The Five Types of Developmental Communication

Outlining task, conditions, and standards.

I find it is challenging creating high-feedback cultures for three reasons:

A lack of psychological safety within the team and leaders failing to role model an openness to receive feedback. This develops an organizational fixed mindset and silence. Leaders lack the candor to provide quality, constructive, and relevant feedback to others. Leaders do not prioritize feedback and leader development; they demonstrate that they don’t have time to provide feedback to others.

Any time I am communicating as a leader, I am engaging in one of five types of developmental communication: setting expectations, giving feedback, teaching, coaching, or mentoring.

I leverage the appropriate type based on the person, the situation, and context. Should I be giving targeted feedback in this moment or should I be helping them better understand by providing perspective as a mentor? Should I set clear expectations or would it be better to coach them through determining their own ideas and plans?

“Commander’s intent,” which captures purpose, key tasks, and end state.

Acting as a coach, a leader has stake in “the game,” but is not on the playing field (like a sports coach). They are not teaching, not providing guidance (expectations) or feedback, nor are they offering advice and perspective like a mentor (below). As a coach, we leverage a high level of questioning, inquiry, and investigative learning to get our people to maintain ownership of the decision/issue at hand, come to their own conclusions, and ultimately improve their self-sufficiency and learning.