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This resource highlights the benefits of helping the entrepreneur focus on what’s next and taking control of the direction of their business. And here’s our 9 reasons for using forward-looking feedback:

We can change the future, we can’t change the past.

Forward-looking input helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. Athletes are often trained using forward-looking input: race car drivers are taught to look at the road ahead, not at the wall. Basketball players are taught to envision the ball going in the hoop and to imagine the perfect shot. By giving your mentee ideas on how they can be even more successful, you can increase their chances of achieving this success.

It can be more productive to help people be right than prove they were wrong.

Negative feedback often becomes an exercise in “let me prove you were wrong.” This tends to produce defensiveness on the part of the receiver and discomfort on the part of the sender. Even constructively delivered feedback is often seen as negative because it necessarily involves a discussion of mistakes, shortfalls, and problems. Forward-looking input, on the other hand, is almost always seen as positive because it focuses on solutions—not problems.

Forward-looking input is especially suited to successful people.

Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals.  They tend to resist negative judgment.  We all tend to accept feedback that is consistent with the way we see ourselves, and we also tend to reject or deny feedback that is inconsistent with the way we see ourselves.  Successful people tend to have a very positive self-image, and respond better to positive suggestions than negative ones.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve established a relationship with your mentee to provide them with forward-looking input.

Forward-looking input can come from anyone who knows about the task; it does not require personal experience with the individual.  Feedback requires knowing about the person. Forward-looking input just requires having good ideas for achieving the task.

People do not take forward-looking input as personally as they do direct feedback.

In theory, constructive feedback is supposed to “focus on the performance, not the person.”  In practice, almost all feedback is taken personally, no matter how it is delivered.  Positive suggestions tend to be seen as objective advice; critiques are often viewed as personal attacks.  One benefit of using forward-looking input is that it cannot involve a personal critique because you are discussing something that has not yet happened.

Direct feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies by reminding the entrepreneur of the feeling of failure.

To the mentee, this can seem like a reinforcement of the message, “This is just the way you are, so don’t bother trying to progress.”  On the other hand, forward-looking input can introduce or reinforce the possibility of improvement because it is based on the assumption that the person receiving the suggestions can make positive changes in the future.something that has not yet happened.

Forward-looking input can cover almost all of the same materials as feedback.

Imagine that your mentee has spent their marketing budget to purchase newspaper ads, only to realize it is a marketing method that is wholly unsuited for their business. Rather than make them relive the experience, you might help them make better plans by giving them suggestions for future marketing. You could say something like, “Let’s talk about some other marketing options that might be more cost effective.  Have you thought about ways you can use social media to market your product?” These suggestions can be very specific and still delivered in a positive way.  In this way you can cover the same points without making your mentee feel even more embarrassed.

Forward-looking input tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback.

An excellent technique for giving ideas to successful people is to say, “Here are four ideas for the future. Please accept these in the positive spirit in which they are given. If you can only use two of the ideas, you are still two ahead. Just ignore what doesn’t make sense for you.”  With this approach almost no time gets wasted on judging the quality of the ideas or proving that the ideas are wrong. By eliminating judgment of the ideas, the process becomes much more positive for the sender, as well as the receiver. Successful people tend to have a high need for self-determination and will accept ideas that they buy and reject ideas that feel forced upon them.

People tend to listen more attentively to forward-looking input than to feedback.

Often when others are speaking, we are busy composing a reply. This is particularly true when receiving negative feedback, because we feel we must defend our position and our reasons for our decisions. With forward-looking input, your mentee will feel less defensive, and become freer to listen to your suggestions. Instead of trying to think of ways to defend their position, your mentee can focus on your advice, and be grateful for your help.