I think the feedback model is fantastic and I feel that its effect is very powerful. I have just one q though. What happens when after the Q 'What can you differently?' does not lead to a prompt response.

I am not sure whether it is may be the tone or approach I use but when I get a pregnant pause or 'can I come back to you' I find myself a little stuck. Do I move on with 'Have a think about it' in the case of the pause or 'come back with some ideas' with the 'can I come back to you' angle occurs. Any suggestions in an appropriate course of action would be appreciated. This by no means happens every time, but it does occur.



HMac's picture

If you deliver feedback consistently and repeatedly, you'll "train" your directs to think on their feet.

After receiving feedback a few times, the direct will come to understand that "Can I give you some feedback?" will be shortly followed by "What can you differently?"

That's the great thing about practice: YOU get better at delivering, and THEY get better at responding.


AManagerTool's picture

I leave the question hanging there all pregnant and waiting for response. It's kind of funny at this point. What I mean is that that awkward silence is a tool. Use it to generate an answer. If after a minute (it will seem like an hour) your direct does not respond, ask again, "What can you do differently?". I have never gotten to this point. 20 seconds of silence seems to be deafeningly loud enough to generate an answer with even the most difficult direct. They just know better after a while...

BBundy's picture

I have just had the same situation, feedback with no response.

Gave my direct feedback, followed by what can you do better? Response, was silence, than "I don't know" then more silence, I waited, replied "What can you do better". After more silence, maybe 5 - 10 seconds, my directs reply was "I will just try harder".

At this point I felt it was better to stop the feedback rather than give what I wanted / or would do. Did I handle this correctly or should I have kept going with "What can you do better" until my direct came up with a better solution?


stephenbooth_uk's picture

I think it depends on the situation. Do you think that they might legitimately not be able to think what to do in a snap (it's complex and they're a high-C so they need to digest it for a bit) or do you think they don't want to answer and are just standing there dumbly waiting for you to either get bored and walk off or to give them the answer, so they don't have to buy into it.

If it's the former then maybe say something like "OK. I can see you need some time to think about it. Come and see me in an hour and tell me what you can do differently.", adjust the time according to your schedule and how hard you think it might be to formulate an answer. If they don't come back to you or come back still professing not to know the answer and not having any questions of clarification move to plan B.

If you think they're just dodging the question, move to plan B. Plan B is the pregnant pause followed by asking them the same question until they break down and answer.


AManagerTool's picture

[quote]my directs reply was "I will just try harder". [/quote]

I would suggest that your direct has given you a response.

Sometimes that is exactly the right answer. If it's not, you can ask questions about the "try harder" improvement plan that lead them to the right answer and redirect.

I love Stephens "let me know later" thing. However, as I stated before, I have never gotten to that point.

bflynn's picture

The only thing I can add is to make sure the responsibility stays with the employee and that the focus stays on the future.

If an employee is refusing to buy in, make sure they understand that your goal is improvement. If the same pattern repeats itself, there's no reason to believe there would be an improved outcome. And this is important enough (I presume it is) that it needs to improve.

Why? Well, now you can tell them about why it needs to improve in terms they care about.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

If you have identified a behavior that needs to change, the appropriate response is that they will change that behavior. If they're having trouble identifying the fix, maybe you didn't do a good job of identifying the behavior. (Ever increasing concentric circles from your desk...)

If that's not the case, they're just waiting for you to let them off the hook. Don't. Smile and wait. Lift an eyebrow. You're delivering a little pressure here, that should be a little uncomfortable.

If they give a vague answer, ask them to elaborate. Repeat until you're satisfied.

If they give an answer you don't think will help, ask them to elaborate. It's possible you're not seeing what they're offering. If they convince you, you're set. If they don't, they'll see that.

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

I've gotten "I need to think about that" and "I don't know."

I start by waiting. It can be amazing to just listen for a minute or two, though around the 100 second mark, I see people start to fidget. If, after a pause, I still get "I need to think," I let them think, and ask what they've thought in the next one-on-one.

On the other hand, I rarely give adjusting feedback, so I'm used to asking for change that's not trivial, and may require some thought. I have a very bright group of people, so I'm used to letting them think.

In the [url= Model Optional Upgrade[/url], you get the option of asking a slightly different question. It's the "advanced" version, so use it with caution. It might be useful in cases where you want behavior change, but need to give a person some think time.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="WillDuke"]If you have identified a behavior that needs to change, the appropriate response is that they will change that behavior. If they're having trouble identifying the fix, maybe you didn't do a good job of identifying the behavior. (Ever increasing concentric circles from your desk...)[/quote]

I believe that in some cases some people do legitimately need a little time to process the feedback, hence my "Come and see me in an hour" step. I think an hour is probably about right as after that time they should have at least been able to identify the barriers to answering your question of "What can you do differently?" but not so long that if they go off on the wrong track they've wasted too much time.

Maybe you have been unclear in identifying the behaviour, maybe they're not used to adjusting feedback so it came as a bit of a shock to them or maybe they're just the sort of person who's not good at thinking on their feet. Give them a little time to think before you bring out the interrogation techniques (repeatedly asking the same question, or same few questions, interspersed with uncomfortable pauses is an interrogation technique I've used to great success in the past).


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I think M&M make a point of saying that a C personality in particular might want time to go and process, so I'll definitely go along with sometimes people need time to process.

I'm just thinking that most feedback is on small enough things that the answer is obvious. If it's not, I wonder why.

1. Do you not do this often?
1a. Are they stunned?
3. Is this a complicated thing?

But some feedback doesn't require a lot of processing. "When you're late What can you do differently?" Well, the obvious answer is not be late. Or leave home earlier. Or catch an earlier bus. Whatever, it's not tough. Bob doesn't need to pause on this one.

Mondos - Can you give a specific example of the feedback you're giving that is causing the trouble?

mauzenne's picture
Admin Role Badge


If they don't have an answer ... move on! It's just feedback. If it's a real issue, you'll have another chance.

In my experience, this is where folks start to get bogged down. In pushing for an answer, managers make what is small into something BIG. The conversation often starts to feel like an argument or punishment to the direct. And THAT is not feedback. And then the manager starts seeing feedback as "conflict" and then she gives feedback less ... and less ... and less. In the beginning, make it EASY.

Give them the feedback, give them an opportunity to respond, and then move on. They're smart and they'll figure it out.

THEN, if they continue to have the same issue .. 6, 7, or 8 times ... then, you can start to push a bit (perhaps a bit of systemic feedback). Most often though, you never get there. Believe me, after 6 pieces of negative feedback, delivered professionally and with a smile, they'll get it.


BJ_Marshall's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

That's the whole "shot across the bow" thing, right?


MattJBeckwith's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Ah, the "shot across the bow". One of my favorite concepts.

The power of the single potato chip... wow!

tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


If they don't have an answer ... move on! It's just feedback. If it's a real issue, you'll have another chance.[/quote]

Delivering corrective feedback quickly, with less gravity, was my key take away from the Chicago Manager Tools conference.

When delivering corrective feedback make it quick and short, smile, converse with positive intent, and (for emphasis)...keep it short. Mark, Mike, Michael, et al demonstrated negative feedback conversations lasting as little as 10-15 seconds.

In the future when I deliver corrective feedback and after "what can you do differently?" if I see genuine analysis/consideration of the question and NOT push back then I know the message was heard and understood.

ashdenver's picture

[b]BLUF: What if the answer to "what can you do differently" opens the door to a whole new set of adjusting feedback?[/b]

[quote]Me: May I share something with you?

Denise: Sure.

Me: When you say things about "a person who doesn't respect my boundaries" the group tenses in preparation for a knock-down drag-out fight between you and Judy. What do you think you could do differently?

Denise: I don't feel like I need to protect people from the truth. I could quit entirely or you could write me up but Judy will still keep being Judy and Judy's a horrible person - she does this, she does that, she complains, she whines, she tries to rally supporters around her cause, she just needs to ignore me.

Me: .... ?[/quote]
I kept the feedback focused on Denise and her actions and moving forward. Denise used it as another opportunity to expound upon how tragically flawed Judy is.

Is this a feedback opportunity again? "When you focus on Judy so much, it looks like you have a vendetta against her. What could you do differently?"

All I really want to say is "OMG, STFU! I asked what YOU could do differently and so help me doG, I do NOT want to hear about Judy in return! We're not talking about Judy, we're talking about [i]your [/i]behaviour here."

Okay, I get "quickly, with less gravity" and "if it's a real issue, you'll have another chance" but is it really appropriate to use that next chance within the first feedback cycle?

All I was looking for was "I could focus more on my actions rather than Judy's" and instead I got a dissertation on Judy's Inherent Evilness. Aye chihuahua.

FWIW, this feedback session was not with a DR at work. I was practicing at my online community.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="ashdenver"][b]BLUF: What if the answer to "what can you do differently" opens the door to a whole new set of adjusting feedback?[/b]

Is this a feedback opportunity again? "When you focus on Judy so much, it looks like you have a vendetta against her. What could you do differently?" [/quote]

That might be a possibility if there is a pattern of behaviour to support the assertion of a vendetta.

[quote="ashdenver"]"We're not talking about Judy, we're talking about [i]your [/i]behaviour here."[/quote]

I think that's a lot more on target, follow it up with a "What could you do differently?" and it should give Denise a clear indication of what the situation is and where the boundaries lie.

You might also want to say, at some time separate from the feedback interaction, something along the lines of "If you do have an actual complaint about another member of the team there is a formal procedure for dealing with that. If you want to go that route then I can follow it up but just going off on a tirade doesn't give me that option." Somehow the idea of following a formal procedure rather than just mouthing off tends to weed out the trivial complaints.

That said, if that were a real life situation, I would be making a mental note to keep an eye on Judy and how she interacts with the rest of the teamin case the complaint is genuine. It wouldn't be the first time that perceived wrong behaviour in one employee has been generated by the actions of another employee. Maybe Denise has a justified complaint but is just not very good at handling it, so it's a coaching opportunity for her. Perhaps Judy needs to hear "When you goad Denise into losing her temper here's what happens, I think that you're a disruptive influence that I really don't need, especially when budgets are being tightened and I'm having to do more with less. What can you do differently?"


rwwh's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

This looks like the effect of a disconnect between the "here is what happens" part of the feedback and the interests of the direct. Apparently, the negative aspects of the effect you mention do not reach her. You may need to stack up the effects.

In fact, if she tells you that the solution might be that she quits, it will be quite hard to get through to her.