Marshall Goldsmith blog - Feedforward instead of feedback

Tired of Feedback? Try this Instead

Providing feedback is considered an essential skill for leaders, something that they are supposed to do on a daily basis. After all, employees need to know how they are doing to develop in the right direction.

Likewise, executives would benefit from receiving and acting on feedback to achieve positive change themselves. However, most high-achievers tend to resist feedback, even if it was meant to be constructive. They don’t like to be told how they have been wrong in the past.


FeedForward: A Simple Exercise

How can we solve this conundrum? By utilizing a concept called FeedForward. Instead of dwelling on the past, FeedForward focuses on suggestions for the future. Here is a simple exercise to get started:


Step 1: Pick one behavior that you would like to change

Improving this behavior should make a significant positive impact on your life.


Step 2: Set up short, 3-minute one-on-one meetings with your team members and colleagues

Tell your counterpart which behavior you would like to work on. It can be as simple as “I want to be a better listener.”


Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching blog - Feedforward

Step 3: Ask for FeedForward

Let the other person name two suggestions for the future that might help you achieve a positive change in your selected behavior. They are not permitted to give any feedback about the past, only ideas for the future.


Step 4: Listen attentively and take notes

You are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way. Just say “Thank you.”


How did that feel? Much less painful than giving and receiving feedback? That’s what we hear from most people who tried FeedForward.

By using FeedForward and encouraging others to use it, leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in the organization. The result is a positive and open environment where employees focus on the promise of the future rather than mulling over the mistakes of the past.

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