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February 12th 2021

Feed forward - rather than feedback

When we provide feedback to an employee, we share information in terms of how they are currently performing. When negative feedback is given, the individual can respond defensively. Even constructive feedback can be taken the wrong way.

The idea of feed forward is to replace constructive or negative (or any) feedback with future-oriented solutions. In simple terms, it is all about focusing on the future instead of the past.

Feed forward is all about providing clear guidance on future goals and objectives without offering positive or negative criticism. Feed forward provides ideas on how people can succeed in the future which can be influenced by the right behaviours, rather than dwell on failures of the past which cannot be changed.

Feed forward empowers your team to contribute to meaningful objectives and gives them something tangible to work towards. Rather than giving negative feedback to an employee who makes a mistake i.e. “you did this incorrectly”, you can discuss how they can complete the task in a more efficient way in the future.

From a manager’s perspective, it is usually more productive to help people learn to be right rather than prove where they were wrong. Feed forward tends to work well in successful, highly motivated teams. This is because high performing individuals like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them to achieve their future goals.

Moving to a feed forward approach means a shift in management style - a coaching style works best with feed forward. This requires catching up with your team members each month to feed forward on ways to improve. For example, if a team member doesn’t engage in conversation in weekly team meetings, rather than criticise them, you can coach and encourage them to participate more.

Feed forward moves the focus away from the individual towards future performance. It doesn’t involve personal critique and sets people on a course to achieve their goals.

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