How to move from Feedback to Feedforward – and reap the rewards

Posted in : Coaching in the Moment on 4 June 2019
Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd
Issues covered:

“John, can you come and see me in my office at 2.30 pm. I’d like to give you some feedback.”

So what do you think… is John looking forward to a chat with his boss, a bit of feedback? No! For most of us, the thought of feedback fills us with dread. Yet, as managers, we believe we are providing valuable and formative insights on someone’s performance and behaviour. On the receiving end of feedback, we recognised the infamous S**t sandwich, a bit of good news before we get to the bad news, followed by a bit of good news to stop you from breaking into tears!

Coaching in the Moment

The Challenge

Feedback focuses on the past, often instilling feelings of failure rather than inspiring us to move forward with confidence.

The Solution

Feedforward! Focus on the future, on opportunities for growth.

Takeaway Actions

Flip the conversation to the future. Ask the performer what behaviour they want to focus on to help them succeed. Use Marshall Goldsmith’s 8 Step Feedforward Process.

Marshall Goldsmith, world-renowned coach and author of “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!” points out that we can’t change the past. Discussing errors in our past performance makes us defensive. Feedforward, by comparison, helps us to focus on a positive future rather than a failed past, Goldsmith advises.

We have used Feedforward as a Coaching in the Moment tool for many years,  sometimes in one-to-one coaching sessions but also in workshops. For this blog, we will look at how you could use Feedforward in a group session, e.g. a workshop.

  • Ask participants to pick one behaviour they would like to change. Ask them to consider a behaviour that would make a significant and positive difference to their lives.
  • Ask them to find a partner in the room and to describe that behaviour to them. It can be something as simple as “I would like to become better at time management”.
  • Ask their partner for a tip to help them to achieve a positive change. They are not allowed to explore the past. They are only allowed to give ideas for the future.
  • Listen. Take notes. Say “Thank You”. Swop Roles.
  • Find another partner and repeat the process.

We have found that this Feedforward exercise works particularly well when the group have become comfortable with one another. For example, it is ideal as an exercise after lunch. This is a brainstorming exercise so should be energetic and quick. Our best brainstorming ideas are usually our first ideas so encourage them to catch as many ideas as possible in the 15 minutes or so that you allow the exercise to run. They should gather at least 6 – 7 tips in that length of time.

So, we recommend moving from feedback and flip it to feedforward and ask your staff member what behaviour they want to focus on to help them grow and succeed.


The content of this article was provided by Karl O'Connor and Cariona Neary, OCN Coaching Champions.

If you have any workplace problems you think might benefit from a coaching approach, contact or


This article is correct at 04/06/2019

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Karl O'Connor
OCN Coaching Champions Ltd

The main content of this article was provided by Karl O'Connor. Email

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