Feedforward Instead of Giving Feedback

Feedforward Instead of Giving Feedback

You’ve worked nights for many days this month and at least three weekends in a row on a big project. You’ve shown the commitment and done the time but Peter, the project manager, has called you for a meeting and has started pointing out some errors you made and the things he is not happy with. Here’s the difference between feedback, and feedforward coaching.



Nobody likes to hear about their mistakes. The same goes to the person giving the sometimes necessary negative feedback.


Don’t they know how hard you’ve been working? Doesn’t it matter?

Naturally, you’re not happy with Peter’s focus on what does not work, even though he did sandwich the criticism between two positive comments. The good didn’t seem to matter. Why can’t he see all the work you’ve put in and recognise that?


This is the problem with feedback.


Feedback is typically focused on the past and mostly, on what is not working.  Managers do not like to provide feedback and faced with the situation, would often sandwich negative feedback between two positive ones. The problem with that is that it has the tendency to reduce the impact of what needs to be said and often enough, comes across inauthentic.



Most of the time, negative feedback is sugarcoated, which can diminish the intended effect and create an environment of misunderstanding.


Looking back or looking forward?

The focus on the past also leaves you feeling disempowered. It has already happened and there’s nothing you can do to change that which naturally brings up a host of negative emotions you feel helpless, upset, frustrated and uncertain as to how to move ahead.

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Are most people raised to accept criticism well?” You only have to look inward and realise from your own reactions and behaviour that criticism is hard to take. We see criticism as a threat, we get defensive and we react or hit back verbally (sometimes physically).


What’s the point?

The entire point of criticism is to learn from the past and change what we can about future actions. But if people are focused on the wrong things, then everyone loses. The manager does not get a person who has learnt from his mistake and that person is bound to repeat the mistake because he knows what is wrong but not necessarily what is right and what works.


As Joe Hirsch, author of The Feedback Fix : Dump the Past, Embrace the Future and Lead the Way to Change shares, there are three reasons why feedback does not work. First, it shuts down our mental dashboards – i.e. it becomes all about our emotional state and reactivity to what is upon us. Second, it focuses more on ratings than on development. This feels more like a test than a way to improve what we are doing. Finally, feedback reinforces negative behaviour because the focus is on what has happened.



So what can we do when feedback does not work? Here’s a hint: go forward!


Let’s feedforward

This is where feedforward comes in as a bright and workable alternative to giving feedback. Feedforward is future-focused by allowing people to pay attention to what they can do differently in the future. It’s not only about what happened but what can be learnt and then adapted moving forward. It is positive, provides background information and options, makes suggestions for improvement and focuses on developing the person, not just rating them.


It also becomes less about feedback and more about coaching. By involving the person in the feedback loop, he becomes an active participant in the process, thus enabling him to feel more in control. As Marcia Reynolds explained in her article, Why Feedback Doesn’t Work, and What To Do Instead,  people want “conversations that pull their ideas out and have their eyes opened to greater possibilities they could explore, not one-way directives focused on what they did wrong”.


Kevin Kruse, NY Times bestselling author (latest book, Employee Engagement 2.0) talks distinctly about feedforward coaching as a great tool for creating a more engaged workforce, specifically that it is a continuous process focused on future performance and career pathing. Engagement is then tied to growth.


How should you start?

  • Focus on goals, not standards. This means articulating these at the start and being very clear in your communication about what is expected;
  • Let the coaching include career guidance so that you focus on the skills, experience and expertise the individual needs to build upon to do their job.
  • Anytime, all the time. Do not limit it to an annual review or set time. The more times these two way communication channels are open, the better the communication of expectations, of problems and issues that need addressing.


In the end, through active participation and a clear focus on the end objectives, you, your peers and managers can come to the realisation that feedforward presents the better alternative.

Is Feedback Not Working? Ask This Instead.

Is Feedback Not Working? Ask This Instead.

When we talk of feedback, most of the time, what we’re really talking about is our ability to deal with constructive criticism. No one has an issue taking a compliment but nearly all of us find it challenging to hear something negative about our personality, work style or behaviour.


It starts with truth.


Is feedback not working for you? Understand that our solutions lie not in the quality of answers but in the quality of questions we ask. Let’s examine some examples.


asking-the-wrong-questions-anonymous feedback

Asking a close-ended question with no consideration or empathy gives the impression that you do not care about your workers’ well-being nor current workloads. Even if the question was not designed to be insensitive, an external party could view it as a “no-excuses” obligation to say – “yes”, or a simple “easy-way-out” “no”.



Leaders can instead ask an open-ended question with the simple addition of “How” in front of their prior question, opening the door for innovative answers and initiative. It also opens up avenues to be empathetic, in terms of catering to how employers can provide the environment or means to allow workers to take on more responsibility. Perhaps through more L&D events? A robust incentive program? This question invites such responses.


Being transparent.

It starts with the truth, a recognition of what we see in front of us and a call for us to be honest about how this may make us feel about the people we’re managing and circumstances we find ourselves in. It calls for humanity, yes, humanity.


The thing about corporate life is that it puts a layer between you and your people. We call on this when we need help and when we’re in a mess. “Am sorry about this, my hands are tied. I wish I could do more.” “I’d really like to help you but my boss says this is how it has to be.”



When it comes to helping a colleague in need, too often we are jaded by the selfish demands placed on ourselves regarding our own responsibilities. Hence, we resort to putting up excuses instead of being honest with our colleagues.


What are we really protecting?


We hold on to this protective layer because it helps us out of tough situations. We’re busy protecting ourselves. But if we want feedback to work, we not only have to listen, we have to take action.


We have to show our people that we’re serious about what we want to discover and then remedy. When we show this to them, not through our words but in our behaviour, then we show our people that we mean what we say.


It is easy enough to see things from our point of view – it is the only view we know and are comfortable with, that we believe is the right view. It takes a big pause for us to step outside ourselves to look beyond at this wide, wide world and consider an alternative to what we’ve always seen and understood. So, “what’s not working?” is less about you see as the way things are and how things need to go and far more about what others see and make sense of things.


You owe a duty.


As an organisation, it is your duty, your responsibility to gather and provide feedback to your people. As an organisation, you should regard as serious, this opportunity to grow your people, to inspire them, to bring out the best in them and to lead.



Gather as much feedback on how you can help your employees grow, then deliver actionable behaviour to cater to those needs and wants.


As much as there are things you are expecting your people to provide you in terms of experience and expertise, they are also looking to you for guidance, hope and faith in carrying out their duties. And more than anything else, remember that they give you the best hours of their days and best years of their lives in the fulfilment of their obligations.


That is a lot.


Allow the space for providing and receiving feedback to be one that is less chastisement and more of support. Ask questions about what’s working so you know where you need to reinforce certain actions. Ask questions about what’s not working so you know what needs to be fixed. Ask questions about what’s challenging or frustrating them so you can see what support you can provide. Explore a variety of channels, both formal and informal, to collect and collate feedback.


Ask great questions for great feedback.


Marcel Schwantes, in his Inc article, Here’s how good managers give bad employees feedback, shares that good managers analyse the problem first in order to understand all perspectives. He shared four questions crucial to helping a manager and setting the right expectations and accountability measures with both parties :

  • Does the employee understand what the problem is?
  • Does the employee really understand that expected level of performance?
  • Does the employee fully understand what will happen if performance standards are not met?
  • Have you, as the manager, gotten all the facts? Who, what, where, when, why, and how?


Learn to read between the lines.


You’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated too. Stay aware – learn how to open your eyes to the truth because there is no one version of the truth. We all bring different experiences and insights to our situations and no two situations are alike.


If you’re facing difficulty, you’ll want a good manager who can spot it early, who will come forward to talk about it. You’ll want a manager who is sensitive enough to know how, when and where to bring it up.



Ask the right questions. Be the support your team needs. Learn to read what your colleagues are telling you.

And you’ll want them to be more of a coach about it – asking probing questions, allowing you to come to the solutions yourself rather than being prescriptive and judgemental. Yet, on top of all of these things, you need to remember to stay compliant and stay legal. Do what you need to do and do it right.

Fostering an Organisational Learning Culture

Fostering an Organisational Learning Culture

A key element in navigating change is through learning.

When we look at the role of human capital within an enterprise, we understand and believe that it is human capital which is our greatest asset. Consequently, the key to meeting our strategic business goals and making progress lies in how we manage, inspire and bring out the best in our people.


As an enterprise, training seems to be the obvious answer to the questions of what and how. Training gives us the confidence that we are doing something, that we are addressing issues and taking charge. But this leaves us with one problem – training is a top-down approach.

Are your employees really fully engaged when it comes to training? Think about how you can
improve your programs from a fully top-down approach.


Shifting the focus

Yes, we can help to prepare our people to perform better and be more engaged but wouldn’t it help if we looked at ways where we put the learner in the driver’s seat as well? The idea here is that we continue to provide training in areas required but simultaneously, we create a culture where organisational learning is fostered, and one where the people themselves chart their path. This combination is significantly more exciting.


Take a look at Unilever. Betty Lau, Unilever’s Global Learning Director, Leadership and Business Skills has long been working on a move away from conventional learning towards persona-designed thinking. Why? To craft a user-focused personalised learning journey. It is a major shift in thinking but at the same time, she says it also provides a key point of differentiation.


Some key words to explore in that phrase – user-focused personalised learning journey. User-focused so that the emphasis is on the user, not the training provider. Personalised so that it makes sense to individual circumstances and is need-driven. Lastly, reference to the journey because it’s part of a bigger picture and not simply standalone, unstructured pieces.


Adopting a learner-centric approach

Alejandro Rivas writes about this (being learner-centric) as one of the 10 L&D trends for this year in his ATD article in January. He says, “instead of thinking about the content first, we think about the learner first: performance, experience, workplace, digital fluency… then, we can create an effective training with more collaboration and social activities in order to share experiences….”.  The experience is also so rich in today’s environment as we pick between MOOCs (massive open online course) or classroom training, YouTube videos or shared social environments.

A variety of rich media is including in training today. Harness these solutions!

In today’s world, everything and everywhere presents a learning experience. The quicker we can get to a point where we foster more collaboration between IT and HR to work together and develop organisational plans that put the learner at the centre, the more we foster a culture of learning that works. It’s personalised, it’s driven by the user, it takes into account all kinds of environments and formats, which makes it more real, more dynamic and exciting.


Where to begin?

But any learning technology used needs to start with a plan which means asking the right sort of questions. What are my organisation’s learning and development goals? What is the role tech will play in this? What choices do I want to make? How much do I want to spend? What ROI will I be looking for?


Many of the L&D trends this year show how fast-paced these changes in our environment really are. While this can be dramatically unnerving in many ways and puts us in a situation of constantly playing catch-up, we can embrace the changes that make our lives, our workplaces and our people significantly better.

7 Keys to Building an Effective Team

7 Keys to Building an Effective Team

If you are looking to create a successful and productive team offsite, you may want to explore the following 7 ideas


  1. Open Communication

Announce to the team how this offsite team-building will actually improve business. Set up live business goals for the meeting – e.g. sales strategy and sales goals for the next year, new delivery of ideas, or product/service lines to roll-out.

2. Allow Time for Networking

There should be scheduled time slots throughout the offsite team-building duration to enable everyone to get to know each other. I recommend that “getting to know each other” activities need not be planned; instead teams should be doing this naturally. It could be a late evening sitting at the pool and chit-chatting, or having a round of “antakshri” or karaoke, whatever the team would like to do post the offsite day work!

7 Keys to Building an Effective Team
                                                                                                            Remember to set aside time for networking!


3. Build A Learning Mindset

Build their skills, and self-confidence by providing constant training. Hold weekly, or bi-monthly team workshops to teach systems and procedures for every element in your business. Teach your employees how to get the most out of the time and effort that they are putting in to reap the most rewards. Also, eliminate the need for guessing when it comes to difficult situations – create systems to specifically manage a crisis.

4. Reward the Results

Set clear and realistic targets for your employees, and keep it as transparent as possible. Targets are proven to motivate employees and give them something concrete to focus on. But don’t treat missed targets as an opportunity to punish your team; simply offer a reward (cash / kind) that will drive your team to meet the targets you set in the future. Check out this blog post for ideas on designing an effective employee rewards system.

5. Don’t Miss the Basic Needs

As an employer, the onus to provide a healthy lifestyle to employees is on you. Here are basics listed –

  • Comfortable, clean and well-lit rooms and sitting place.
  • Break areas.
  • A place for quick power-naps.
  • Flexible working schedules as the focus is on work, and not thenumber of hours.
  • Robust recognition program.

Basic infrastructure at work
                                                       Ensure the working environment is clean and comfortable to maximize employee satisfaction and productivity.

6. Offsite Events

Are overnight events allowing the team to enjoy and relax, having dinner, drinks, music etc, and truly bonding. In my experience, good teams tend to end up staying late, and talk over or brainstorming new, innovative solutions to recurring problems, and work through existing business problems. These sessions are invaluable as team members work together to work out existing problems, setting the scene for new opportunities, and building real relationships in the process.

7. Last But Not Least

Remember it’s important to keep the momentum rolling. If you fail to come out with an action plan, then you will plan to fail eventually. You may have a list of ideas from the offsite meeting, but have no clarity on executing them. Ensure that action planning is clear to all members with identified goals/actions, associated responsibilities, measurement criteria, and timelines of completion. And all of this is documented soon after the event.

This post was guest written by Saloni Kaul, a human resource specialist and corporate trainer.

Interview With SelfDrvn CEO

Interview With SelfDrvn CEO

Some of us may have experienced or delivered staff motivating plans or incentives, or other performance encouraging strategies.

But these can be piecemeal without a coherent strategy and long-term delivery plan.

So sooner or later a product had to surface that was designed to deliver encouraging rewards and strategies to help company employees step up.

Started as an innovative rewards and recognition solution provider, SelfDrvn began ideation on how to motivate the workforce.

We speak with Founder & CEO Lam Mun Choong to learn more…

1. Please share with us briefly what you do.

I am the Founder & CEO of Selfdrvn Enterprise, a SaaS platform that provides a single and comprehensive employee engagement solution. I am also managing Nettium, a tech company with 350 employees in Malaysia and Singapore.

I co-founded my first startup back in 1997. As my way of contributing and supporting the tech startup ecosystem, I am an angel investor and mentor to promising early stage tech startups in South East Asia.


2. What were you doing before this?

I spent 8 years of my career as a consultant in Andersen Consulting (now known as Accenture) and Hewlett Packard Asia Pacific, where I was based in Singapore, and another 8 years in an Indonesian based tech startup Jatis Group that I co-founded in 1997 with 3 other Indonesian co-founders.


3. In one sentence, how would you describe what your product does?

SelfDrvn platform delivers a single, comprehensive and flexible solution, available as components such as social collaboration, pulse surveys, peer feedback, rewards & recognition & employee wellness that are gamified to improve organization-wide adoption, to help organizations engage employees and gather data-driven actionable insights to drive positive business outcomes.


4. How did the idea for your business come about?

Back in 2013, we were driven by the need to our team size in my company Nettium by 300% over a period of 3 years.

As a tech startup with no brand, short history angiants like Google and Facebook.

So, to stand out as an employer of choice, we tried little marketing budget, we faced intense competition for talent from more established companies and global tech d to innovate by providing the best possible employee experience to help us attract & retain the best talent.

We worked hard on improving our culture and leadership. Being a technology company we also leverage mobile, analytics and gamification technologies to come up with a solution. We launched the Selfdrvn app successfully to Nettium employees in 2013.

Subsequently, we validated our concept and expanded our product capabilities with a group of beta customers who, like us, wanted to improve employee engagement.

After a successful beta test over a year, we launched the Selfdrvn Platform to the public in October 2016.


5. How does it work?

Employee engagement is a process that requires organizations to execute many initiatives well.

For example, having regular engagement pulse surveys to gather actionable insights, with effective two-way communication and agile collaborative platforms, flexible and personalized rewards and recognition programs, improving employee wellness, timely performance feedback with coaching and organization support for corporate social responsibility programs- all these initiatives work together and contribute to employee engagement.

We looked at many aspects of what engages employees from the above, and we simplify the user experience by making them available as a single app to employees accessible on the web and mobile.

Rather than having to use many disjointed, separate apps to meet the objectives of employee engagement, we enable organizations to take an employee-centric approach in providing a digital employee experience that will lead to higher employee adoption rate and a higher chance of success in engaging & motivating employees.


6. What are the key benefits that your product brings?

We help companies make work more human and thus create a more open and conducive culture and environment for talent to thrive.

Selfdrvn improves the efficiency and effectiveness in employee engagement initiatives, which will lead to positive business outcomes for the company such as improved agility, collaboration and productivity, higher level of employee engagement in learning, wellness and corporate social responsibility programs, better employee retention, more positive word of mouth about the company and more employee referrals for hiring.


7. Who are your closest competitors?

We believe we are ahead of the curve when it comes to our platform strategy. Many of our competitors have silo solutions that solve one engagement problem.

We have seen some US-based competitors who are beginning to consolidate their employee engagement platforms. However, they do not have a strong presence in Asia.


8. Who is your first customer and how did that happen?

Our first internal customer Nettium is also one of my companies with 350 employees.

As a product innovator, we believe in eating our own dog food to make sure that our solution will actually get the job done in a real-life environment.

Our first external customer was Privasia, a listed technology company in Malaysia.


9. What were they using before this, and why did they switch?

Both Nettium and Privasia had Microsoft Yammer and Facebook which were intended for collaboration and engagement, but our user adoption was not high because the Yammer user interface and features feel very corporate- it wasn’t very attractive to attract voluntary employee use.

Our employees wanted a less corporate and more consumerized app where the user experience is more fun and comparable to Facebook, Uber and Mobile Games.

As management of the company we also needed a solution that will support a structured process of engagement, feedback, and recognition that can provide data to derive actionable insights from.

Lastly, we have used many apps and platforms like Survey Monkey and Google Forms in the past for engaging employees and collecting data where maintaining data integrity and performing analysis becomes laborious.

For those reasons, Selfdrvn was the right fit to solve the problems that we had.


10. How do you price your product?

Our product is priced on a monthly subscription by the number of employees. By signing an annual subscription with us our customers are entitled to an attractive discount.


11. What’s your business focus for this year?

We have several initiatives with our global consulting partners to help large enterprises engage their employees in their digital transformation journey.

Getting employees engaged and onboard by changing their mindsets to be more agile and collaborative is always one of the biggest challenges in digital transformation, and organizations understand they can’t get good Customer Experience until they provide good Employee Experience.

From a revenue perspective, we are looking for business growth in Asia and Europe.


12. What’s one productivity tip/app/tool you can’t live without?

Allocate regular time on your work calendar to spend time on

  • cultivating mindfulness
  • improving your execution

For example, to improve my delegation I allocate time every day to do just that.


13. Where can people find out more about your product offerings and you online?

Please visit www.selfdrvn.com an contact our team for a demo. Or you can find me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/munchoong/ or Twitter @munchlam


Selfdrvn CEO Lam Mun Choong

SME’s Need to get a Few Things Right if They Want to Succeed

SME’s Need to get a Few Things Right if They Want to Succeed

Let’s get the boring stats out of the way. SMEs make up 97% of businesses in Malaysia and contribute nearly 37% of the country’s GDP.

That said, the AmBank BizConference on 1 November at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) was anything but boring.

The event featured several notable speakers and industry leaders who highlighted some of the crucial factors important to grow their businesses.

These include diversity, investing in people, technology and discipline.

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

 The event kicked off with a welcome note by Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, GCEO of AmBank, who emphasised the bank’s commitment to helping SMEs in the country “grow to the next level.”

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

 Roshan Thiran, CEO and co-founder of Leaderonomics followed with an energising discussion about how he, with his team, transformed a failing aircraft parts repair shop to the world’s best. He pointed out that talent isn’t everything. Rather, it’s the effort that people put in that counts.

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

 The importance and impact of diversity, not only of race or gender, was highlighted by Haresh Khoobchandani, CEO of REA Group. He encouraged SMEs to go beyond boundaries and be innovative in their solutions, citing how old and new are combining in India where modern Amazon is collaborating with the traditional Dabbawalas to deliver products to consumers.

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

 The audience was also treated to a special live TV interview session as part of the AmBank BizCLUB Show with Ganesh Kumar Bangah, co-founder of MOL and interviewer, Roshan. Ganesh talked about how he identified a gap in the market for his product, being the first company from Malaysia and SEA to list on NASDAQ, and lessons he learned in the process.

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, MD of IHS Markit Malaysia; Lam Mun Choong, CEO of SelfDrvn Enterprise and Nettium; and Sinan Ismail, CEO of Digital Durian Animation Studios came together for a panel discussion. In the interactive session, the panellists talked about how tech is transforming SMEs and why it is crucial that SMEs adopt modern technology to stay ahead.

They explained that as technology and access to data has become easier and cheaper, the only limiting factor for SMEs in their willingness to take up new technology. Mun Choong pointed out that while the free trade zone in Malaysia creates opportunities for SMEs to sell their products to the world, it also opens them to increased competition from global brands that have since adopted modern technology.

AmBank BizCLUB Show, Ganesh Kumar Bangah, AmBank BizRACE, Vimaleswari K. Ramasamy, Lam Mun Choong, Sinan Ismail, AmBank BizConference, Leaderonomics, Hannah Tan, Vishen Lakhiani, Mindvalley, CEO Masterclass, Christopher Yap, Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, SMEs

Hannah Tan, COO of Qiibou Group of Companies, in a chat with Roshan (which was aired on Facebook Live) talked about challenges she encountered growing your companies. Her advice to budding entrepreneurs is “Make it your goal to be disciplined and success will follow.”

The AmBank BizConference also featured a special CEO Masterclass with Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mindvalley, who shared seven key points that business owners and leaders can use to create top-performing teams. These are creating attraction, find the right fit, establish a common code, happiness, growth, meaning, and significance.

In the closing speech, Christopher Yap, AmBank’s business banking MD, thanked all the participants for being there. He also called on SMEs to join the AmBank BizRACE where they can win prizes worth over RM2 million, which include CEO coaching and mentoring and a leadership development programme.

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the importance of employees in building a world-class brand. As competition becomes global with advances in technology, it is crucial that Malaysian SMEs explore ways to create diverse teams and invest in them to develop a winning mindset.

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