Building Volunteer Success through Feedforward

Once upon a time, there was a passionate volunteer committee chair. Thanks to Covid, this committee was reinventing its activity and had a compressed timeline. The challenge was making the most of the virtual committee meetings. It called for strong facilitation skills.

The story has a happy ending. The activity was a roaring success. Goals were met. The committee optimized its time.

Part of what contributed to the success was the coaching the volunteer received in real-time through conversations with their association staff contact tapping into a technique known as feedforward. Rather than spending time debriefing the meeting, they did pre-meetings. They focused on how to make the most of the upcoming meeting.

We explored this common challenge of supporting volunteers and the concept FeedForward in our CEX 2020 Skills Session.

Feedforward looks at how to change the future. It focuses on the possibilities by flipping its attention from the past to the future. This was originally developed by management expert Marshall Goldsmith. Joe Hirsch, author of the Feedback Fix, says at the simplest level, it leads to the unmistakable feeling that we’re moving forward in our professional and personal lives.

Goldsmith describes the difference between feedback and feedforward this way: “But there is a fundamental problem with all types of feedback: it focuses on a past, on what has already occurred, making it limited and static. What if we focused on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen? Now the help is expansive and dynamic.”

Three critical areas of difference in feedback and feedforward:

  • Feedback is viewed as criticism vs. help which in turn has a tendency to shut down our mental dashboard.
  • Feedback is about outcomes vs. developing the person. Yes, outcomes are important, however coaching is about the individual and nurturing individual performance.
  • Feedback is about the problem, not the opportunity.


How can we do it?


This 2020 CEX session was part of CRP Love: Treat Yourself & Hone Your Skills, a series of fast rounds focusing on developing and honing skills in specific areas including facilitation, tough conversations, communications, presentations, and pitching. Be sure to read a quick recap of the full CEX 2020 experience.