Feed Forward, the Best Way Forward

Like most people, I have been receiving and giving feedback on a daily basis in both my private and professional life. Although it should be a natural behavior to all of us, I often hear people say that they do not think it is easy. Certainly not when they have to deliver a message they think will be difficult for the person receiving it.

Giving feedback however is a skill and can be learned. The techniques are easy to be found in books and on internet.

Feed ForwardWhen advising people I always teach them to deal with Feedback and…….with Feed Forward. Often forgotten, but maybe the better alternative for helping people.

These are the 10 reasons why I prefer to give Feed Forward instead of Feed Back:

1. The future we can still change, the past not any more. Feed Forward helps to understand how to improve, thereby increasing the chance that the improvement will occur. Visualising the positive outcome in the future you « train » your mind to go for the right behavior to indeed achieve that outcome. It’s like setting goals and imagining reaching them..

2. By focusing on solutions and the future no defensive behavior is needed. Feedback often is used to prove that somebody was wrong. Chances are that the receiving party will end up in defensive behavior. Even constructive feedback can be considered negative then.

3. Feed Forward is very useful when talking to successful people. These people do not feel challenged by feedback, as it does not reflect their way of thinking. Anything that will add to their success will be more than welcome.

 4. Knowledge of the past, the performance or even the person is not needed to be able to give feed Forward. It’s only about ideas how to achieve goals.

5. Feed Forward is often taken less personally than feedback. Feed Forward can never be personal criticism, as the event still has to occur. Admitted, a good feedback and certainly a constructive feedback is never personal. The receiving end may see this differently though. Positive suggestions however often are regarded as objective advise.

6. Feedback can cause stereotyping and the sense of failure. Your feedback, as well meant as it was, may be felt as a confirmation to the receiving person that they are no good and that they never seem to be able to succeed. Feed Forward is based on the conviction that everybody is able to change the situation for the better and even helps you to understand how.

7. Let’s be honest, not many people like to give or receive feedback. In assessments many people get the remark that their skill to do both could be improved. Trainings and workshops do help, but becoming good at it, is not that obvious.

 8. Feed Forward can be used for all the topics you would use feedback for, without mentioning any errors or mistakes. Someone can give you advise how to give a presentation next time (after witnessing your last presentation) avoiding you to have to relive awkward moments you rather forget.  

9. Feed Forward seems to be faster and more efficient than feedback. A good technique is to give for instance 4 suggestions how to improve the action next time and leave it up to the receiving party which of these suggestions he/she wants to retain. People and certainly successful people like to decide for themselves what ideas they want to accept.

10. While receiving Feed Forward, people seem to keep on listening and truly hearing your ideas. When receiving a feedback, people seem to be concentration rather on the answer they feel they have to give when receiving a feedback than thinking on what they could do differently. The only answer when receiving a feed forward is maybe « thank you ».

These 10 reasons do not mean to tell you that you should not give feedback anymore.  Feed Forward is just an alternative when you feel that the effect of a feedback could be lacking.

Feed Forward is just easier to give and receive and makes life more pleasant. Good communication is a joy, Feed Forward could be a great addition to your spectrum.

If you want to learn more about the techniques of both Feedback and Feed Forward, just let me know via the comments and I will write a blog post on that topic as well.

 What is your experience with both Feed  Forward and Feedback ? Share your knowledge and experience and help us profit from your wisdom.

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 Esther Celosse


This entry was posted in Coaching on by .

About Esther Celosse

Esther Celosse has 20 years of experience in Trust and Banking. Since 2009 she works independently as a passionate executive coach, leadership trainer and consultant.She lived and worked in the Netherlands, Curaçao, Chile, Luxembourg, Belgium and France.

4 thoughts on “Feed Forward, the Best Way Forward

  1. pamvanengelshoven@gmail.com

    Goodmorning Esther,
    i think your feed forward is included in what I sometimes do with groups: After someone performing I ask the rest of the students to give a “top’ and a “tip”, as a sign of appreciation for the efforts of their colleague. Still they tend to find it difficult to find a ‘tip’. So I would be interested in you elaborating further on the topic.
    Thank you and have a nice (rest of) the day!

    1. esther Post author

      Dear Pam,
      That sounds as a great way to have participants give feed forward. Apparently some still feel that giving a “tip” is a disguised way of expressing criticism. Partly maybe, because they do have noticed something they did not like.
      There are two methods I sometimes use to lower the resistance or hesitation to give a “top” and “tip”: first one is have them write both on post-it’s (two colors and choose a soft tone for the “tip”) and have them stick these on a flip-over sheet. The sheet then is given to the performer. This makes it more anonymous for both parties. The second method may work as a win-win, is to ask the participants to describe what “tip” they would like to give to themselves after witnessing the performance. This way the learning and reflection is different, but could equally deliver everybody what they need.
      Either way, it is not even that obvious for people to give the “top”. But you will get a “top” from me for your comment.
      Cheers, Esther

  2. Reinier

    Dear Esther,

    Thanks for these wonderful insights.

    How would you define feedback” and “feedforward”?

    Could you give an example of feed forward?

    1. esther Post author

      Dear Reinier,
      The most important difference between the two lies in the fact that feedback always refers to an event in the present or past en feed forward to a future event that has not happened yet. An example of feed forward could be: “we are planning a meeting where we would like you to present our 2014 business plan. How about using maximum 6 powerpoint slides and ilustrating the rest via interaction and the Whiteboard?” As you can see, I do not refer to the past, I give suggestions and I leave it open for discussion. Hope this helps?
      Cheers, Esther


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