[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don't see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you'll get more value than reading just this post.]
If I talk about coaching, especially in limited times with very talented people, I have to talk about Feedforward. I refer to my previous post on it for a thorough description of it. It’s one of the best tools for finding out what about yourself to improve and how. If you don’t have access to a 360-degree feedback (almost no one does and even people who do only get them less than once per year), you can use Feedforward anyway.
I’ll mention a few benefits specific to the context of leadership development.
If you don’t know what to improve, Feedforward helps you find it
Many people say they don’t know what to improve. You can start your first Feedforward practice with something like (I assume you’ve read my previous post on Feedforward)
“I’d like to improve something about myself. You’ve seen and interacted with me. I’m sure you’ve thought of things I could improve. Can you give me two or three things that could help?”
As general as it seems, it gives people enough direction for suggestions. They’ve seen you for a while. You may consider yourself perfect, but, believe me, they’ll have suggestions.
If you want to be more specific or focus on leadership, you could go with
“I’d like to improve my leadership skills. You’ve seen me in situations with leadership aspects and you’ve seen great leaders. Can you give me two or three things that could help?”
Feedforward will give you answers. You have to figure out the best people to get Feedforward from, but you’ll be able to. Asking enough people will probably yield specific areas you could use the most work in.
If you think about all the people you’d like to change or you wish they did things differently, you’ll realize how much advice you’d give them if they asked. That should give you an idea of how much advice people who know you will be able to give you.
Feedforward is quick and easy
When I run Feedforward exercises in seminars, I ask participants to compare the exercise to having reviews at work. Of course they say how much quicker and easier Feedforward works. Avoiding judgment and looking toward the future are like that.
You don’t need permission or to schedule an appointment to do Feedforward
I often do Feedforward without asking as a part of regular conversations. Everyone agrees it’s easier than doing quarterly reviews. You don’t have to say you’re going to do it. You can just do it. After you do Feedforward a few times you get the hang of it and do it casually.
Feedforward costs nothing and builds relationships
That something that involves only talking to friends or colleagues costs nothing goes without saying. Actually, I’ll add that it hardly costs any time since you can do it casually, like in an elevator. In under a minute you can get useful, doable suggestions custom-tailored for you.
When you ask someone for advice, then don’t judge their advice they tend to feel like experts and appreciated by you. If you want to experience it, ask someone to do Feedforward with you so you get asked and tell me you don’t feel that way — like an expert and appreciated.
When you use the other person for accountability — say, asking to check in with them once daily, weekly, monthly, etc — you develop a relationship based on them seeing you progress. People like seeing others succeed so post-Feedforward accountability often leads to friendships based on mutual support in changing parts of your life.