The Feedforward template will enable leaders to share and gather objective feedback on how to address specific issues that could be impacting their success, so they can begin making positive changes and avoid these same mistakes in the future. This template was created by the world-renowned leadership expert and coach, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith.
Feedforward (also known as ‘feed it forward’) is an interesting exercise that anyone can use to gather objective feedback that can aid their future development. Unlike asking those you have worked with for their feedback or opinions on your work, this fun, experimental exercise will encourage you to focus on just one general behavior that you want to improve (such as ‘becoming a better public speaker’ or ‘becoming a better listener’) and asking participants of the exercise to give you advice on how you can address this issue going forward. Instead of focusing on your past ‘mistakes’, getting feedback in this way will help you to draw a line under them and focus on future improvement.
However, it’s vital to remember that this is a two-part process, and you need to provide others with advice too. In the first role, you will be required to provide feedforward by giving other participants suggestions on a specific issue they’re experiencing. In the other role, you accept feedforward by listening to suggestions on your issue from another participant.
Feedforward is an efficient exercise that should last between 10 and 15 minutes. In this time, the average participant has six or seven ‘sessions’ of giving and receiving feedback. Although you can complete the feedforward process with someone you have previously worked with, it’s important to remember that you can gather the most objective feedback from individuals you don’t know personally, as their opinion won’t be subconsciously swayed by past experiences or their existing relationship with you. However, if you do complete this exercise with someone you have previously worked with, they won’t be allowed to base their suggestions on your past work or actions.
Although feedback is essential for helping leaders and any other individuals to develop, people can be reluctant to provide this to those they know personally in fear that they will upset them or appear to be criticizing them unfairly. Because the feedforward exercise requires all participants to disregard past work and actions, the feedback received will offer a more objective view, which will lead to a wider variety of suggestions being given to you. Remember that for many common behaviors that people want to address (for example, not managing their time well), someone doesn’t need to know them to offer valuable advice.
Another benefit of using the feed it forward exercise is that it turns what can often be a negative experience for managers and many other individuals (getting feedback) into a more positive one. This is because the suggestions you receive will be nonsubjective and not a commentary on specific mistakes you have made. As a matter of fact, when I ask managers how they felt the last time they received the feedback, the most common response is negative. However, when I’ve asked managers how they feel after receiving feedforward, they typically tell me they had a positive experience; that the exercise was not only useful, but fun too.
My Feedforward template has been specifically created for you to use alongside this fun and insightful activity, and it can be exclusively accessed in Ayoa. Discover how to use my template below.
To access the template, sign up to Ayoa. Once you've signed up, navigate to the homepage to create a new whiteboard, mind map or task board and choose this template from the library.
Task every participant with thinking of a particular behavior they would like to change. When they know what this is, ask them to add it to the first section of the template (‘I’d like to be better at…’) using sticky notes.
Describe this behavior to fellow participants in one-to-one dialogues. Try to keep this as simple as possible. As an example, you could say: “I want to be a better listener” or “I want to learn how to manage my time better”.
Ask for advice (feedforward) that might help you to achieve a positive change in your behavior and add these to the template using sticky notes. Participants can provide multiple suggestions if they wish, though I’d advise providing at least two. If you have worked together in the past, remind them that they are not allowed to give you any feedback that’s related to your past actions; they are only allowed to give objective ideas for the future. You should refrain from commenting on the suggestions or critiquing them in any way, even if your feedback is positive.
Thank the participant for their suggestions and ask them what they would like to change about themselves. Provide two suggestions (or feedforward) that can help them to achieve a positive change in their behavior. They should then add these to their own version of the template. Don’t forget to say “you’re welcome” after you have been thanked for your suggestions.
Find another participant and keep repeating this two-way process of giving and receiving feedforward until the exercise comes to an end. With each participant, this should only take a few minutes.
Finally, ask the participants to complete the end of this sentence: “This exercise was…”. Some of the most common words that have been selected when I’ve asked participants are “great”, “energizing”, “helpful”, “useful” and even “fun”. I hope that your experience will be just as positive!
Analyze the suggestions you have received, then use Ayoa to formulate a plan of how you can put them into action going forward.