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The enduring power of feedback to drive business performance

Written by Patrick Bermingham - 3 minute read

In the dynamic markets of pharma and biotech, the ability of leaders to be agile is now non-negotiable. Rapid innovation cycles, seismic industry shifts, and an unrelenting pace of change demand a breed of future-fluent executives equipped to catalyse breakthrough thinking and sustain competitive advantage.

Leaders in our sector are highly capable and skilled. As well as managing their own teams and influence within a matrixed organisation, they are also expected to be knowledge experts, agile practitioners, data analysts, innovation drivers, coaches and AI specialists to name just few – all whilst navigating a landscape of ever-increasing efficiency targets and challenging financial goals.

Feedback has long been recognised as a critical component in shaping strategies that deliver results, and is a cornerstone of continuous improvement.

However neuroscience learnings continue to illuminate the threat response associated with feedback – people find it painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable. In addition a natural fear of confrontation and the desire to maintain harmony often leads to feedback being diluted into a series of polite generalisations, devoid of insights or genuine impact.

By definition, feedback focuses on the past, what has already occurred, not on the infinite possibilities of future outcomes. And so, enter Marshall Goldsmith’s Feedforward an approach that helps people envision a positive future, not a failed past, and where a leader gives a team or individual suggestions for the future and offers as much help as they can. By shifting the focus from past shortcomings to future possibilities, Feedforward enables individuals and teams to actualise a more successful future.

So how can leaders set the stage for impactful Feedforward with their teams?

  • Start Fresh: Introduce at the inception of a project or task, focusing on future outcomes owned by everyone.
  • Clarify the “Why”: Ensure everyone understands the purpose and goals of feedforward, aligning efforts towards a common vision.
  • Agree what: What do we need data to feedforward on? What areas of continuous improvement will ensure we go faster than our competitors?
  • Make time: Dedicate uninterrupted time for feedforward sessions; keep the focus on tasks and results to be achieved
  • Encourage Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where every contribution is heard and valued; Respond with empathy and understanding to foster meaningful dialogue and continuous learning

Feedforward has already been adopted by a number of global pharmas and is especially suited to successful people who tend to have a positive self-image and resist negative judgment that is inconsistent with how they see themselves. Successful people like getting ideas that are aimed at helping them achieve their goals.

By using Feedforward, and by encouraging others to use it, leaders can dramatically improve the quality of communication in their organizations, ensuring that the right message is conveyed, and that those who receive it are receptive to its content. As Marshall Goldsmith notes, the result is a more dynamic, open organization where employees focus on the promise of the future rather than dwelling on the mistakes of the past.

If you would like to explore how you can build Feedforward into your team practices, we’d love to help. Get in touch us today.

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