Leadership experts like to talk about the importance of soliciting feedback — of making peace with the awkwardness and asking your team what they think of your performance so far.
In fact, one former Googler told Business Insider that not asking for feedback is the No. 1 mistake she sees leaders make.
But if you’ve mustered the courage to find out what other people really think of you, you’re hardly out of the woods. There’s a second step to improving your reputation among your team — and it’s arguably easier than the first.
It’s called feedforward, a term coined by leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith.
In his 2007 book, co-written with Mark Reiter, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” Goldsmith writes that feedforward is a simple process that can be as or more effective as feedback.
Here are the steps Goldsmith outlines in the book:
- Pick one behaviour you’d like to change.
- Describe your goal in a one-on-one conversation with anyone — it could be your partner, a friend, a coworker, or even a stranger.
- Ask the person for two suggestions for the future that could help you achieve your goal.
- Listen without judgment. The only thing you can say in response is “thank you.”
Repeat the same process with another person.
Goldsmith says the feedforward dialogue is generally less uncomfortable than the feedback one, because no one’s criticising the boss’s behaviour per se, so they’re less inclined to get defensive.
“While they don’t particularly like hearing criticism (i.e. negative feedback),” Goldsmith writes, “successful people love getting ideas for the future.”
Moreover, he says, while you can’t change your behaviour in the past, you can definitely modify your behaviour going forward, which is empowering.
As more companies work to revamp their employee feedback systems, it’s worth thinking about how to make feedforward a regular part of communication between coworkers. It’s probably less intimidating and just as helpful.
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