Feed Your Performance with Feedforward

Successful leaders are those who identify the behaviors they need to change, solicit the opinion of colleagues on ways they can improve and then listen to their ideas. Marshall Goldsmith, best-selling author and world renowned expert on executive coaching, calls this Feedforward.

The concept is simple. Once leaders can spot their derailers, the Feedforward process can be a positive way to help themselves improve performance.

Feedforward takes feedback to a different level entirely. Feedback is telling a person what they did, didn’t do, could have done or should have done. This is important information, but this is backward looking. It’s all about the past, and nothing we can do or say can change the past.

Feedforward is not about the past. It’s forward looking, and it’s all about letting someone know what leaders would like to achieve and asking for advice on how to get there. The gist of it goes like this: leaders tell a colleague, “I want to get better at…”, and expands their pool of potential possibilities that can lead to an improved performance. That’s Rule #1 of Feedforward. It’s that simple.

Here’s the best aspect of Feedforward: it overcomes the two biggest obstacles that leaders face with negative feedback. One, successful people in leadership positions rarely want to hear negative feedback; and two, their subordinates rarely want to give it.

Rule #2 is: Leaders cannot judge or critique the ideas they receive. The goal of Feedforward is to get new ideas from others, so leaders shouldn’t say: “Bad idea,” or “I already knew that.” Anything that carries the freight of judgement will never work, Goldsmith said.

According to Goldsmith, Feedforward works best when you just shut up, listen, take notes and say “Thank you” when it’s over. When leaders respond to Feedforward this way, amazing things are possible. And everyone benefits from it.

To learn more about Feedforward and our High Performance Leadership program with Marshall Goldsmith, check out the HPL fact sheet or listen to a replay of our webinar with Marshall Goldsmith.

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