A team member appears nervous facing quantitative questions at meetings. You offer feedback, pointing out how flustered he gets and ask him to be more confident. He submissively agrees, but at the next meeting, to your disappointment, he requests that someone else handle the numbers.

What if you offered feedforward in such a situation? A concept by Marshall Goldsmith, feedforward offers suggestions for future performance, and is an alternative to feedback, which dissects past actions but does not empower change. Joe Hirsch, an educational leader and communicator, uses the acronym REPAIR to ensure effective feedforward. Let’s see how it makes feedforward successful:

  1. R – Regenerate Talent

Feedforward aims at better future outcomes, so even positive praise needs to do more. Help people stretch their positive attributes to explore new areas or further hone skills with statements like: “I noticed your visual data representations were very clear and effective. How about leading an effort to make a repository of these?”

  1. E – Expand Possibilities

Consider ideas already offered by the other person and find ways to improve them: “When they asked why that data point was an outlier, you fished out cue cards and tried to explain. That was a good idea. What if you converted these cue cards into slides that you can put up?

  1. P – Stay Particular

Limit your discussion to only one aspect of the performance. You might be tempted to also address your team member’s inability to come on time for morning meetings, but focus your attention only on the present problem, to avoid getting him/ her overwhelmed.

  1. A – Stay Authentic

Do not sugar-coat the problem. If you’re concerned that your team member’s lack of confidence makes his/ her numbers look less credible, address it head-on. Begin by stating the future-oriented objective: “We want our stakeholders to have complete confidence in our quantitative analysis.” Then invite him/ her to discuss how this can be achieved.

  1. I – Stay Impactful

Help your team member create a roadmap for the future. Do this with his/ her active participation, so that you have their buy-in. Your end of the conversation could go something like this: “What are your ideas? … What if you prep for questions with our in-house number-crunchers? Let’s choose two action-points… Will you try these for the next meeting? Let’s see how it changes things.”

  1. R – Refine Team Dynamics

Encourage your team member to ask for suggestions from teammates, colleagues in other functions, and even other organizations. It will open up a world of ideas, and also show him/ her that fielding suggestions can be a positive, collaborative experience.

Unlike feedback, feedforward is all about choices and possibility. Employees motivated by self-improvement will step up and take charge. All you have to do then is offer support and coaching.

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