Feedforward when feedback is too confronting

Giving and receiving feedback is a key process for many organisations seeking to develop individuals and teams.

It offers insight into individual performance and leadership effectiveness. When specific feedback is received you know exactly what you did well, so you can replicate it and know exactly what you didn’t do well so you can change it.

However the process can be quite confronting and in some cases personalities rather than behaviours hinder the objective nature of the process. Additionally, linking feedback to development initiatives is seldom realised in organisations with limited or no L&D budget.

An alternative (not implying that leaders should never give feedback — it is still a viable process for measuring performance through stakeholder feedback) is a process made famous by Marshall Goldsmith called Feedforward. Feedforward does not focus on what has already occurred but rather on the opportunities that can happen in the future. So, here’s how giving and receiving feedforward works:

  1. Pick one behaviour that you would like to change. Change in this behaviour should make a significant, positive difference to your work.
  2. Describe this behaviour to randomly selected participants (feedforward can come from anyone). This is done in one-on-one dialogues. For example: “I want to be a better listener.”
  3. Ask for feedforward — for two suggestions for the future that might help you achieve a positive change in your selected behaviour. If participants have worked with you in the past, they are not allowed to give you ANY feedback about the past. They are only allowed to give ideas for the future.
  4. Listen attentively to the suggestions and take notes. You are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way. You are not allowed to critique the suggestions or even to make positive judgmental statements, such as, “That’s a good idea.”
  5. Thank the participant for their suggestions and reverse the process.
  6. Ask the other person what they would like to change.
  7. Provide feedforward — two suggestions aimed at helping the other person change.
  8. Say, “You are welcome.” when thanked for the suggestions. The entire process of both giving and receiving feedforward usually takes about two minutes.
  9. Find another participant and keep repeating the process until you have enough ideas for future change.

Feedforward is non-confrontational, non-judgemental. It’s a future focused dialogue with positive ideas for behavioural change that can be applied any time throughout the year that also improves the overall quality of internal communications.


Originally published at www.thehrlandscape.com.au on February 9, 2015.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.