You’ve Tried Feedback—But What About Feedforward?

How many of us like feedback? And how often does it help us versus make us feel disappointed or inadequate? Marshall Goldsmith has turned this technique on its head, providing a fun and helpful way to get answers to a problem or concern you are working on. Feedforward is a fun (yes, fun) and effective way to quickly get a lot of ideas around a challenge you’re facing.

Think about it. Would you rather be critiqued on the past, or get help planning for something you need to do in the future? No contest. The steps in feedforward are easy and it works with any size group, although the more the merrier (and more rambunctious!). Marshall taught and modeled this technique at the recent Ultimate Culture Conference produced and hosted by Human Synergistics. The more than 200 people in attendance all identified a challenge they wanted help with, and Marshall proceeded to lead them through the three-step feedforward process.


Step 1 – Choose something you need help with or an issue that has you stuck. It could be a forthcoming challenge or something that’s bothered you (e.g., How can I be a better listener?). What I learned is the more specific and concise you can be, the better chance you’ll have to get suggestions that can be truly helpful. So perhaps you would ask instead, “How can I listen better at meetings?” Or “How can I listen better to my spouse?” (We all can work on the latter!)

Step 2 – Take an index card or pad of paper and stand up and meet someone new to you. Introduce yourself, share your challenge, and ask for their best idea or suggestion. Give no comments or judgment. Just say ‘thank you’ to them. Your partner then asks you for feedforward on his or her challenge, and you provide your best idea on the topic. Your partner gives no feedback and just says ‘thank you.’ When receiving feedforward, don’t judge it, and especially don’t argue or say you tried that and it doesn’t work. Just say ‘thank you.’ This should take two to three minutes.


Step 3 – Change partners and do it again. In a larger group, raise your hand when you’re done and find a new partner. Do this for however long you have—15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. At the end, you have a long list of suggestions that may have a gold nugget or two for you to use. The key is that you’ve gotten a number of ideas that you may have never thought of before. In addition, you feel good because you’ve been able to help a number of others. Win-win!

For more on Marshall’s Feedforward process, click here.

Try this technique at your next meeting. Incorporate it into your work. You may just get an idea for an issue you’re trying to solve. On your own, go ask people for feedforward. I’ve done this many times myself. You’ll find that people love to help, and it may give you a new perspective you hadn’t thought of before. Fun, win-win, practical, and useful. Feedforward is the way to go.

What process do you use for generating ideas around a challenge on which your team or client is trying to solve? Please share your thoughts and comments on LinkedIn and Twitter.


1 Goldsmith, Marshall (2012). FeedForward. Highland Park IL: Round Table Companies.

Making Small Changes for Big Impact in Developing Others

Tips and Insights for Coach-Consultants

Dr. Peter Fuda writes about transforming leadership and he’s most interested in transforming results. Glad to hear, because results are what counts! He had several key themes in his talk at the recent Ultimate Culture Conference hosted by Human Synergistics, and I’ll recap a few of my favorites here.


This is an interesting point for those who say that a leader doesn’t need to be out in front. Maybe we need to look at what “out in front” means.

Peter told the story of a mother who revered Gandhi and wanted her child to give up sugar. She spent a day traveling a difficult journey to get to Gandhi’s ashram, and when she got there and explained what she wanted, Gandhi said to come back in two weeks. Exasperated, she went home and did the grueling journey again two weeks later. When she asked what she should do, Gandhi said to her child, “You must give up sugar.” Perplexed, she asked why he couldn’t say this the first time. Gandhi replied, “Because I hadn’t done that myself.”

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.
-Mahatma Gandhi

Think of the immense credibility Gandhi displayed, and the credibility we all have when we can speak from experience and not just from anecdotes. Can you imagine how much more effective and powerful we would be if we “gave up sugar, too” (or whatever the behavior may be)? We can’t have first-hand knowledge of everything we work on, but the more we can put ourselves in our client’s shoes, the greater our credibility.


As professionals involved in the development of others, it’s easy to tell them what to do and expect change while giving ourselves a pass. Instead, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Peter shared another story about a five-year-old girl. There were two apples left at home, and the mother asked her daughter to give one to her and keep the other for herself.” The daughter took both apples out of the drawer and promptly took a bite out of each. How do you think the mom felt? Perhaps she thought, “My daughter’s doing all she can to keep me from having either apple.” The mother asked her daughter why she bit into both apples. Her daughter replied, “To find the sweetest one to give you!”— precisely the opposite of what the mom expected!

Always assume a noble intention.
-Peter Fuda

I have always said, “There’s always a reason for irrational behavior.” That’s what the girl showed – something irrational, but with a reason in mind. And yes, we are judging her by her actions, not her intentions. Remember that your actions speak volumes. And so even with the best of intentions, it’s actions by which others will judge us. Take the appropriate actions that match your intentions.


People need to identify the gap between where they are and where they want to go. Defining that gap so others can clearly see it is the first step you need to take in consulting with them. Second, help them identify what they need to do to get to the other side of the gap. This can help them determine ways they can implement the change they desire.

That may not be enough. There’s a third step that’s often missed. You need to ignite the fire from within.1 Too often we think about lighting a fire under certain individuals or teams to get them moving. This is often called a burning platform. But what happens then? They run – and in any direction! You want them to run in the right direction and run with passion and purpose. Drive them to close the gap by not lighting a fire under them that could cause harm and panic. Light the fire INSIDE of them and create a burning ambition instead of a burning platform. Let their passion drive their desire and energy in the direction they need to go. They’ll move ever closer to closing the gap and implementing the change needed to reach their personal and organizational goals.

Heeding this advice will make you a better consultant and, equally, help make your clients more successful.

I invite your thoughts and comments on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Editor’s note: Something BIG is coming from Peter in 2018. Sign up at and be among the first to know.


1 Fuda, Peter (2013). Leadership Transformed: How ordinary managers become extraordinary leaders. Boston: New Harvest-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Using Leadership and Team Culture to Create the Greatest Band

The Beatles—arguably one of the greatest bands in history—did not become that way by accident. Many stories abound about their long time playing nightly in Hamburg, getting to know and be in sync with one another. This could be the epitome of creating a truly high-performing team. But what about leadership?

The two key leaders, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, played off of each other in composing. Neither was a classically trained musician with a music conservatory pedigree. Lyrics and form were even written on the backs of envelopes at times. Clearly their passion was in writing the right lyrics and melody, and bringing the group together because they could work it out. They knew the strengths of each player, although you don’t have to live together in rather poor circumstances and play together nightly for a year for that to happen! Another great musician, Duke Ellington, was said to have used his orchestra as his keyboard. He also knew the strengths of each of his players and his orchestrations reflected their strengths in his compositions.

A good leader knows his/her team

A good leader knows the strengths of his or her team. He or she builds on and caters to those strengths. That’s one of the pieces missing in leadership development today—knowing and growing the team you are leading. The Beatles did not become an overnight sensation; they worked hard to achieve that. They didn’t just let it be. They changed players when it helped them achieve greater synergy and musicianship between them (e.g., swapping Pete Best for Ringo Starr at the suggestion of their producer and manager). They knew they had to get Ringo into their lives to ensure the right culture fit for their organization.

I definitely did look up to John. We all looked up to John. He was older and he was very much the leader; he was the quickest wit and the smartest.
-Paul McCartney

Leaders today need to do that by identifying the right players for the team—people that fit together and add value to the whole. Fitting together means they have to be right for the culture that exists or is being created. When Amazon makes a key hire, they make sure to have someone outside the team interview them to be sure they fit with the culture.1 When people come into Southwest Airlines for an interview, they get feedback from every Southwest employee the candidate interacts with along the way.2 These stellar organizations know the value of ensuring a culture fit on the team, as did the Beatles. Even if it took them eight days a week.

Start by forming

Why do we expect leaders and teams to be highly successful when all too often they are just thrown together? Don’t take a long and winding road. It’s at the beginning when a team is assembled and formed, to use Tuckman’s model, when a leader learns about team members’ strengths and how to best use them.3 As much as we want to charge ahead and get right down to the task at hand, the task will get done in a much more effective and even successful way if we take the time to form properly.

To expedite and strengthen the process, team members can take an assessment to understand each others’ styles and behaviors.4 The more the leader and teammates know about each member’s styles, strengths, and weaknesses, the more they can tap into everyone’s individual strengths and build a cohesive, collaborative, and high-performing team. Or, you can go perform in a cellar in Hamburg for a year!

The mark of a winning team—and a winning leader: Come together—right now!

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed via the social channels below.


1 Taube, A. (November 20, 2014). This Jeff Bezos Quote Explains Amazon’s Insanely Difficult Hiring Process. Retrieved from:

2 Gallo, C. (September 10, 2013). How Southwest And Virgin America Win By Putting People Before Profit. Retrieved from:

3 Duncker, C. (February 15, 2015). Tuckman’s Team Development Model. Retrieved from:

4 Lafferty, J. C. (1973). Life Styles Inventory™. Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.