“I have some feedback for you.”
No other sentence evokes such universal dread at work. Most of us have a pretty rocky relationship with feedback. And can you blame us?
So much of the feedback we’ve received in the past has felt like a surprise attack. It’s typically vague, often poorly delivered and frequently isn’t shared until long after it would have been helpful to know.
If you don’t like feedback, it’s okay to admit it. You aren’t alone.
The experience of receiving feedback often leaves us feeling defeated, defensive or angry. And that’s problematic because none of those emotions support learning or growth — which is the point of feedback in the first place.
Our relationship with feedback is the Achilles heel of management. As a manager, if you can’t master feedback in a way that fosters learning and growth for your people, you (and your teams) will always fall short of realizing your full potential.
The fundamental flaw in feedback
To perfect feedback, we must first recognize the most fundamental flaw of feedback is that it’s almost exclusively focused on critique and criticism of past performance.
That’s a problem because we can’t change past performance. It’s history. Simply knowing what I did wrong (or right) in the past does nothing to guarantee my future performance or behavior will change for the better.
To improve in the future, we need information that informs and empowers us to change our behaviors and actions. Instead of criticism or critique, we need advice, suggestions and instruction.
This is typically what we call coaching.
Good coaches know that to improve, you need both motivation and know-how. Traditional feedback frequently provides neither. Criticism and critique don’t always translate to know-how, and they often kill the motivation to try.
A different approach to feedback
This coaching approach feels very different from feedback. So different that some, including the legendary executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith, have given it another name.
They call it “feedforward” to remind us that the purpose is motivating improved future performance.
Feedforward offers managers and teams the opportunity to avoid the unnecessary angst around feedback and replace it with the opportunity to accelerate learning and performance.
Using the feedforward approach at work is reasonably simple. When feedback is required, instead of focusing the conversation on an evaluation or critique of past performance, put the emphasis on sharing suggestions and guidance for how to get a better result in the future.
Often it can be as simple as asking a different question. A feedback question requires an evaluation of what has already happened. An example might be, “What could Jason have done differently to improve his presentation?” The question involves criticism of things that cannot be changed.
A feedforward question instead inquires about ideas and suggestions for growth and improvement. For example, “What two suggestions do you have for how Jason could improve his presentations in the future?” This question will yield some actionable insights that can be applied to future presentations.
Do you notice the difference? One focused on critique, the other on improvement. It’s a subtle but powerful difference — particularly for the person on the receiving end.
How to implement feedforward
Introducing feedforward into your organization is both a mindset and culture change. Thankfully, it’s a change most people will welcome, given our rocky relationship with feedback.
Feedforward requires an intentional focus both on training managers to use this new approach and integrating it into the systems you use to solicit feedback. Below are a few tips for how (and where) to start.
1) Train managers to think like coaches
The real power of feedforward comes when managers start to think like coaches, recognizing that their job is to improve future performance, not criticize the past.
I once coached youth sports with a coach whose favorite saying was, “next play.” It was his way of reminding the player (and himself) that you can’t do anything to change what just happened. The only thing you can change is what happens next.
Offering managers training in the tactics of feedforward (like asking future-focused questions) and how to think more like a coach is a vital first step to introducing feedforward.
2) Use feedforward questions in your feedback processes
There are a variety of feedback processes we use within any organization. Performance reviews, peer-to-peer feedback, 360-degree assessments, project debriefs and even some recognition systems are all feedback systems.
In any of these systems, review the questions and prompts being used through the lens of feedback versus feedforward. You will find that most of these tools are oriented toward an evaluation of past performance rather than fueling the learning that supports future improvement.
Instead, ask about ideas and suggestions for how to improve in the future. And since we aren’t being critical, there’s no reason not to ask people to put their names to their feedback. That way, the individual on the receiving end can follow up for more detail.
3) Don’t confuse performance measurement with feedback and feedforward
You might be reading all of this feedforward stuff and thinking, “So are we supposed to just ignore when someone isn’t performing and not talk about it?” This raises another common issue with feedback.
The purpose of feedback is to support learning and growth. It shouldn’t be seen or used as a tool for measuring performance.
The first step of performance measurement is creating crystal clear expectations for all aspects of how an employee’s performance will be measured and evaluated. If done correctly, then the conversation about whether someone is performing at expectations is pretty straightforward.
With good performance measurement processes in place, feedback (and feedforward) processes use that information as a foundation. It helps shape where and what kind of questions or information you might be seeking. It informs where an employee might need or want to accelerate their growth and skills.
What often happens, unfortunately, is that performance expectations aren’t established in the first place. So, then critical “feedback” is offered as a form of performance measurement. And since these measurements are often tied to pay increases, the stakes are high, which amplifies all of the other problems with feedback.
Once you start understanding the feedforward approach, you’ll see it being used in many places where growth and learning are the priority: parenting, teaching, coaching and more. You just won’t see it very often at work. You can change that.
The beauty of this approach is that while it might be a big project to shift the entire organization to this approach, you can start applying it and teaching it right away. And it will have a positive impact the very first time you use it.
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Citadele: Investing in a culture of learning and individual performance management
Citadele Group is an innovative, full-service financial group for both private individuals and companies. The Group offers a complete portfolio of banking, financial and private capital management services in the Baltic states. Citadele’s mission is to provide more opportunities to its clients by redefining modern banking – it aims to change the meaning of current financial business with innovations and an outstanding client experience beyond the formal frame. With the goal of becoming the Baltic banking champion, Citadele offers multiple career paths and a variety of professional development opportunities for all its employees. Our new path towards ambitious and modern goals also demands a change within our employees’ learning and performance tracking model. Improved tools and solutions are needed to streamline Citadele’s employee progression processes across 37 offices. Why Cornerstone? Recognising that employees are its most valuable asset, Citadele made sure that employees are the top priority in the process of change. Bearing this in mind, Citadele had three key requirements during the search for its talent management solution: the system needed to be easy-to-use; it needed to have the option to involve employees in individual goal-setting; and it needed to track feedback on an ongoing basis and provide tracking for necessary compliance training. The system also needed to feature engaging and motivating content to help Citadele boost talent retention rates. After considering 20 other vendors, Citadele chose Cornerstone OnDemand as it ticked all the required boxes in terms of being both an established SaaS platform and a well-developed system that adhered to all of Citadele’s needs. After considering 20 other vendors, Citadele chose Cornerstone OnDemand as it ticked all the required boxes in terms of being both an established SaaS platform and a well-developed system that adhered to all of Citadele’s needs. The Results Increased productivity. Since implementing Cornerstone Performance, Citadele has seen an improvement in its employees’ performance. The simplified goal-setting, monitoring and continuous feedback system means that employees feel more confident and more motivated at work. That in turn has led to increased productivity levels. According to Citadele’s recent feedback survey, more than 95% of employees expressed satisfaction with the system. Streamlined performance processes. Before Cornerstone, all records regarding employees’ career, training, obligatory certifications and performance appraisals had to be integrated manually. With Cornerstone Performance, managers now receive detailed analytics at the click of a button, meaning that employee goals, training activities and tracking have become optimised and tailored to employees’ needs. Enhanced employer reputation. Citadele strives for the status of best employer in the Baltic region. Partnering with Cornerstone has helped Citadele to attract and retain even more talent in the industry Full compliance visibility. Compliance training was one of the key requirements for Citadele. Since implementing the Cornerstone e-learning module, the company is now confident that all its employees have the necessary training to meet the industry’s compliance requirements. Citadele is also able to successfully track completions in order to meet deadlines. Motivation and passion for learning. Implementing Cornerstone Performance has helped Citadele to significantly raise the ambition and motivation of its employees. Necessary changes in individual performance management have pushed Citadele forward regarding its learning culture. Since then, the company has selected Cornerstone’s e-learning as its next module, in addition to the already launched Cornerstone’s Performance Appraisal System. This will allow each employee to choose their most convenient way to learn, integrating learning into their everyday work.
Announcing the Convergence 2021 featured speakers: Dan Levy and Malala Yousafzai
We’re counting down the days to Cornerstone Convergence 2021. Get ready to join over 20,000 talent professionals on November 16-17 from the comfort of your laptop at this 100% virtual and completely free event. There’s so much to look forward to at this year’s event, but we’re especially excited to announce this year's special guest speakers, Dan Levy and Malala Yousafzai! Levy is an Emmy® Award-winning writer, actor, director and producer best known for his work on Schitt’s Creek. And Malala is the Co-Founder of Malala Fund, a recent Oxford graduate and a Nobel Prize laureate. To get you even more excited, here are two previews of their can't-miss Convergence sessions. Meeting the Moment with Dan Levy We give rise to our greatest work when we embrace the strengths that lie in our individuality and build a shared vision for something better. Join this session to hear Dan Levy share his personal journey of using creativity to overcome obstacles and Meet the Moment. Register to see Dan Levy A Moment with Malala What does it take to move forward in the face of adversity? To pursue a higher purpose, in spite of targeted violent backlash? When Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai was just 15 she learned the answers to these questions as she recovered from an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Join this session to hear Malala share her story of personal resilience and collective purpose in driving global education for girls everywhere. Register to see Malala Even more excitement at Convergence 2021 The next year of work will be all about turning change into opportunities for everyone. Check out a sneak preview of just a few Convergence speakers and informative breakout sessions. Bold Thinkers Dealing with Microaggressions and Healing from Workplace Trauma – Featuring Minda Harts, CEO of The Memo LLC More Bold Thinker sessions led by Jason Lauritsen, Laurie Ruettimann, David Wilson, Josh Bersin and others. Customer Spotlights Delivering skills-first careers powered by AI – From Deutsche Post DHL and Alstom More strategies, tips and advice from the Cornerstone and Saba community in our Customer Spotlight track, featuring Dell Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Nespresso, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and more. The Content Channel The World Premiere of Seat at the Table – A Cornerstone Original Series Other sessions focused on leading innovations in learning content from top providers such as Cornerstone Studios, TED, ITProTV and Mind Tools. Daily Keynotes Conversations with industry luminaries and Cornerstone executives about reimagining work and Cornerstone’s vision for leading the way. Join us at Convergence and Meet the Moment Convergence 2021 is your opportunity to get inspired, find “ah-ha” moments, connect with your peers and explore the future of work (and your role in it). As a talent leader, you're connecting what your people need to your organization's evolving goals so everyone thrives in this moment. We’ll see you there!
CGL: Improving learning and performance capability through advanced digital solutions
Communities often need help when their quality of life is affected by crime. Homelessness, drugs, alcohol and domestic abuse all have an impact on the local area and this is where the CGL (Change, Grow, Live – formerly known as CRI) steps in. Every year, more than 120,000 people across England and Wales receive assistance to get back on their feet. At CGL, full-time staff and volunteers work to encourage and motivate people to take control of their lives. CGL now has more than 3,000 staff and 1,000 volunteers in more than 160 regional centers. With so many employees across a wide region, keeping track of their progress was proving to be difficult. Previously, there were instances where notes were lost, handwriting was illegible, copies were not being shared, and many of the action points from the meetings were missed. CGL knew they had to address this by empowering its employees and volunteers by implementing a unified talent management solution. Why Cornerstone To overcome its reliance on paper-based records, CGL decided it had to go digital. It chose the talent management tools from Cornerstone OnDemand, selecting Cornerstone Learning and Cornerstone Performance solutions. The solutions enabled CGL to standardise its recordkeeping across the organisation. What happened in one office needed to be replicated in another, even if it is hundreds of miles away. So, for the first time, the performance management process was exactly the same across the country. Through Cornerstone, CGL now has the ability to deliver, track, view and report on all learning and development progress across the organisation. In turn, it brings unity and consistency to all its training modules. Furthermore, through Cornerstone’s cloud-based talent management software, CGL was able to empower its employees and volunteers through learning and development, as well as foster a more aligned performance management process throughout the organisation. The sharing of best practices developed a powerful team of employees and volunteers that could provide the best possible service to those that CGL works with. Results Created central access to learning. Cornerstone has provided CGL with central access to learning and development from any device. It has revolutionised the way that CGL is able to quality assure and monitor both individual and overall service performance. Improved Customer satisfaction. Sandra Eden, Development Manager at CGL in the Midlands, said “Quality performance reviews contribute to positive outcomes and achievements, improved staff engagement and customer and stakeholder satisfaction. The quantitative and qualitative detail driving everything that we do is now easily accessible at the click of a button.” Standardised performance reviews. CGL constructed a thorough marketing plan to prepare for the roll out of the new system across its workforce. With tailored emails outlining clear benefits – both from a line manager’s perspective and frontline perspective, uptake in the first week was 15 percent. So far, just a few months after rolling out the service, 1,791 performance reviews have been created across CGL. Increased employee and volunteer engagement. The newly introduced Welcome Page on the training site has had an immediate impact. An internal Stonewall diversity survey generated only 17 respondents prior to using Cornerstone; three days after a message and link were posted on the new hosting site, the number of respondents rose to 82 – a 482 percent increase. Kevin Crowley, Executive Director – Quality, Governance and Innovation at CGL values the visibility he has over the organisation. He said, “Using Cornerstone to bring performance development online has really given us a powerful tool to more closely align learning with performance and ensure our staff has the necessary skills and knowledge to provide the best possible service to those we work with. We have been able to build up a national picture of our strengths, and can identify and share good practice to ensure continuous improvement across the organisation.”