fishermanFeedback gives us markers on how we’re doing in life and work.  It’s a portrait of our past.  Feedback, “the breakfast of champions,” is a fact of life in business, sports, and other performance-based professions. 

Coaches use feedback too—directly and regularly.  Identifying past patterns of success or failure allows us to glean lessons from the past for the future.  But, feedback alone doesn’t guarantee better futures.  Adding a new dimension, Marshall Goldsmith, the well-known business consultant, advocates adding feedforward to feedback.   

Feedforward expands opportunities by looking ahead, exploring and enhancing options.  Coaches use feedback to pave the way for feedforward.   Like fly fishermen, coaches use a back cast to prepare for a fore cast.

Feedforward makes the future the primary timeframe.  Feedback reflects how we have lived our pasts, those parts of our lives we can’t redo.  But, what we discovered yesterday and decided today can shape tomorrow’s directions. Feedforward spotlights how we can live our futures differently. 

Feedforward uses momentum from positive lessons.   No matter what those of us who offer feedback intend, those who receive feedback often experience it negatively and resist it.  Turn learnings toward positive directions.  Feedforward harvests the positive outcomes of feedback for forward movement in our lives.

Feedforward spotlights tomorrow’s possibilities and opportunities.  Without care, feedback can feel judgmental, accusing, or shaming.  Few of us enjoy being described as sinners or losers.  Feedforward transforms emotional messages into motivated first steps toward progress.

Feedforward provides partners and peers to walk with us into the future.  Critics intend to break us down first and maybe to change us later.  In contrast, thought partners enrich us as we grow into the best we can be.  Feedforward provides companionship  for the journey.

Feedforward makes life goals personal.  Feedback may carry “or else” instructions for us from others. It’s sometimes imposed, offered without either our permission or with good timing.  Feedforward launches  personal motivations.  Feedforward builds on our intentions—owned by us, gladly accepted, and voluntarily pursued.

The coaching guideline here is simple.  Use some feedback coupled with lots of feedforward.  It’s the smoothest road toward our best tomorrows.