with judgement we become defensive.  When we are defensive, we are not open to what might be.  Were cemented in the moment.  

Judgement leads to negative emotion and that never leads to clarity of thought.  Judgement is to coaching what kryptonite is to Superman.  


About Paul Kaye

Originally from England, Paul spent nearly a decade programming radio stations in the UK before moving to Canada in 2012.  While working for Newcap Radio, Paul programmed Classic Hits, Hot-AC and CHR formats in Vancouver & Calgary. Paul was also Newcap’s National Talent Development Director, tasked with improving performance across all content teams, overseeing syndication and leading talent acquisition. In 2016, he joined Rogers Media, as National Talent Coach and National Format Director (CHR).  Paul was somehow named International PD of the year in 2016 (vote re-count pending) and is a certified coach.  Paul lives in Toronto and can be reached at ka*******@ma**.com

Other Puget Sound Radio articles by Paul Kaye HERE

Paul’s LinkedIn



  1. I’m not sure I completely agree with you Paul. In the meeting you attended that erupted into an emotional display, the manager made a HUGE mistake by not asking the employee about their work. How are you feeling about your job? Is there anything that is troubling you? Is there anything we can do (management) to help you in your work? The list goes on and on. In my view, it’s the role of a manager to put the employee at ease and allow them to open up so he/she can express their feelings and maybe they will reveal an issue that is causing them concern and interfering in their work. Maybe the employee is having personal problems at home. It could be anything. But the manager who pounced on the employee in the meeting you attended is ill equipped for the job and should not be in that position. That individual knows nothing about dealing with people. So why is the individual in management if he/she doesn’t know the basics.

    I would also disagree with your view that the only way to keep emotion out of the conversation and focus on content is to use the word “I” and frame the feedback from your perspective. From my perspective, this adds emotion to the conversation. Why not say, “What can “we” do to help you in your work?

    I have worked in radio, government and the private sector and I can honestly say that the worst managers, by far, are in radio. But that’s from someone who was fired as a talk show host by a manager who had no radio background and admitted she knew nothing about radio.

    Having said all that, I do enjoy your columns.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here