Feedforward, instead of back

You need to use an extra wide trowel. And feather it out.

I heard this feedback from down the hall as I was standing in my bathrobe, silently thinking that the previous day’s efforts preparing the bathroom for painting had gone rather well.

I did use a wide trowel. I did feather it out. 

Giving, and receiving, feedback can be a tricky business.

Giving, and receiving feedback, can be a tricky business.

At our Workplace Fairness lunch recently, Shawn Stratton came to share some harrowing stories about leading teams on the edge, and to talk about Feedforward. Shawn learned about leadership in the trickiest of situations, as a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor in places such the Alaskan Arctic or deep in the Himalayas.

Shawn reminded us that good feedback is actually Feedforward. It

  • is timely
  • is specific
  • shows cause and effect relationships
    • highlights the activity and not the person
  • is owned by the sender
    • presents as a personal observation rather than a directive
  • is growth-oriented
    • focuses on the future
  • preserves dignity
    • suspends judgment
  • inquires
    • explores reasoning, and how it lands with the receiver

Shawn walked us through a Feedforward exercise which really resonated with people. We were asked to pick one behaviour we would like to change; describe the behaviour to a random participant; ask for Feedforward (2 suggestions for the future which might help change the behaviour); listen attentively and take notes; say thank you.

The key to this exercise is not discussing the past at all, and responding to the suggestions only with a “Thank you”.  Hmmm. Thinking about my drywall mudding expertise, I do need some Feedforward. But it might land better coming from a more detached, expert observer.  We cannot separate suggestions from our relationship with the sender. Did I mention it was my husband?

At our Workplace Fairness lunch we tried Feedforward instead of Feedback, and we liked it. If you would like to read more about Feedforward, Shawn provides some references for Leadership Thinker Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and comments on his blog here.

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