Feedforward | No1 approach to Seeking Ideas for improvement

Feedforward | A Powerful Part of our Discovery Phase and a major element of MGSCC Leadership Coaching.

NLP Planning | Feedforward

Feedforward is an exceptionally effective way of getting useful suggestions for the future and is invaluable in the discovery and planning stages of any coaching programme.

It’s a significant part of our discovery sessions and Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching process. Marshall used to charge $250k+ for a programme for very top CEOs. We include many aspects of Marshall’s complete process in our Business practitioner and NLP coach practitioner certifications.

Introduction to Feed-forward

The following gives an introduction to feed-forward; later in this page, we introduce the key elements of the full MGSCC coaching process.

There are two important and complementary reasons for asking for feedforward:

  1. Information gathering
  2. Building and strengthening relationships.

There are also two key concepts to consider. Always know which of the two you’re focusing on.

  1. Information gathering
  2. Decision making

When we’re in information-gathering mode a key element is in thanking our stakeholders for sharing their ideas. We’re thanking them for the effort they’ve made, not for the quality of their ideas – which we only consider later.

Feedforward is purely about suggestions for the future, whereas feedback is about the past. Feedforward cannot be negative as it only suggests how to improve in the future.

It’s suggested that when you start asking for feedforward you choose people who are interested in your success. Later, when you’re more experienced, you can use the approach with perceived blockers and individuals who do not want you to succeed. It may be the first step in building a stronger and more helpful relationship.

  1. Decide on what you want to improve. The choice is endless. In our NLP programmes, most clients want to take their coaching skills to the next level (or their leadership or sales skills).
  2. Choose 5-10 of your key stakeholders. Ideally, the stakeholders need to have experience with you in the context of that goal.
  3. Ask each stakeholder for 10-15 minutes of their time to help you develop your approach to a development programme you’re investing in. Face-to-face and Skype/Zoom/Google Meet all work well. The phone is less effective as we want to see the person we’re asking’s eyes. We want them to tell us the truth—not be nice to us or fob us off!
  4. Ask each stakeholder to be straight with you. For example, say, “I’m investing in a development programme to take my coaching to the next level and offer my clients the highest possible value. I respect your judgement and would like your input. For this exercise, please be straight and honest with me.” Check that they are OK with this, and reassure them that it will only take 10-15 minutes.
  5. Then ask: “If you were me and taking the programme, what would be the top two elements you would focus on to become a really great coach that adds real value?” Then shut up and listen.
  6. Thank them and write whatever they say down (using their words – not your interpretation of their words.) Your thanks are for them taking the time to think and answer honestly – not for the usefulness of their reply.  Only evaluate their suggestions later with your coach.
  7. Ask if you can come back to them if you have any further questions later.
  8. Say “You’ve helped me a lot, if there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.”
  9. Check in with your coach, go through each suggestion and commit to what action you’re going to take. Please note that less is often more. The coach is there to ensure you evaluate each suggestion fairly, not to suggest what you might do.
  10. We recommend you drop a note to each stakeholder thanking them and outlining what you are going to do, even if you’re not actioning their specific suggestion this time.

Be aware of the key steps in the Marshall Goldsmith stakeholder process: Ask, listen, thank, think, respond, change, follow up.

You may consider some of the following leadership development to improve areas, and areas to reduce when making your choice (Remember if you’re choosing something to reduce, what do you want to improve in its place?)

Leadership Development Areas

Frequently selected areas for leadership growth

Popular with our clients:

  • Attracting clients
  • Develop the team’s vision, purpose and brand
  • Marketing the teams’ successes
  • Identify your key stakeholders
  • Managing and influencing key stakeholders
  • Establish key principles, values and culture
  • Develop an effective strategy (turn the vision etc into results)
  • Establishing the best performance measures, and the best ways of seeking continual improvement


  •  Communicate/listen better
  •  Decision making (incl. e.g. speed of decision making, including opinions of others in decision making)
  •  Be more assertive (incl. speaking up for your own beliefs & opinions)
  •  Manage conflict constructively, timely and effectively  Influencing / persuasive

Developing organizational culture & leaders:

  •  Managing diversity
  •  Build cross-functional relationships
  •  Cross-cultural management
  •  Stand up to people undermining teamwork
  •  Collaborate better with others (incl. being more respectful to others)
  •  Building trust with stakeholders
  •  Executive presence
  •  Self-confidence
  •  Driving team/culture change
  •  Coaching and mentoring

Managing performance:

  •  Delegate effectively
  •  Empower direct reports
  •  Execution for results (incl. focus execution and resources on a few critical business issues)
  •  Strategic Thinking  Be more entrepreneurial
  •  Take calculated risks
  •  Hold others accountable for results
  •  Deal timely with performance problems

20 Behaviours to reduce

What Marshall has learnt from his clients. Some behaviours to reduce.

  1. Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations.
  2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our 2 cents to every discussion.
  3. Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
  4. Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make us witty.
  5. Starting with NO, BUT, HOWEVER: The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly say to everyone that I’m right and you’re wrong.
  6. Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we’re smarter than they think we are.
  7. Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
  8. Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we weren’t asked.
  9. Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
  10. Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to give praise and reward.
  11. Claiming credit that we don’t deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
  12. Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
  13. Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
  14. Playing favourites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
  15. Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong, or recognize how our actions affect others.
  16. Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
  17. Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
  18. Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
  19. Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
  20. An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they’re who we are.

What We Learn From Practicing Feedforward

Certainly. Here’s the revised list of skills that can be learned through practising feedforward, including prioritization and articulating what you want:

  1. Active Listening: Feedforward teaches you to listen attentively to others, focusing on understanding their suggestions without intending to reply defensively.
  2. Open-mindedness: You become more open to new ideas and suggestions, fostering a receptive mindset to change and innovation.
  3. Future Orientation: Feedforward helps you develop a forward-thinking approach, focusing on future possibilities rather than past mistakes.
  4. Positive Communication: You learn to communicate constructively, focusing on potential improvements rather than criticism.
  5. Gratitude: Expressing thanks for suggestions, regardless of implementation, cultivates appreciation for others’ input.
  6. Self-awareness: Seeking feedforward increases awareness of your areas for improvement and the impact of your behaviour on others.
  7. Goal Setting: It helps you identify and articulate specific behaviours you want to change, which is crucial for practical goal setting.
  8. Resilience: Focusing on the future and not dwelling on past errors builds resilience and a growth mindset.
  9. Empathy: Providing feedforward to others helps you develop empathy by considering their goals and how you can assist them.
  10. Accountability: Feedforward creates a sense of accountability as you commit to making changes based on the suggestions you receive.
  11. Prioritization: Through feedforward, you learn to identify and prioritize the behaviours that will significantly impact achieving your goals.
  12. Articulating What You Want: You develop the ability to clearly describe your objectives to others, ensuring that the feedback you receive is focused and beneficial.

These skills are integral for anyone looking to improve their leadership capabilities and interpersonal effectiveness.

Elements of the Full MGSCC Coaching Process

Essential principles in the process:

  1. Identify and pay attention to your stakeholders
  2. Emphasise feed-forward
  3. Change behaviour and perception in parallel.

5-Step System

  1. Choose a leadership goal or goals (max 3)
  2. Enroll stakeholders and get their buy-in to the process
  3. Create and action plan based on stakeholder input
  4. Follow up with stakeholders
  5. Measure stakeholder perception of improvement

Notes on involving Stakeholders

Ask – Do: Be concise, be specific , be positive. Don’t: Wait for a better time to ask, act skeptical or doubtful, put yourself down

Listen – Do: Pay undivided attention, capture what is said, clarify / confirm what you’ve heard. Don’t: Use no, but or however, make excuses, exhibit impatience or anger

Thank – Do: Say thank you quickly, use first name (if appropriate), be genuine. Don’t: Use a dejected tone, act artificial, be insincere

Think (Ideally with a coach) – Do: Asses benefits of changing, assess cost of changing, decide if it’s worth it. Don’t: Engage in delusional thinking, prove the input is wrong, validate “this is the way I am”.

Respond (let stakeholders know you’ve listened to them) – Do: Be brief, be positive, be future focused. Don’t critique feedback and feedforward, respond to too many things, over-commit.

Change – Do: Apply suggestions in parallel, maintain momentum, make the change visible. Don’t: Procrastinate, give in to ‘feeling like a phony’, expect instant success.

Follow-up (Get feedback on how you’re progressing, this is usually at the start of the next round of feedforward.) – Do: Politely push for specifics, reinforce the process, make change visible. Don’t: Dwell on the past, become complacent, brag, gloat or show off.

Leaders requirements

Be coachable

  1. Demonstrate an element of ambition, courage, discipline and openness/honesty throughout the programme
  2. Have sufficient time, energy and focus,
  3. Choose the coach (as the coach has to choose their clients),
  4. Buy-in to the process below

Process requirements

  1. Have a clear leadership goal or goals and engage stakeholders
  2. Goes public with these goal (s) with their stakeholders and asks for their help and support
  3. Build an action plan based on their input
  4. Follows up with stakeholders frequently
  5. Formally measures results with stakeholders

Coaches requirements

  1. Credible
  2. Confidential
  3. Have sufficient time, energy and focus
  4. Knowledge of the MGSCC process and how to guide the leader through it

Stakeholders requirements

  1. Be supportive
  2. Pay attention
  3. Be helpful
  4. Honestly assess progress

Phases of the MGSCC coaching process

  1. Start smart: a) contract/understand and agree to required attitudes and framework, b) select behaviour (s) to develop, c) enrol stakeholders,
  2. Implementing the action plan: a) create an action plan, b) leader follow up with stakeholders, c) check in with the coach, d) provide feedback to stakeholders, as required (rehearse mini-survey and after action review).
  3. Sustain Success: a) reinforce the behaviours change process b) measure progress (min-survey) e) after action review, c) plan the transition.

After action reviews

  1. What did I set out to do?
  2. What happened (good and bad?)
  3. Why did it happen/What insights did you have?
  4. Learning/What will I do moving forward?

Feedforward check-in forms

These can be used for confidential check-ins with stakeholders, or self-assessment check-ins with stakeholders.

Content of check-in forms

  1. Relationship with leader
  2. Has the leader shared their growth area (s)
  3. Have the leaders asked for feed-forward
  4. Has the leader shared their action plan
  5. Has the leader asked for feedback
  6. How has the leader improved/got worse (+3 to -3 for either),

One development area: https://forms.gle/AfaDeDRpYNnUL5mb7

Two development areas: https://forms.gle/i9HPj561gMpCaiWh8

Three development areas: https://forms.gle/KBjNYzqxZoiwRLw28

Leadership Self Assessment

We’re also offering a Marshall Goldsmith leadership self assessment as part of our planning and discovery phase, please book a call with Michael if you’re interested in this.

Leadership quiz (assessment): https://forms.gle/X5ghwemrA3ASDGnY9

Michael’s online calendar:

NLP Training

We offer unique 1:1 NLP training worldwide, certified by NLP co-founder and the SNLP. See our NLP practitioner training, and our NLP training courses.

Full NLP Techniques List

NLP Plan Section Index

1: Why plan?
2: Self sabotage
3: Plans A, B & Z
4: Success Quiz
5: Time, energy and focus
6: End goals, milestones and focus
7: Feedforward
8: Planning and review questions
9: Daily questions
10: Summary

NLP Feedforward
NLP Feedforward