Leadership Growth: Marshall Goldsmith’s ‘Feed-Forward’ Technique

by / ⠀Featured News / July 28, 2023
Leadership Growth: Marshall Goldsmith's 'Feed-Forward' Technique

Leaders are constantly seeking ways to enhance their skills and drive personal growth. Marshall Goldsmith, a renowned expert in leadership development, has introduced a powerful technique called ‘Feed-Forward.’ This exercise aims to break the pattern of one-way communication in presentations and promote interactive and impactful learning experiences. In this article, we will explore the Feed-Forward exercise, its benefits, and why it can be a great alternative to traditional feedback for CEOs and executives.

The Feed-Forward ExerciseThe Feed-Forward exercise, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is a positive, simple, focused, and fast-paced activity that encourages participants to actively engage in their personal development. During the exercise, participants play two roles: providing FeedForward and accepting FeedForward. The exercise typically lasts 10 to 15 minutes, and each participant engages in six to seven dialogue sessions.

How the Exercise Works

  1. Choose a behavior to change: Participants select one specific behavior they would like to improve, such as becoming a better listener or working on humility.
  2. Share the behavior: Participants share their selected behavior with randomly chosen fellow participants.
  3. Request FeedForward: Participants ask for one or two suggestions to achieve a positive change in their selected behavior, without receiving feedback about the past.
  4. Listen attentively: Participants listen to the suggestions without commenting and take notes.
  5. Express gratitude: After receiving suggestions, participants simply say, “Thank you!”
  6. Provide FeedForward: Participants ask the other person what they would like to change and offer suggestions aimed at helping them make the desired change.
  7. Repeat the process: Participants find another participant and continue the exercise until it concludes.

The Power of Feed-ForwardThe Feed-Forward exercise has gained popularity due to its effectiveness and the positive impact it has on participants. Let’s explore some of the reasons why this technique is so valuable:

  1. Empowering the future: FeedForward focuses on changing the future rather than dwelling on the past. It allows individuals to shape their behavior and actions moving forward, giving them a sense of control and empowerment.
  2. Positive reinforcement: Rather than dwelling on what was done wrong in the past, FeedForward encourages others to help individuals be “right” in the future. This positive approach fosters a growth mindset and motivates individuals to strive for improvement.
  3. Learning from diverse perspectives: FeedForward can come from anyone, even from individuals we may not know well. This opens up opportunities to learn from diverse perspectives and gain insights that may not have been considered otherwise.

“We can learn a lot from people we don’t know.” – Marshall Goldsmith

  1. Reducing defensiveness: Unlike feedback, FeedForward is often perceived as less personal and judgmental. This reduces defensiveness and allows individuals to listen more attentively to suggestions without becoming defensive.
  2. Efficiency and effectiveness: FeedForward covers similar ground as feedback but tends to be faster and more efficient. It focuses on providing actionable suggestions for improvement rather than dwelling on past mistakes.
  3. Navigating power dynamics: FeedForward can be a useful tool when interacting with individuals who hold more power or authority. It allows for productive conversations without the fear of negative judgment or power imbalances.
  4. Enjoyable and positive experience: The Feed-Forward exercise is often described as enjoyable, useful, and even fun by participants. It creates a positive and supportive environment where individuals can engage in personal development with enthusiasm and motivation.
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Embracing Feed-Forward as a CEOAs a CEO, fostering a culture of personal development and continuous improvement is crucial for the growth of your organization. The Feed-Forward exercise provides a unique opportunity for you and your team to lead by example and drive personal growth together. By embracing FeedForward, you can:

  • Encourage a positive and growth-oriented mindset among your leaders and employees.
  • Foster a culture of open communication and collaboration within your organization.
  • Promote active listening and receptiveness to constructive suggestions.
  • Create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable providing and receiving feedback.
  • Drive personal and professional development at all levels of the organization.

“FeedForward was not only useful, it was also fun.” – Marshall Goldsmith

By implementing the Feed-Forward exercise, you can set the stage for a continuous learning environment and empower your team to reach their full potential.


Marshall Goldsmith’s ‘Feed-Forward’ technique offers a powerful and effective approach to personal development for CEOs and executives. By shifting the focus from past mistakes to future improvement, FeedForward creates a positive and productive learning experience. The exercise encourages active participation, diverse perspectives, and efficient feedback delivery. Embracing FeedForward as a CEO can foster personal growth, enhance communication, and create a culture of continuous improvement within your organization. So, why not give it a try and experience the positive impact it can have on your leadership journey?


1. How long does the Feed-Forward exercise typically last?

The exercise typically lasts for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing participants to engage in multiple dialogue sessions.

2. Can the Feed-Forward technique be used for personal growth outside of the workplace?

Absolutely! The Feed-Forward exercise can be applied to personal growth in various aspects of life, including relationships, hobbies, and personal development goals.

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3. Is FeedForward a replacement for feedback?

FeedForward is not intended to replace feedback entirely but rather offers an alternative approach to personal development. It focuses on providing suggestions for the future rather than dwelling on past actions.

4. Can FeedForward be used in team settings?

Yes, the Feed-Forward exercise can be scaled up to be used in team settings. It promotes open communication, collaboration, and a supportive environment within teams.

5. How often should the Feed-Forward exercise be conducted?

The frequency of the exercise can vary depending on individual or organizational needs. It can be conducted regularly or during specific development-focused sessions.

6. Is it necessary to have a facilitator for the Feed-Forward exercise?

While having a facilitator can enhance the exercise, it can also be conducted successfully in a self-directed manner. Participants can take turns being the facilitator during the exercise.

7. Can FeedForward be used for addressing negative behaviors?

Yes, FeedForward can be utilized to address negative behaviors by providing suggestions for positive change. The exercise focuses on improvement rather than dwelling on past mistakes.

8. How can CEOs benefit from embracing FeedForward?

CEOs can benefit from embracing FeedForward by fostering a culture of personal development, driving open communication, and leading by example in their own growth journey.

9. Can FeedForward be applied to remote or virtual teams?

Yes, the Feed-Forward exercise can be adapted for remote or virtual teams by utilizing video conferencing or collaboration tools. The exercise can be conducted in breakout rooms or through online platforms.

10. Are there any resources available for implementing the Feed-Forward exercise?

Marshall Goldsmith has written extensively about the Feed-Forward technique in his books and articles. These resources provide detailed guidance on implementing the exercise effectively. Additionally, workshops and training programs are available to further explore and practice FeedForward.

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About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.