The Power of 2 Plus 2 for Feedback and Feedforward

We recently facilitated a one-day program called Great Leader for the VPs at one of our long-standing clients. The EVP who kicked off the session stood humbly in front of the class of ambitious leaders and shared his “ah-ha” moment that occurred several years earlier:

“Of the many effective frameworks the Clearwater team will share with you today, the tool called 2 Plus 2 changed my life.”

Conni Todd and I were co-facilitating the session – we both sat straight up when we heard that. The EVP had not been prepped by us – this was completely and genuinely his own testimonial. 

Clearwater Feedback Forward PDF document

In a nutshell the 2 Plus 2 model combines:

  • our Clearwater version of feedback – asking a boss or colleague to identify 2 things that I did well; focusing on a specific experience or situation in the past
  • plus “feedforward – asking the same person to identify 2 things that I could do next time or in the future to enhance my performance or impact. The “Plus 2” items are called “feedforward” – a term invented and explained by Marshall Goldsmith in his book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” (2007).

The first “2 things” is backward looking with an emphasis on the positive; the second “2 things” is forward looking with an eye to opportunity for growth and development. We always thought it was a brilliant combination of lenses and apparently so did the EVP.  

Why did this tool so positively impact our client? Once he began to practice the 2 Plus 2 feedback model, he applied it to himself in seeking insights and information from others about his own performance, and he applied it to his direct reports and peers as a framework for creative dialog around expectations and possibilities. In the process, he released himself from what he thought was his duty to root out what was wrong in others and in situations, and shifted to a mindset that incorporated positive, hopeful anticipation, the belief that next time could be even better. This created a seismic shift for himself and his team. 

Interesting to note that this gentleman has the work style of “C” on the DiSC® profile, which suggests that he highly values accuracy, is conscientious about all elements of the work process and product, and challenges others to produce data and rational thought to back up their opinions or suggestions. For him, this experience was a pivotal moment that extended beyond hours at work. He explained, “What was fantastic about this tool is how I felt at the end of the day – energized, optimistic, I felt good about myself when I went home so I carried that energy to my family. It changed my life.” 

We hope you, too, can experience the gift of feedback and feedforward using this simple tool. For more information about Goldsmith, see the earlier link or check out the Inc magazine article that includes steps for Feedforward:

 Feedforward Steps

  1. Pick one behavior you’d like to change or improve
  2. Describe your goal in a brief conversation with a peer,direct report or boss, with a friend or family member, or a perfect stranger

Download Clearwater’s Feedback and Feedforward sheet for more steps in feedback development.