Feed-forward vs. Feedback: A communication tool for your business needs.

In coaching sessions, people often tell me they struggle with how to give feedback. Below is a strategy developed by Joe Hirsch that I often teach my clients.


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When we give feedback to our co-workers, or they give feedback to us, the focus is on the past. “Yet people can’t control what they can’t change, and we can’t change the past. The focus of most feedback is on the past.” 1


Feed-forward by Joe Hirsch is an effective way of providing insights because the essential goal of feedforward is to create positive, lasting improvement. To do this, we need to help the receiver uncover their answers, to find that path, to see that internal locus of control, that sense of “I can do this” and a willingness and a desire to want to do it. This only happens if we guide them to finding that solution, not by telling them what that solution should be. 1


PREP  is a tool for feedforward, by Joe Hirsch

PREP is effective because It is clear, honest, and looks for solutions together.  There are no distinctions between positive and negative comments - it is an honest presentation of the facts. The tone is timely and respectful. It focuses on the future, and not on the past.

 People want the truth. This is an authentic way to explore the truth.  This is how it works:


point, reason, explain, and prompt


Prep - Ask permission; even though it’s a formality, it puts people at ease.

Example: “Sally, is it OK with you if I give you some honest feedback?”


P (point) - Locate this feedback accurately and authentically.

Example: “Sally, lately you have been coming in late to work.”


R  (reason)-  What has happened? Don’t make it abstract.

Example: “I’ve been seeing this in the last two weeks almost on a daily basis, and to me, it does seem now like a pattern of behavior.”


E  (explain)- Explain why it’s a problem.

We have to make our feedback as clear as possible to other people, because most of the time the reason why people reject feedback as often as 70 percent of the time, (according to one estimate), is because they don’t understand what you’re saying to them. It’s either too vague, or it’s too much at once.


Example: “When you are coming late like this, it’s disturbing to the others, and more importantly it’s interfering with your ability to be as engaged as a team member.”


P  (prompt) - This is the critical piece, the prompt at the end.

Here, you can ask them what they want to happen, or ask of there is anything that you can do to make this happen.

Example:  “What do you think about this? Do you see this happening yourself? What do you think we could do together to figure out a way forward?”


When you ask people for their opinion, they feel validated, they feel heard, and they feel like your partner. Prompting them for their ideas for solutions doesn’t mean you make them own it exclusively. You still as a leader are going to guide that conversation. You’re the pro, and they’re looking to you for that help. However, the simple act of prompting your partner for a more collaborative solution makes such a difference, and even bad news, when delivered this way — point, reason, explain, prompt — it puts helps people to own the desired change.



 Ponder Questions:

• I noticed that – “I noticed that during the feedback … .”

• I wonder why – “I wonder why you decided to talk to John this way, but when you spoke to Jim, you spoke that way. It seemed like John got a lot of harsh feedback from you, and Jim was getting a lot more positive praise. So why was that?”


Probing lead Questions:

• What if – “What if you decided to try to give three pieces of positive praise that were focused on process.”

• How might – “How might your feedback go differently if you used a 3:1 ratio, positive to negative feedback?”


Why does this work? Each person needs to choose change. You can not force another to change. Research from Joyce and Shower’s shows that telling someone to change has a 0-5% adaptability rate. According to Columbia University psychologist Kevin Ochsnre, people apply only 30% of the feedback they receive. The rest is ignored or rejected. When you turn this into guidance and support, there is higher acceptance rate.



Source: Hirsch, Joe, “The Feedback Fix”,   Roman and Littlefield, 2018