Feedforward | No1 approach to Seeking Ideas for improvement

Feedforward | A Powerful Part of our Discovery Phase

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 major part of Marshall Goldsmith’s coaching process. Marshall used to charge $250k for a programme for very top CEOs. (You can see an outline of our own Stakeholder Centred Programme for CEO/C Suite executives by following the link).

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

  1. Information gathering
  2. Building and strengthening relationships.

A key part in asking for feedforward is thanking the person for their time and ideas. We’re in an information gathering mode, not a judgemental mode. Evaluating ideas comes later (ideally with your coach.)

Feedforward is purely about suggestions for the future, whereas feedback is about the past. Feedforward cannot be negative as it is only suggestions of 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 in the approach, you can use the approach with perceived blockers and individuals who appear not to want you to succeed. It may be the first step in building a much stronger and more useful 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 skills, or sales skills).
  2. Choose 5-10 of your key stakeholders. Ideally the stakeholders need to have experience of 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 eyes of the person we’re asking. We want them to tell us the truth – not be nice to us or fob us off!
  4. Ask each stakeholder to be totally 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 totally 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 is 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, going 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.

Leadership Development Areas

Frequently selected areas for leadership growth


  •  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 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 few critical business issues)
  •  Strategic Thinking  Be more entrepreneurial
  •  Take calculated risks
  •  Hold others accountable for results
  •  Deal timely with performance problems

Notes on involving Stakeholders

This is a useful part of the full MGSCC process,


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


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


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.


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.

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.

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