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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute – a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Feedforward gets better outcomes than feedback

Good leaders know that it's important (for many reasons) to focus on the future when giving negative feedback to employees. Recently though, I heard a new term to describe this approach — feedforward — and I liked it so much, I thought it was worth revisiting in this month's installment of the Mega Minute.

Feedforward is focused on offering an employee suggestions for the future with a goal of helping them as much as you can. Supporters of the feedforward model suggest that because feedback focuses on the past, on what has already occurred, it is limited and static. Whereas feedforward, because it focuses on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen in the future, is expansive and dynamic. Now I don't think it really matters what word you choose because "feedback", if it's done well (and is future-focused), is just "feedforward" in disguise. But I do acknowledge that the word "feedforward" is an obvious and visible reminder of the importance of looking ahead rather than into the past. So let's call it feedforward.

Here's how it works. Give your staff member two suggestions for the future that might help him achieve a positive change in the behaviour that you want to target. Remember, you must not give ANY feedback about the past. So for example, if your employee recently gave a very disorganized presentation to senior management, feedforward could be to suggest that he summarize the recommendations at the beginning of the presentation. Or you could suggest that he provide his background data in an appendix. However, you CANNOT refer back to the presentation that went wrong. This needs to be two-way in order for it to work. Your employee must commit is to listen attentively to your suggestions and take notes WITHOUT commenting on them in any way, including agreeing or disagreeing with you.

There are two advantages, in my opinion, of thinking in terms of "feedforward".

  1. The future can be changed, but the past cannot. When we talk about feedforward to our people, we can help them visualize and focus on a positive future, not a failed past.
  2. Feedforward is more likely to fire up your star performers. Top employees like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals.

So I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you think there is value in thinking in terms of "feedforward" rather than "feedback", or is it just wordsmithing? Are there any other advantages you see in addition to the ones I listed? Any disadvantages? Let's discuss online on my blog at:

If you're a leader, invest in yourself first

Is the title of Merge's first column in 2016 for, and this one talks about a subject that every leader should think about, but many don't! Most leaders consider it hugely important to invest in others — staff, peers, and their organization — but many forget that their capabilities as leaders is determined by what they have available in their own fuel tanks, which is why it is critical for them to invest in themselves first. Leaders can't help anyone else if they're running on empty! So in 5 Practical Ways You Should Invest in Yourself, Merge offers specific ideas on what leaders must do to refuel, so that they have the skills and energy to invest in others.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That Merge offers one-on-one mentoring to high-potential leaders?

Sometimes being in a leadership role feels like you're caught between a rock and a hard place! Your managers have increasing demands of you – greater productivity, improved customer service, and stronger leadership. Your staff have unrelenting questions and problems — process bottlenecks, escalating workloads, and interpersonal conflicts. And all the while, your time and resources dwindle. You know you're capable of getting things done; after all you have a proven track record that speaks for itself! But, things just aren't falling into place the way they normally do! At times like these, all you really need is a shot in the arm — someone to stand by your side and support you as you assess specific issues and determine your options and consequences. This is exactly where Merge can help! Find out more at our website, or read this Mentoring case study to get a better idea of Merge's approach.

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