FeedForward: A Better Way to Help

One cool thing about being a wraparound professional is that so many of our wraparound skills translate directly into the rest of our work and our lives. For example, when we needed to finish remodeling our house so we could move across country, I was the short term objectives and action steps queen. This gutted kitchen is overwhelming? Okay, well first we just need to get the floor laid. Let’s start by putting down new hardi-board. That is all we have to do today.

One skill that has helped me a lot has been learning how to give FeedForward. In wraparound, like in life, we have a lot of opportunities to give someone feedback in order to help them grow and improve. The problem is that feedback, by its very nature, dwells on mistakes. For example, you might say:

You seemed to be really struggling to connect with Dad. I think you should try X, Y, and Z.

This will come across as harsh to many people. We can do a lot of things to make feedback more palatable:

  • We start and end with good points
  • We use strengths to frame the needs
  • We try to solicit self-evaluation instead of just telling the person what went wrong

That would change our example:

You are so good at getting the kids to open up to you. I wonder how we could have used that skill that you already have to help you connect with Dad better.

This is definitely better, but we can go even further into the wraparound mindset. Everything so far has been about feedback. Feedback can be helpful, but it is hard not to make people feel bad about what they have done. It dwells on the past. The better option is to practice feed forward.

FeedForward: A process of gaining positive suggestions from others that are focused on helping to improve performance in self-selected areas

So, our example might look like this:

Way to get the kids talking. What could you do next time to make sure you get more buy-in from Dad?

The differences are subtle, but important. This version acknowledges success, and mentions a change area not in terms of its past failure, but its future success. Then is starts a process of self-reflection and mutual brainstorming that allows the two people in this conversation to plan for the next time as partners.

Want to learn more about FeedForward, or other coaching strategies? We cover them in our Coach Textbook.

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