Feedforward: The Breakfast of Champions

Having to give or receive feedback is a common cause of anxiety and stress in many organisations... Why is this, and how can we avoid it?

Before we explore the barriers to giving and receiving feedback, lets first understand what feedback is, and what are the primary causes of ineffective feedback:

Feedback is the process of conveying observations about someone's behaviour or performance. It can either be used to praise someone who displays positive behaviour or performance, or to correct someone who displays less than desirable behaviour or performance.

  1. Traditional feedback approaches focus on the past. They are of no benefit to anyone, as you cannot undo what has already been done.
  2. Most leaders recognise that the ability to give feedback is an essential skill, but few of them know how to do it properly!
  3. Feedback is not part of the organisation's culture. As a result, any feedback is viewed as a negative.


Feedback Barriers

Barriers to Receiving Feedback Barriers to Giving Feedback
+ Fear of biased or unfair criticism from the feedback provider + Fear of reprisal or payback from the feedback recipient
+ Fear of reduced responsibilities, authority and control + Fear of demotivating or loosing the feedback recipient
+ Fear of wasting time as the feedback provider does not care + fear of wasting time as the feedback recipient doesn't care
+ Feedback for the sake of giving feedback + Feedback for the sake of giving feedback
+ It's not your responsibility + It's not my responsibility


Ladder of AcceptanceThe Ladder of Acceptance

The good news is that the manner in which you give feedback will often determine the manner in which the recipient accepts the feedback.

  • The better you give feedback the more acceptable the recipient will be.
  • The worse you give feedback the more argumentative the recipient will be.

The Ladder of Acceptance shows us that the key to giving effective feedback lies in the mindset of the giver and the receiver, as feedback should be viewed as a gift - not as a penalty.


Feedforward PyramidFeedforward Pyramid

Given the fact that we cannot undo what has been done, its important that we focus on the future. This is where the Feedforward Fyramid comes in to play.

Feedforward is the process of gaining agreement towards a change in behaviour or performance. The term is often unused interchangeably with feedback, but is in fact quite different.

The Feedforward Pyramid is a structured approach to having a coaching-styled dialogue on change.

Special Note: It's not just what you say - it's how you say it!


Stage Description

This is arguably one of the most important stages in the feedforward pyramid, as it involves setting the scene.

  • Select an appropriate date and time
  • Select an appropriate venue
  • Select appropriate participants
  • Explain the purpose
  • Have an I’m ok, you’re ok mindset

The better you prepare for the feedback, the height up the Ladder of Acceptance the recipient's mindset will be.

Special Note: It is usually best if you ask permission to give feedback.



Not unlike the Goal stage in coaching, the Feedback stage revolves around framing the conversation.

  • Do not get emotional. Be specific and objective when giving feedback.
  • Be direct and too the point. Do not beat around the bush.
  • Do not assume or listen to heresay. Be objective and factual.
  • Ensure you use ‘I’ statements and not ‘Y’ statements.

You cannot undo what has already been done. With this in mind, you should not dwell on the feedback stage, as it is not productive!

The SBI Feedback model is a simple tool to ensure you provide feedback in an effective manner.

  • Situation: Describe the situation. Be specific about when and where it occurred.
  • Behaviour: Describe the observable behaviour. Don’t make assumptions or subjective judgments about them.
  • Impact: Describe what you felt the impact of their behaviour had on you, others present or the organisation.





The Dialogue stage revolves around understanding different opinions and perspectives, and generating options.

  • Reality: Understand the Current State. How did the issue occur. Determine consequences if change does not occur.
  • Options: Explore the Desired State. Define goals and expectations. Explore options and alternatives. How might the issue have been avoided or could be resolved.

Special Note: Using a coaching style helps to elicit reflection and suggestions for going forward.


Way Forward

The Feedforward stage revolves around selecting appropriate options and defining the action plan.

  • The aim is to help them to create an action plan and follow-through that will lead to achieving the goals they set.
  • The action plan should be SMART:

Special Note: This is where you have the option to challenge or direct them to do more.


Feedforward should never be feared... If done correctly will garner positive results and lead to positive change.