Activity 2.2 Business case for feedforward

Here is a blog post that was written by Marshall Goldsmith on the business case for feedforward.u00a0 Take a read-through as you prepare to conduct your feedforward dialogue.u00a0

Ten surefire reasons to try Feedforward!

MG Thinkers Blog, Aug. 25, 2014

By Marshall Goldsmith

Leaders have to give feedback and performance appraisals have to be made. This is a given. Yet, there are many times when feedforwardu00a0is preferable to feedback in day-to-day interactions. Feedforwardu00a0is a group exercise, the purpose of which is to provide individuals with suggestions for the future and to help them achieve a positive change in the behaviors as selected by them. Aside from its effectiveness and efficiency, feedforwardu00a0can make life a lot more enjoyable. (For a more detailed description of the Feedforward, please see the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video entitledu00a0

Here are 10 reasons participants in my classes see feedforwardu00a0as fun and helpful as opposed to painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. These descriptions provide a great explanation of why feedforwardu00a0can often be more useful than feedback as a developmental tool.

  1. We can change the future. We canu2019t change the past.u00a0Feedforwardu00a0helps people envision and focus on a positive future, not a failed past. By giving people ideas on how they can be even more successful (as opposed to visualizing a failed past), we can increase their chances of achieving this success in the future.

  2. It can be more productive to help people learn to be u201cright,u201d than prove they were u201cwrongu201d.Negative feedback often becomes an exercise in u201clet me prove you were wrong.u201d Feedforward, on the other hand, is almost always seen as positive because it focuses on solutions u2013 not problems.

  3. Feedforward is especially suited to successful people.u00a0Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals. They tend to resist negative judgment. I have observed many successful executives respond to (and even enjoy) feedforward. I am not sure that these same people would have had such a positive reaction to feedback.

  4. Feedforwardu00a0can come from anyone who knows about the task. It does not require personal experience with the individual.u00a0One very common positive reaction to the previously described exercise is that participants are amazed by how much they can learn from people that they donu2019t know!

  5. People do not take feedforwardu00a0as personally as feedback.u00a0In theory, constructive feedback is supposed to u201cfocus on the performance, not the personu201d. In practice, almost all feedback is taken personally (no matter how it is delivered). Feedforwardu00a0cannot involve a personal critique, since it is discussing something that has not yet happened!

  6. Feedback can reinforce personal stereotyping and negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Feedforwardu00a0can reinforce the possibility of change. Feedback can reinforce the feeling of failure. Negative feedback can be used to reinforce the message, u201cthis is just the way you areu201d. Feedforwardu00a0is based on the assumption that the receiver of suggestions can make positive changes in the future.

  7. Face it! Most of us hate getting negative feedback, and we donu2019t like to give it.u00a0I have reviewed summary 360 feedback reports from many companies. The items u201cprovides developmental feedback in a timely manneru201d and u201cencourages and accepts constructive criticismu201d always score near the bottom on co-worker satisfaction with leaders. Itu2019s clear that leaders are not very good at giving or receiving negative feedback. It is unlikely that this will change in the near future.

  8. Feedforwardu00a0tends to be much faster and more efficient than feedback.u00a0An excellent technique for giving ideas to successful people is to say, u201cHere are four ideas for the future. Please accept these in the positive spirit that they are given and ignore what doesnu2019t make sense for you.u201d With this approach almost no time gets wasted on judging the quality of the ideas or u201cproving that the ideas are wrongu201d.

  9. Feedforwardu00a0can be a useful tool to apply with managers, peers, and team members.u00a0Rightly or wrongly, feedback is associated with judgment. This can lead to very negative u2013 or even career-limiting u2013 unintended consequences when applied to managers or peers. Feedforwardu00a0does not imply superiority of judgment. As such it can be easier to hear from a person who is not in a position of power or authority.

    And, finally, reason #10 why feedforwardu00a0can work better than feedback isu2026

  10. People tend to listen more attentively to feedforward than feedback.u00a0One participant in the feedforwardu00a0exercise noted, u201cI think that I listened more effectively in this exercise than I ever do at work!u201d When asked why, he responded, u201cNormally, when others are speaking, I am so busy composing a reply that will make sure that I sound smart u2013 that I am not fully listening to what the other person is saying I am just composing my response. In feedforward, the only reply that I am allowed to make is u2018thank youu2019. Since I donu2019t have to worry about composing a clever reply u2013 I can focus all of my energy on listening to the other person!

    Quality communicationu2014between and among people at all levels and every department and divisionu2014is the glue that holds organizations together. By using feedforwardu2014and by encouraging others to use itu2014leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations, ensuring that the right message is conveyed, and that those who receive it are receptive to its content. The result is a much more dynamic, much more open organizationu2014one whose employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past. Try it for yourself and see!