Forget Feedback, Try Feed Forward

Posted November 23, 2011 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

Even though I know it’s good for me, I still find “constructive” feedback difficult.  Like many type-A’s, I’m so highly self-critical that hearing things from other people about what I’m not doing well makes me want to shout “yeah, well you try living in this head!”  Good thing my husband’s a therapist.  Anyway, lately, I’ve been trying more of the “feed forward” technique.  For anyone else who’s tired of feedback, here’s how it works so that you can give it a try for yourself.

Before I get started, the key consideration here is that you actually want to mend the error of your ways.  If you repeatedly get feedback that you routinely ignore people and your inner voice is saying “well, really, I don’t give a sh*t about that”, well, skip this post and tune back in when I talk about why smart people derail.

So, for everyone else who’s committed to actually changing their annoying behaviours, here’s what you do:

  1. Identify the annoying behaviour:  name it and claim it. “I’m lousy at listening and I plan to get better.”
  2. Apologize to your colleagues for the behaviour and get their support:  kind of like the 12 step program, part of the process is to “right your wrongs” and part of being successful is getting people who may not be on your side, onside to help.  “I’m sorry that I haven’t been great at listening.  I’ve decided that I really want to do something about it and I’d like your help.”
  3. Ask for their SPECIFIC advice:  now’s the time to solicit suggestions on what you could do differently.  “I’d love to get your top 3 suggestions on what I can do to be a better listener.”  Make sure the suggestions are concrete and specific.
  4. Now shut up: this may be the hard part for many, but here’s where you keep your mouth shut and listen to their three suggestions.  Don’t argue, don’t debate and only question if it’s to seek clarification and make sure you’ve understood.
  5. Thank your colleague:  Again, no discussion the ideas. Simply thank them for their input.  “Thanks so much for these suggestions.  I really appreciate your help.”
  6. Take action and follow-through:  Try out the actions suggested and then check-in with your colleagues to see how you’re doing.  WARNING: they won’t see change overnight.  Studies show it takes 12 to 18 months for people to be convinced of new behaviours.  Part of following through is making sure people are aware of the efforts and steps you’ve been taking.

REPEAT the above actions with as many people as you’d like.

And there, dear readers are my basics on the Feed Forward technique.  For more detailed instructions, check out the master of feed forward, Marshall Goldsmith who lays it out in this helpful video.

So, give it a try.  Afterall, talking about what you “can do” is much more fun than hearing about what you’re lousy at doing.

Happy leading!


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