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Why feedforward is the way ahead

We are all used to receiving feedback from an early age, particularly once we’re in the education system.

There are parents’ evenings and reports full of feedback about how we’ve done and this continues throughout our school days and into the rest of our lives. 

In the work environment, we’ve traditionally also received feedback about how we’ve performed and that can be positive, as well as negative. Most of us also receive some sort of feedback in our personal lives every day – maybe on our ability to stack a dishwasher, mow the lawn or cook roast potatoes!  And sometimes that feedback comes from people we don’t even know – perhaps on our skills at parking or driving our car… 

Sometimes hearing and accepting feedback can be difficult, particularly if it is negative and most of us in our careers – or, indeed, any part of our lives - have had experience of being given feedback badly, which can leave us feeling sad, angry and unmotivated.  

Here at CooperBurnett LLP, we are shaking things up – as we have a habit of doing – by encouraging feedforward, rather than feedback. Rather than always focusing on the past and how a situation could have been handled, we are now looking to the future as well.  

Put simply, rather than providing positive or negative feedback, feedforward provides future-oriented solutions. We can’t change the past but we can affect the future. Feedforward gives insight into how ‘things’ can be finessed and improved moving forward – and how people can work to make themselves better - rather than being guided by positive or negative feedback. 

Feedforward is not judgmental; instead, it is empowering, enabling and encouraging and we find it reinforces our relationships across the whole team. Through this, our people feel empowered to make decisions and take responsibility – in a supportive environment - without the concern of being pulled up later. 

When we talk to newer members of the team, they are united in telling us what a friendly and welcoming bunch we are. The atmosphere is supportive and our open-door policy and absence of hierarchy define the working environment. 

Mentoring also has a role to play and that’s very much part of our philosophy here at CooperBurnett. Recently, Senior Paralegal Carla Loveday has been mentoring Trainee Solicitor, Imogen Fleur, as she embarks on her career in law with us.

“It’s much more than just making sure Imogen has the correct legal skills, it’s about helping her to discover what sort of lawyer she can become,” Carla explains.

Outside of our mentoring programme, we encourage Partners and long-standing team members to pass on their experience and skills to the next generation. It’s something which has been part of our culture at CooperBurnett long before ‘feedforward’ became our buzz word.

Partner and co-leader, Victoria Sampson, joined us when she was 23 and says: “Over the years, I have really benefitted from the advice and counsel of some amazing mentors and I feel confident all new recruits benefit in the same way.”

Indeed, feedforward can partly be achieved by leading by example and showing our team where they could be in say five, ten, twenty – or even thirty years. In many ways that is fairly easy here as – and we talk about it a lot – many of our team members have built their careers at CooperBurnett and have been part of the firm for a long time. This means it’s easy to show what can be achieved.

As Joseph Oates, Partner and co-leader explains: “It really encouraging to see our long-established Partners and team members sharing their expertise and experience with the newer members of our team.”

We have discovered that giving feedforward means everyone feels valued, part of our team, motivated and supported. Feedforward is goal orientated and we always try to deliver these goals simply and clearly. 

While we still have formal review sessions where objectives are discussed and set, we make sure that there is a constant dialogue going on, so team members know where they stand. 

Feedforward is an important part of our 3P Plan here at CooperBurnett. 

“Our 3P Plan stands for people, people, profit (how we can all profit from a team effort),” Victoria explains. “Our management team is committed to continuing to grow the firm and not only focus on our excellent reputation and the culture which has made us so successful, but with an eye to the future too and this is where feedforward is so beneficial.”

Please feel free to call Joseph Oates or Victoria Sampson direct on tel: 01892 515022 to discover more about our feedforward approach.

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January 3, 2023
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