Coaching Tip: Instead of Feedback, Try Feedforward

I cringe every I time hear the question, “Would you like some feedback?”

Let’s face it.

Feedback is a dirty word. Though we see numerous articles on how feedback is the sine qua non for effective leadership, the word is loaded with negative connotations.

Here’s the problem. The fundamental issue with feedback is that it focuses on the past – things that already occurred. In other words, feedback becomes limited and static instead of expansive and dynamic. Instead, the focus should be on the future.

Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s number 1 ranked executive coach, offers a brilliant alternative.


Try feedforward.

Yes. Feedforward, not feedback. Very simply put, rather than providing positive or negative feedback, feedforward consists in providing future-oriented options and solutions.

Here’s some examples:

  • For our next meeting, I suggest you come up with several different ideas to showcase and send it prior to our next meeting via email.
  • Next time perceive a curve in the road ahead, I suggest you slow down before the curve, and accelerate when you are in the curve.  Try that, and see how it feels.

Watch Marshall Goldsmith explain the concept of feedforward below:

Follow the instructions to implement feedforward in your team and organization.

Rule #1: No feedback about the past. We spend too much of our time in the past. 

Rule #2: You can’t judge or critique ideas. When you get an idea, treat it like a gift. Say thank you and move on. 

Here’s the key. You ask the person to identify what issue they’d like to focus on. What is one area they want to improve (not 10 or 30)?

Example: My name is _________. I want to get better at _______________. 

Now, one or two people give input and ideas for the person for future ideas. Listen attentively to the suggestions and take notes. Participants are not allowed to comment on the suggestions in any way. They are not allowed to critique the suggestions or even to make positive judgmental statements, such as, “That’s a good idea.”

Give each person 2 minutes. 1 minute for giving/receiving ideas.

When the exercise is finished, Marshall ask participants to provide one word that best describes their reaction to this experience. Marshall asks them to complete the sentence, “This exercise was …”. The words provided are almost always extremely positive, such as “great”, “energizing”, “useful”, or “helpful.” One of the most commonly mentioned words is “fun!”

Who is Marshall Goldsmith?

Marshall Goldsmith is the world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. He is the million-selling author or editor of 31 books, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – a WSJ #1 business book and winner of the Harold Longman Award for Business Book of the Year.

Next Steps: If you’re looking for a coach, I just opened few more slots to take in new clients. Find more about by clicking HERE.