The People Pro

Training, Tips and Tools to Build Your Business and Balance Your Life!

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Location: Small town, Northern Wisconsin

Barbara is an author, speaker and psychotherapist in private practice. She provides keynote presentations and is a Certified Professional Speaker, a designation held by fewer than 8% of the speakers in the world. She has appeared on FOX, CNN, and CBS and is considered an expert in relationships.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Helping Successful People Get Even Better

Managers and supervisors often utilize “feedback” to coach and mentor their employees. Yet feedback has many drawbacks according to research by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach to many Fortune 100 companies. “Feedback tends to reinforce feelings of failure,” says Goldsmith, “It focuses on the past, not on the future.”

Most people dread feedback meetings as “feedback” tends to have a negative connotation. The receiver may begin to feel defensive even before the first word is spoken as they anticipate “corrective input” that they did not request. While the intent of the feedback is meant to be helpful, it is usually heard as criticism, not coaching. Often the feedback process is focused on proving what the receiver did wrong, not helping them be right. It is much easier to identify what went wrong in the past than to initiate behaviors to correct the problem for the future.

Goldsmith recommends another approach called Feedforward. A technique that can be used with managers, peers, team members and family, it can cover the same material as feedback but in a more positive manner. Feedforward assumes that people can change and future behavior can be modified. Feedforward can come from anyone who knows the task, not just the person. It is an effective approach as successful people like getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals. Because the goals are chosen by the participants rather than a supervisor or boss, they are more open to the input in the process.

For Feedforward, people are asked to:

  • Choose to change one behavior to make a positive difference in their lives.
  • Describe this behavior to others.
  • Ask for two suggestions for achieving a positive change in the behavior.
  • Listen to suggestions and take notes without commenting on them.
  • Thank others for their suggestions.
  • Ask others what they would like to change.
  • Provide Feedforward –two suggestions aimed at helping them change.
  • Say, “You are welcome,” when thanked for the suggestion.

This exercise can be done in team meetings or as individual assignments. You can direct team members to engage in short conversations based on the above guidelines and write down the suggestions. Participants usually describe it as “energizing, fun, and helpful.” It builds teamwork as people seek each other out for suggestions and share information. As they gather information to help them with their pre-selected behavior, they receive a concrete place to start rather than vague ideas of what to improve.

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Feedforward tends to be efficient and takes only a few minutes. Participants listen carefully to the suggestions provided as they requested the input. They are also more likely to be effective in initiating change, as the behavior identified for improvement was their idea not someone else’s.

The key to long term success with Feedforward is the follow-up accountability. As it takes a minimum of 30-90 days to create a new habit, it is important to build a “check-in” process for participants to report on their progress. This can be done in a number of ways.

  • Have a brief meeting where everyone checks in with their progress.
  • Conduct an e-mail survey every thirty days where participants identify what suggestions are working for them.
  • Schedule another Feedforward where participants obtain additional suggestions for their identified behavior change.
  • Have participants call a “partner” to ask how they are doing after a 30 day interval.
  • Inquire about progress in one-to-one meetings.

Follow-up accountability keeps participants focused on what they said they were going to do. It also prevents the Feedforward from simply becoming “the program of the week,” where employees hear about it once and it drops off the radar screen. Research by Goldsmith demonstrates that ongoing monitoring of the program is a key factor for success.

Participants must be encouraged to be helpful coaches to each other, not cynics, critics or judges. If successful people feel that they are being encouraged and supported by their peers, they are much more likely to achieve long-range results. If they feel that they are being judged, they will become apathetic to the process and quit trying. Additional training must be given to participants to assist them in learning coaching and mentoring techniques.

Using feedforward, you not only convey the right message, you also ensure that those who receive it are receptive to its content and open to change. Try it and make your life and workplace more enjoyable.

For more information on Feedforward and coaching and mentoring, listen to Barb's teleseminar, "Helping Successful People Get Even Better."

Copyright June 2006. All rights reserved.