In one of his recent articles, New York Times Best-Selling Author and Leadership Specialist, Dr Marshall Goldsmith spoke about feedback and feedforward.

I have considered Dr Goldsmith to be a virtual mentor for the past 6 years. His articles are always insightful. On a personal note, he has been very helpful to me whenever we have been in contact.

In that article, Dr Goldsmith mentioned that feedback is often necessary, while feedforward has to be forward-looking, positive, and non-judgmental.

In any managerial or coaching capacity, feedback is absolutely essential for growth. This is also pertinent to parents of children.

Here are 3 common feedback mistakes that can be made:
1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative.
2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them.
3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour.

Please ask yourself this question now – “Have I ever engaged in any of these while providing feedback in any capacity?”

I can put my hand on my heart, and say “Yes, I have”.

Let’s closely examine all 3 of the above so that we can create empowering, encouraging, and enlightening outcomes.

1. Assuming that feedback has to be all negative – The simple truth is that feedback can focus on certain aspects that were not positive. That said, if the receiver has to be more receptive of change, they must be encouraged, not demotivated. One of my corporate training programs is a full day workshop called “How To Master 360 Degree Feedback”. We teach the SMS (Strength, Modification, Strength) model. This model emphasises the importance of providing encouraging feedback first, making a suggestion second, and finishing off with another piece of encouraging feedback. Let’s say that you are the coach of a junior football team. One of your players, Jenny hasn’t scored any goals in her past 6 matches. During the previous season, she was the second highest goal scorer for your team. This is how you could utilise the SMS model – “Jenny, the whole team really appreciates that you are the first to arrive and the last to leave when we have training on Wednesday night. You set up, you pack up, and you always help me with organising fruits for our players. (That was the first Strength). Jenny, the whole team would love to see your name on the scoreboard. Let’s give them what they want. From now onward, we will focus more on your shooting. Every training session, you and I will spend 15 minutes in which you will practise shooting for goal. (That was the Modification). You are attacking well, you create so many opportunities, and you are so capable of scoring more goals. (That was the second Strength). This model leaves the receiver with something positive that can be used for improvement.

2. Telling the other party that constructive criticism will help them – What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone criticises you? I bet it is something negative, right? Constructive criticism is an oxymoron. The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “Constructive” as “Promoting improvement or development”. It defines “Criticism” as “The act of criticising usually unfavourably”. So, how can “Promoting improvement or development” and “criticising unfavourably” be used simultaneously? If you are providing feedback, please realise that “constructing and criticising” at the same time does not, and will not work. Providing the receiver with something to improve on doesn’t work well if you are criticising the receiver. So, please remove “Constructive Criticism” from your vocabulary. It is not practical. It will not work. Replace it with “Productive Suggestions” or “Behaviour Reflection” or coin your own description of providing feedback and feedforward that is just constructive, not critical.

3. Providing feedback based on the individual, not the behaviour – There is an African proverb which says “Examine what is said, and not who speaks.” Sometimes the provider of feedback gets so caught up in examining the person that the feedback becomes about the person, and not the behaviour. Learn to separate the behaviour from the person. Remember (in most cases), we can provide support in changing the behaviour, not the person. As a coach/mentor, I can vouch for that. It is quite common for the provider of feedback to get personal with the receiver. This can lead up to bringing up negative events/instances from the past. The goal of the provider is to be feedforward focussed. Bringing up negative events/instances from the past will not be productive to the provider and to the receiver. When we analyse the behaviour, we are more likely to come up with productive suggestions for the individual. Once again, separate the behaviour from the person because the behaviour is not the holistic person. The behaviour is one aspect of the person. Help improve that aspect.

Quote: “Feedback is a gift. Ideas are the currency of our next success. Let people see you value both feedback and ideas.” Jim Trinka

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can provide feedback and feedforward that makes a productive impact on others.

Influencing you to your excellence,


Author's Bio: 

Ronny Prasad is an author, speaker, corporate trainer, and anti-bullying campaigner, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE - His anti-bullying charity regularly delivers presentations at schools, and uploads videos on Youtube, for kids who are being bullied at school. You can download his free anti-bullying app on Google Play or Apple's App Store. Just do a search for Beat Bullying With Confidence.