Managing Performance: Give Feedforward, not Feedback

How excited do you get when someone tells yo they want to give you some feedback? What about when you hear that it’s time for a Performance Review or Appraisals? What usually follows this type of offer? Usually something that sounds much more like criticism, blame, and analysis of what we did wrong. Not many of us find this very appealing.

Instead of feedback, give Feedforward – this is a continuous coaching process focused on future performance & career pathing. Imagine envisioning & focusing on a positive future instead of the mistakes of the past.

One of the primary drivers of employee engagement is a sense of growth and development, and another is having a manager that cares about you. Feedforward addresses both of these drivers.

Here are the 4 keys to giving Feedforward:

1) Focus on goals, and organizational alignment.

• The manager and direct-report should work together to identify goals that are specific to the individual’s role and are aligned to corporate objectives

• This should define “what is expected of me”, which is another key driver of engagement and performance.

• This frames the conversation in a meaningful way so so the discussion can be about: “Are the goals on track or not? Why? What can the individual do to improve? What can others do to provide support?”

2) Focus on career guidance.

• The manager should help the employee identify career goals and assist with career pathing.

• Discuss what skills, experiences, and contacts the individual needs to acquire to fulfill career goals.

• Help direct report close “the skill gap” by identifying mentors, assigning developmental opportunities, allowing for short-term job-rotations and allowing time and money for training.

3) Include various data points, not just one manager’s opinion.

• In addition to the manager’s and employee’s perspect, feedback from peers can be gathered from formal 360 degree surveys, informal input from team members, or data gathered in peer-reward systems not he-said she-said, to, “Let’s look at everyone’s input…”

4) Take place throughout the year, not arbitrarily annually.

• Give Feedforward in the context of projects (i.e., goals) which of course have varying durations.

• Goals lasting a year or more should be broken down into smaller objectives so the feedback loop is more frequent.

• Career path discussions should happen as needed, but at least every six months.

The time has come to stop giving feedback and start giving feedforward. You must become leaders of people not just managers of tasks. Feedforward has the power to turn everyday workers into engaged workplace super heroes.

Adapted from Kevin Kruse