How to Give Constructive FeedFORWARD – Part 2

June 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

I LOVE springtime and summer because I can spend hours in my garden making things grow. This year I took it up a notch by adding two new garden areas in my back yard. In addition to my English-style garden with  five sections of flowers, I dug out a large area in a corner next to the house and deck. 

GROW model of giving feedback

After clearing the grass I planted three raised beds along with three large whiskey barrel planters filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs. I also added blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries on the other side of the deck. It’s so fun to watch everything grow!

Maybe that’s why I like the GROW Model for giving feedback so much! (If you missed it, you can find the first post on Feedback as FeedFORWARD here. And be sure to sign up for future updates on the sidebar!)

Feedback as Feed-FORWARD is all about growth. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong with an employee’s performance the goal is to help them grow as persons and improve their performance for the better. It’s about being positive and constructive instead of negative and finding fault.

In my last post we looked at the “Goal” of the GROW Model. Let’s move on to tips for REALITY, OPTIONS and WHAT / WILL Commitments.


The reality part of the FeedFORWARD to Next Time conversation is about encouraging the person to do self-reflection and self-critique. You are going to be in listening and questioning mode to help them do that. Think of yourself as a coach – not an examiner. You want to be curious as to how they are looking at situation, what’s working, what’s not working, what do they think is the root cause, etc. Questions I like to use in this phase are:

• What’s going well?
• What’s not going well?
• What is the root cause of the problem?
• What have you tried so far to fix the concern?
• Describe what success looks like to you?
• What would be the benefit of changing the approach?

So do you get to share your perspective? Sure, but only after they’ve described how they see it. And while your listening to their perspective, you’ll be listening not only for what they perceive as barriers and challenges, but you’ll also be listening for what might be misinformation, blind spots or even a belief that it ‘can’t be changed’. You’ll want to add your perspective on these things.

Remember, in this step – it is their job to do the reflection and the self-critique. Your job is to just fill-in the gaps.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Perceived Barriers / Roadblocks – Why they perceive that as a barrier? What have they tried to get around it?
  • Assumptions – What have you noticed that made you conclude ___________? What also might be happening?
  • Blind Spots – What other perspectives should be considered? Have you considered _______?
  • Misinformation – Where did you get your information? Here’s what I know…
  • Can’ts – What would it take to turn CAN’T into a CAN?
  • Contradictions – You’ve said X and you’ve said Y. Help me fit those two things together.
  • Blinking Words (words with ‘loaded’ meanings like emotional words) – When you say _______, what do you mean?


As with the REALITY part of the dialogue, you are going to let them go first as to what they think is the best OPTION or solution to try next. In a self-critique, you are trying to help them think more deeply about the issue than they have before, based on the REALITY dialogue, hopefully some new ideas are emerging. So ask them what they are. Continue the flow of thinking.

What I often find managers doing, is not spending enough time exploring what’s been already tried in the REALITY step, so when they offer a suggestion, it is one that the employee has already tried and it didn’t work and then they look at you with the ‘how stupid was that suggestion’ look. OR ‘Yeah boss, I’m not an idiot, I already tried that one’ look.
If they are truly drawing a blank as to what to do next, you may offer them a suggestion. But don’t offer them a fully implementable plan. Offer them a direction and then let them work it to make it their own. At the end of the day, you want them to own the plan, and therefore they will want to make it work. If you give them the plan and it doesn’t work, they will just be back in your office asking you what to do next – cause that (bad) idea you told me to do didn’t work.

The OPTIONS section is not just about brainstorming ideas it is also about getting people excited about what they might do.

What/Will Commitment

Getting them excited about what they might do is the WILL part of this step. As you wrap up the feedFORWARD discussion you want them motivated to move forward. Not motivated because you want them to do it, but motivated because they want to do it. Hopefully, by letting them lead the brainstorming of OPTIONS, you’ve already accomplished this.

Now, Make a Plan

Now it’s time to make sure they have a strong path to move forward. In some sense, it is similar to a practice plan. They’ve LEARNED a new approach, now they need to make a PLAN how to implement it. Here’s some questions I ask to help them make a plan:

• Which of these solutions feels best to you?
• What is the next most potent step you need to take?
• What support / resources do you need?
• What obstacles might you meet along the way? How could you avoid them or mitigate them?
• When shall I check-in with you?

That last question is always a part of a practice plan. You’ll want to check-in with them to help them REFLECT on what they learned, so they can continue to grow.

Your Assignment This Week

Try out Constructive FeedForward with the person you identified in week 1. Share what worked and what you would change.

REMEMBER: Head knowledge only takes you so far – you’ve got to actually try out a new approach to really LEARN it!

What happened when you used the GROW Model to give FeedForward for the first time?