“A version of this post originally ran on the Lead Change Group site on 19th March 2018 and can be read at www.leadchangegroup.com.
Rekha was a new manager who got promoted to a team manager role based on her hard work and dedication. But like most first time managers, she was struggling to provide effective feedback to her team members. She would often give them feedback in front of the whole team, or would make the feedback sound so negative that it would do more damage than good to the individual concerned. Working with her as her coach, I realized that the feedback she was giving had a purpose and good intention, but the way she was communicating required improvement. She would lose her calm if someone in the team did not deliver in time or made an error. She felt she was being let down by the individual and would vent her feelings, unmindful of the surroundings.
Deal with your own emotions before stepping into a conversation.
People do not have an issue with the feedback, but when given in front of others, it creates a problem. Instead of addressing the content provided in the feedback, the receiver feels unsettled with the way it gets communicated and considers it as a personal attack.
Feedback is information intended to help others learn. Therefore, to communicate this information, as managers, we should always be self-aware of our own feelings and emotions when we deliver it. If you are in a bad mood or feel like venting your anger on the person about to receive feedback, just refrain from it. Deal with your own emotions before starting a conversation with the person concerned.
Feedback can work wonders for continuous development and is often considered a gift for improvement. But the crucial part that remains is how it gets delivered. Balancing feedback with positive reinforcement helps, but it rarely gets done in practice.
The failed past or the positive future — Feedforward.
While feedback helps us determine what happened in the past, and is, therefore, past-tense, “Feed-forward” according to Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is future-perfect.
Feed-forward is a term coined by leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith. In his 2007 book, co-written with Mark Reiter, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Goldsmith writes that Feed-forward is a simple process that can be as or more effective than feedback.
Instead of focusing on the past, Feed-forward works in the future. The person receiving the Feed-forward feels encouraged, as it is more solution-based and is, therefore, more productive. Feed-forward does not smack of judgment and therefore does not sound like a personal attack.
I tried the Feed-forward method with Rekha, the new manager whom I coached. It proved to be effective and also showed her how she can use it to help her team members develop and remain invested in their success. Her team members were the ones most affected by her behavior and communication. Therefore, what worked for her was asking them ideas on how they thought she should communicate with them. Given a chance like this, the team felt free to voice their concerns, but there was no criticism. All they had were ideas they thought she could use to improve her effectiveness. It also helped improve her reputation with her team.
You can look in the rear-view mirror to see a snapshot of your mistake, but it is always fruitful to let go of the past and focus on the road ahead. This is what the Feed-forward method helps you do.
Here are 5 important reasons you should try Feed-forward instead of feedback:
1. You cannot change your behavior in the past, but you can change it going forward.
2. Feed-forward is positive because it focuses on solutions.
3. People hate criticism but are always open to new ideas for the future. Feed-forward eliminates criticism and passing judgment.
4. Feedback usually leaves the person receiving the feedback with a sense of failure. Feed-forward raises hope for improvement and is more empowering.
5. Feed-forward is a participative process.