In your journey of running a preschool, how many times have you asked someone for feedback? Was the experience a positive one? Most of the time when we ask someone for feedback on a project, a habit we tried to change or how our performance was, quite often the focus is on what we did wrong or how we need to improve.

How do you feel when you give feedback? You may want to help a teacher who asked, but feel like you don’t want to hurt her feelings about where she went wrong. You might even find yourself thinking about how you would have done it better. All in all, the process of giving or receiving feedback is quite often negative and focuses on something that can’t be changed.

Feedforward is a practice in Marshal Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In this process you focus on a future you can change and not a past you can’t change. Feedforward is done in four steps:

  1. Identify the project you are working on, the behavior you would like to change or a task that you are about to accomplish. We will call this your “task.”
  2. Share this “task” with as many people as you can. It can be your wife, kids, teachers, parents and even strangers; they do not need to be an expert in your “task”.
  3. Ask the person for two suggestions for the future that might help you accomplish this “task.” (The example Marshal uses is I want to be a better listener. So you would say “I want to be a better listener. Would you suggest two ideas that I can implement in the future that will help me be a better listener?”)
  4. Listen attentively to the suggestion. Take notes if you would like.

Rule: The lone rule is you can only say “Thank You” for their two ideas.

Ask for two ideas. Listen. Say thank you.

The purpose of only being allowed to say “Thank you,” prevents you from judging or critiquing the other person’s ideas. It also gives you the freedom to listen to what they are saying because you are not thinking about your response to their advice. Too often, as the person who “runs the business”, we feel obligated to reply with our own perspective but Feedforward removes that burden.   This quite simply serves as a guideline for conversations that stay positive and provide helpful guidance on a “task” you are trying to accomplish.

Feedforward works because we can change the future but not the past. It doesn’t deal with wishes, dreams and conquering the impossible. It works because helping people be “right” is more productive than proving them “wrong.” Unlike feedback, which often introduces a discussion of mistakes and shortfalls, Feedforward focuses on solutions, not problems. For example: if your center’s morale is low, why not ask your director to help you remember to give recognition to staff when they have done something great at your day care?

Operating a child care center presents many challenges, so the next time you are about to take on a new “task” make sure to ask for Feedforward before you are stuck with feedback.

As always, we love to hear your stories about how you have handled feedback with your staff! Leave us your comments below.