Why Feedforward Works Better Than Feedback In Managing Performance

Why Feedforward Works Better Than Feedback In Managing Performance

Giving effective feedback is an essential leadership skill, one that is regularly dreaded. Employees need to know if their performance is what their leaders expect from them and, if not, they need to know how to improve. The challenge with giving feedback is that it’s focused purely on past actions and not on the future.

Stop using the Praise Sandwich:

The classic “praise sandwich” or “sh1t sandwich” approach formed the core of many training and feedback sessions in the past. An approach that leaders use to give feedback, sandwiching criticism between two layers of praise.

The biggest issue with this feedback approach is it tends to overcompensate to others sensitivities. Leaders admit using this approach to soften negative feedback.

Overcoming the Fear of giving Feedback.

From our experience, this is an issue from senior leadership right down to first time managers. If feedback is poorly delivered it can be detrimental to employee engagement and motivation. Only a small percentage of people are able to use this critical feedback to develop.

Employees regularly report not hearing very much at all in a feedback session once something negative has been said and also not recalling very accurately what was said. In truth when receiving feedback people often hear their own negative judgements, internal criticisms and filter what is being said through personalised feelings of hurt pride.

A recent Gallup survey found 67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths were fully engaged in their work, compared to 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses.

Sheila Heen, Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and a Founder of Triad Consulting has spoken extensively about the need to understand the experience of receiving feedback. Feedback is difficult because it stands at the juncture of two human needs – the need to be loved and accepted for who we are and the need to improve and be better than we are.

When leaders give feedback, they need to think about their experiences of receiving feedback and then about what the other party is experiencing. Our beliefs, values and ultimately our skill as feedback givers is influenced and shaped by how we have received feedback.

4 Reasons to try Feedforward.

1. Feedforward is based on giving future suggestions rather than focusing on the past. It’s about developing people and helping them to work on what they can change in the future. An objective description of what must be done in the future.

2. Feedforward provides a constructive outline of the skills or behaviours which are required for successful achievement of a goal. Focusing on change and improvement. Feedback typically outlines what someone did or didn’t do, it lacks specific information about what the person can do to change and improve.

3. Feedforward can inspire someone to action with confidence whereas feedback can instil feelings of failure and inadequacy and prevent people from moving forward.

4. Feedforward describes something which has not happened yet, making it objective and depersonalising it. Feedback invites reaction, as with the best will and intention in the world, the giver of feedback tends to include personal judgement, reaction and feelings.

Marcus Goldsmith has written extensively about feedforward and says that feedforward works because it is a positive focus on the future rather than on the past. Similarly, leaders working with high achievers can benefit from using feedforward as Marcus Goldsmith says, “feedforward is especially suited to successful people”.

High achievers benefit from clearly understanding their goals in ways that help them to achieve those goals and this is exactly what feedforward does, as when it is done well, it serves as a clear description of how to excel.

It’s time to stop giving feedback and focus on Feedforward. Feedforward by its very nature is more constructive and engaging and will deliver better outcomes.

Sinead Collins

Sinead joined OMT in 2011 and is a Design and Marketing Executive. She specialises in managing key marketing activity. She creates and designs compelling marketing campaigns that speak directly to our customers. Sinead works closely right across the organisation to help develop the business.

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